Monday 23 August 2010

Transition Food Patterns - An Introduction

Welcome to our first features week on the blog. We’re starting with the subject of Food in Transition in celebration of the Food and Farming Group’s successful funding bid for their four projects, including Norwich’s first CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). During the week we’ll be looking at some of the food buying and growing patterns that form a key role in the social shift of Transition.

I first became aware of these “patterns” when we discussed Food in the Strangers’ Transition Circle in January. Tully had suggested we bring our weekly shopping lists and pay attention to them in terms of carbon reduction. Though we’d shared our electricity bills and car log books when assessing Home Energy use and Transport, Food felt different somehow. More complex and yet more in our own hands. I wrote the week’s transactions down and was surprised how many there were: grocer, fruiterer, market garden, veg box, farm shop, roadside stall, hedgerow.

Because it was not always so. I spent part of my working life writing about food and style. I ate in a lot of swanky restaurants and cooked (and styled) a lot of glamorous recipes. I lived in a world that thought nothing of paying $100 to eat the rare and dangerous fugu fish in New York, or a 17 course meal in Japan based on autumn leaves. And although travelling for real definitely altered my outlook on life and I have eaten a lot of humble rice and beans since, it wasn’t until I took part in Sustainable Bungay’s Growing Local food conference in 2008 that I became aware that something radical on a social scale needed to happen.

Josiah had invited several speakers for the event, including Mahesh Pant from Grow-Our-Own in Norwich and Clare Joy from Organic Lea in Walthamstow. Tully Wakeman from East Anglia Food Link opened the day and spoke about peak oil and its relationship with agriculture. He talked about the effects of our diet on the land ( 70% of grain grown in East Anglia is for animal feed) and asked if pigs were fed soya from the rainforest in Brazil could they be strictly called “local pork”? In an energy-scarce future we’re going to have to eat lower down the food chain, he said. Less meat, less dairy.

I had been a vegetarian for years by this time, and no longer shopped at supermarkets, so this news was not revelatory on a personal level, it was cultural. I had not joined the dots about agriculture and oil before. Or realised that the crops growing in the fields were for chickens. As for changing the national diet, to deliberately eat like peasants in a culture that was fixated on feasting like kings? This would not just be a matter of style, it was going to need some kind of seachange.

Food is one of the clearest ways of “getting” Transition. If you want to become aware of the ramifications of peak oil and climate change you have to go no further than your plate. Deconstruct the next dish you cook (or order). Find out where the ingredients came from and how many procedures it took to appear before you, and you can see global industrialisation at work. Transition aims to bring those ingredients a lot closer to home. So that food can be grown, produced and sold within a short (preferably walking) distance. Or at least if it has to come from far away (e.g. rice) it's fairly-traded, organic and hasn’t been flown in by plane. This is not just about taking responsibility for the waste (production and packaging), high resource and water use, soil depletion and the effects of pesticides that our modern food system wreaks, it’s also about forging meaningful links with life, with the place you live in and with people.

You can’t get more disconnected than our present system. Food, sealed in plastic, kept in large windowless hangers with artificial lighting, where hundreds of anonymous people move silently from one aisle to the next. We’re all foolish consumers in this world: we grab junk food without thinking, or spend hours obsessively following complicated recipes, like cooks out of a fairy tale.

Somewhere there is a sane and clear way to downshift our eating patterns, to decarbonise our agriculture, and get ourselves back on track with the eco-systems of the planet. That big corporate-driven system is hard to change from the outside as an individual, even as a grassroots organisation, but any of us can reconnect at any time. “Vote with your fork, ” advised the food writer Michael Pollan, when asked how to help the vanishing honeybees. “Three times a day.”

Reconnection gives value and meaning to food. But most of all it gives us back relationships that were once severed – relationships with the vegetable kingdom, with the creatures, with the weather, with the people who tend plants, who work with their hands, baking bread, collecting fruit, selling veg and rice and beans. And it gives back relationship with ourselves, as we learn to swap dishes, seeds, cucumber plants, plum jam, foraging skills, our experiential knowledge of the world. As we put our attention on the stuff of life and all its vital exchanges - so more of it can happen.

In the next ten days on This Low Carbon Life the TN blog crew will be looking at some of the food buying and growing patterns that make up Transition. We’ll be visiting some of the outlets in Norwich and in the hinterlands, as well as the ways we can take food production back into our hands from foraging to wholefood co-ops, from pig clubs to local bakers. Eat with us. Stay tuned!

Above: roadside stall en route to Beccles; shopping in Middleton Farm Stores; wholefood pattern from Strangers' Circle/Rainbow buying co-op.

Voting with my fork – low-carbon dinner in the tent - Basil’s spinach (Middleton Farm Stores). Norman’s runner beans (local market garden), organic gluten-free pasta (Rainbow Wholefoods/Strangers' Circle buying Co-op), Malcolm’s tomatoes and garlic (veg box); Sarah’s courgettes (roadside stall), home grown chili and basil (from TN seedling swap originally grown by John).

Wednesday 18 August 2010

On Resilience and Reality

Personal Resilience forms part of the first set of Pattern Language - qualities and skills that make up a Transition initiative. It's not asking us for an individual psychological profile. It’s asking: have you got what it takes? Are you the kind of person who can work as an active force for change within the collective and co-create a post-oil future?

It’s not until I joined the Transition movement (in 2008) that I came across the term in the context it is commonly used - the ability for communities to respond imaginatively to shock and not fall apart or close down. I understood resilience as a quality of endurance. Having weathered a few shocks myself, I realised that the human form is naturally resilient: our bodies tough and flexible, our minds keen to work out difficulties that lie in our path. We’re naturally warm, courageous, creative. We have an extraordinary capacity to regenerate ourselves. However we live in a highly-artificial civilisation that debases and warps most of those human qualities. In the place of our natural feelings for our kin and life itself, we are trained to go shopping. We’re taught to be terrifed of authority and to obey.

So it's not really our profligate use of oil that’s the main challenge in Transition, it’s the fact we have been bullied for millenia to toe the line. And those stick-to-the-status-quo rules are enforced everywhere by our culture, and even come out of our own mouths. The horrible truth is we repress each other.

Here I am standing resiliently on Lowestoft station en route to Carbon Conversations. I’m surrounded by “weeds” pushing their way through the cracks. Their once-pristine world has been covered in tarmac and they are hounded by human beings at every turn, banished to the wastelands. And yet they flourish.

How do they do that?

When I was young I was very nervous. I stuttered in front of the shadowy, violent world of grown ups I witnessed all around me. I spent most of my time in avoidance - up an apple tree, reading books, or inventing games with my friends. Then something happened. I discovered that crooked, unfair world could be confronted. I became bold and loquacious in front of my teachers and duelled with my father – a formidable defence lawyer – over the dinner table.

My stutter vanished.

I had discovered the first law of resilience: when you respond to the challenge of life, life gives you everything you need. I was skinny and sensitive, but something in me was tough enough to be a whistle blower. Daddy, why is the Emperor wearing no clothes? And when he didn’t answer I took up writing and asked myself the question, and then the world.

The fact is eco-systems are resilient because they are in communication with all parts of themselves, people are resilient when they are in communication with each other, but most of all I am resilient when I am in communication with myself. “Civilisation” makes sure we are as isolated as much as possible from each other. That facts are kept separate and compartmentalised in our minds so we don’t join up the dots. It makes us autistic, self-obsessed, controlling, full of self-pity and self-importance, highly dependant at the same time on being approved of and liked by other people.

In Transition our greatest inner task is to deconstruct the mindset that keeps that fossil-fuelled empire going. We have been instructed to be nice and polite. Thou shalt conform! So we have to challenge a lot of assumptions in ourselves and change a lot of patterns. Those aren’t just carbon-intensive behaviours, those are patterns of conformity set in place from childhood. Systems of coping with reality that have been socially inculcated: disappearing in our minds, escaping into pleasures and fantasies, denying the world’s shadow (and our own), controlling (or micromanaging as Mark wrote on Monday) our whole existence so we don’t suffer.

So for me the key factor in resilience is the ability to face reality. Not just so I can see clearly, but so I can be the person in a Transition initiative who says: excuse me but what is that elephant doing in the corner of the room?

What brings this ability to face the consequences of our actions, is awareness, what some call consciousness, a quality of awakeness. There are big barriers to this in ourselves. Big diversions. The obstacles I've had to deconstruct are: self-pity, the feeling of having done something wrong (what Gurdjieff calls inner considering), projection from others, and the fact that who I thought I was, was not who I really was, and that most people I knew preferred me when I was dormant. These are not my personal problems of course, they are everyone’s problems and a consequence of our social conditioning, but you have to face them first in yourself.

The fact is you can deal with any pattern, so long as you love being awake more than being asleep. Awareness doesn’t bring you happiness, or more money, or nice clothes (quite the opposite in fact). But you feel your life has purpose and meaning. You realise you are here to do a work. The state of being awake means that you wake up other people. If you see people trapped or burning in a house you can’t just walk by and say, hey dude that’s your karma. I’m in Transition and you’re in denial. You rush in where angels fear to tread. It’s an imperative of conscience.

So you can have self-amusement and the kind of sanguine temperament that sees possibility in every turn of events (as Rob Hopkins does), but the question I asked myself today was - what helps you hold the reality of peak oil and climate change, the consequences of a predatory capitalism, even at the cost of losing friends, family, even the members of your crew?

And I thought about that child and how she found her voice at fourteen years old. And then I realised the moment it happened: I was in a room full of people and I was no longer alone. I was surrounded by other human beings, and though they were laughing and talking in the way people at a party do, I saw they were trapped inside and suffering. And something in me burst out, through all that tarmac, and connect in the only way I knew.

What makes me resilient in the face of mass denial? Remembering the millions and millions of people that went before me, all the people unjustly held in prison, in schools, asylums, in barracks, in all the heartless institutions of the world, all the animals kept in cages, all the sea creatures caught in nets, all the birds on the wire, everything that has been held captive and suffered because of Empire. It is a small thing we do to challenge consensus reality in our ordinary lives, but it is also a great thing. And our resilience comes from the fact we are backed in all our endeavours, part of a collective intelligence, part of a great heart that has come here to say, enough! It’s time to liberate the earth and it’s time to liberate the people.

On the platform, Suffolk 2010; in the door, Kent 1958.

Wednesday 11 August 2010

Running Successful Meetings - Pattern 2.4

Today I wanted to write a post about one of the 63 Patterns. I was planning to write about Critical Thinking (1.2) . But then I put my hands on the keys at sunrise this morning and this is what came out. As Erik said in his post on permaculture and growing veg: what you do is not always what you plan.

At first in Transition you go to a lot of meetings. Meetings are Transition for a while. You learn quickly about facilitation and go-rounds, about plenaries and agendas. You discover the joy of being able to share the richness of your experience, of being listened to. Sitting in a circle in the first days of the Heart and Soul group in 2008 it felt everything was possible. That the butterfly that was talked about in so many of the books we were reading at the time was forming itself in the room. We’re the imaginal buds, we said and laughed.

Later you discover the joy of sharing food and visiting each other’s houses. However you can’t help but notice how some people are eloquent and committed and some seem just there for the ride and are not interested in change, or doing any inner or outer work. Sometimes some of that talking gets on your nerves. Sometime you get on people’s nerves. There’s a tension between consensus and control. Between the people who want Transition to be part of the conventional world, and those who feel we should be starting over. After a while you think maybe this group thing isn’t the best way to get on. Shouldn’t we be doing something together?

Sometimes those meetings we all went to worked beautifully, and sometimes they really didn’t. People clashed. There were unbearable tensions, “atmospheres” someone called then. That’s a good word. It conveys the feeling-tone that came out as ancient power struggles enacted themselves in the room. As loud voices and strong wills quelled projects and good intentions. That dinobrain at work ensuring that the world would not change. People left. I left. The elephant remained in the room.

There was a poem I always felt like quoting, but never got round to it. It’s called A Ritual To Read To Each Other by the American poet, William Stafford:

If you don’t know the kind of person I am
And I don’t know the kind of person you are
A pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star

We have to know what kind of people we are lest we get lost in the dark. And that’s a hard thing to do in a group. Especially one that is based on a new idea, rather than a traditional kinship. It feels like Transition could hold us with its great sense of possibility, the way it opens everything up. And it does for a while. Just as the “technologies” of open space and the friendly sharing of food in each other’s houses kept us meeting. But those feelings of cameraderie are not strong or deep enough for the shifts we need to make. We need to bust out of individualistic thinking and not be dependent on each other for emotional support. It’s easy to be superficial in a group for the sake of fellowship, to go along with what everyone else is saying so as not to be excluded and cast as the “difficult person”. To conform to prevailing patterns that fit the old meeting rooms we sit in. What’s not easy is to find a medium in which our common destiny is realised.

We can meet and get through the agenda. We can design community events and discuss what kind of legal structure we should adopt. But to really establish these 63 Patterns without being ousted by those kept in place by an old antagonistic mindset, we need to meet as people-in-Transition. We need to think together, as opposed to sounding off as isolated units in a group.

Last week Gary came over and we sat in the entrance of the tent and discussed Transition and conflict for five hours. It was a successful meeting. There were no clashes or tensions. We felt expanded and not constricted in each other's company. You could say it was because our difficulites were the same and we had the same feeling for Transition (as well as being an occassional blogger and founder of Transition Diss, Gary is a trustee of the Network). Because we shared similar territories, originating from big cities (New York and London) and had spent our lives working in communications. Or loved dancing, or because our conversation happened by the sea, in a garden outdoors.

But mostly I think it’s because we put our heads together and looked at the situation from a big perspective. We were awake to the fragility of the moment. We are all part of an intelligence, Gary was saying, that is moving from competition towards co-operation.There’s a lot of space in that idea. That’s a neo-cortex conversation if you engage in it. Most of all it’s realising that for meetings to run successfully, we first need to meet.

Imagine if twelve people could think co-operatively, or a whole community. Or the world.

Meetings in Transition: first Transition East meeting in 2008, Downham Market; Transition Circle - Strangers group talking about Resilience, June 2010; meeting tonm Harper at Frank's Bar to discuss bee and sunflower class, March; working party building the Bungay Library Community Garden, July; Bungay Comnunity Bees in communication by Mike Southern; A Ritual to Read to Each Other by William Stafford. from Stories that could be True: New and Collected Poems (Harper and Row, 1977)

Tuesday 10 August 2010


Last week I gave a talk about bees and flowers for the Bungay Community Bees with Eloise. She spoke about nectar and pollen and garden flowers and I spoke about the year of the bees and wild flowers, how it falls into three parts: the spring rush of blossom, the June gap, the rich high summer blooming that lasts until September. I laid out some leaves on the table and asked everyone to recognise the trees that bees seek out – cherry, blackthorn, willow, sweet chestnut.

Then I showed slides from the year I followed the track of wild flowers for a weekly exhibition at the Southwold Museum. I’ve been studying wild flowers and plant medicine for a decade now, but I never looked at them from the perspective of bees before. It totally shifted my focus. Now I see bees everywhere. How come I never noticed them before?

"The bees have five eyes," said Elinor, who heads the project with Gemma from Sustainable Bungay. Three of the eyes are on the top of their heads. "They deal with the UV," explained Hugh, one of the group's beekeepers. Bees see a completely different colour range than human beings. A vibrationally different Earth.

Imagining the future the novelist, Tom Robbins called the next age The Age of Flowers. The ancient fight and tussle of our mammal and reptilian brains would cede to the new leadership of the neo-cortex. The neo-cortex fits like a swimming cap over our heads and it receives its impulses and information directly from sunlight, like the flowers. All inspiration happens in this third brain. All evolutionary vision.

How many flowers does a bee have to visit to fill a jar of honey? That was one of the questions I’d asked the children when Tom Harper and I gave a bee class in Catton Grove this Spring.

Two million.

That’s a lot of flowers. If we want to get the bees back on track, we’re going to have to do something about those plants we keep chopping down and mashing with pesticides. We’re going to have to love dandelions and thistles in our gardens. And start noticing what’s growing by the roadsides and riverbanks. Opening our eyes. Start tapping into the neo-cortex that fits over our head like one of those swimming caps covered in flowers people used to wear in the 60s.

Malcolm told me a story about bees last week when we went to collect our veg box. We were standing by a lavender bush covered in bumblebees. Every time we looked at the bush we saw another type of bumblebee. There must have been eight different kinds working those purple heads. In one of the poly tunnels, he said, a swarm of wild bees had taken up residence, busily building combs. Malcolm eyed them for several weeks, and then he thought about rotavating. I’ll start at the other end, he thought. The next day they were gone. And the extraordinary thing was, he said, they had taken everything with them.

You can’t rush to see the bees. You have to be still and tune into a certain frequency. The flowers will take you there if you let them. They will shift your attention, so you can see another earth taking shape in front of your eyes.

One of those attention-shifting flowers is skullcap, named after the shape of its seeds. Skullcap is a lovely little plant. An elegant plant. Fine ladder of leaves with small snapdragon-type flowers of an incredible blue. You might not notice it, down by the river where the big showy waterland plants are now in their high summer glory – hemp agrimony, great willowherb, wild angelica, purple loosestrife. However it’s a star medicine plant, most famously in America, where the Virginia skullcap is a premier nervine. Nervines are plant medicines that take you down. When you’re high-wired they’ll calm your agitation, your frayed nerves, your anxiety. Plant nervines are the poppies, valerian, limeflowers, hops, chamomile. Some are mild, the sort that help you get to sleep at night. Skullcap is the business. When I made a tincture of wild skullcap in Arizona and proved it, I ran crazy around the room for an hour. That’s how I knew it was a strong medicine (proving a medicine shows you what it cures).

So if I had to choose a Nervine for Resilience it would be skullcap. You just need to sit down beside that plant and immediately you unwind, take a deep breath, the sky opens above your head and you feel a sense of possibility inside. Mostly in this world we are high-wired to the max, bred to be in a state of emergency, our bodies revved up, inflammatory, in a constant drama. 911, 24/7. As a result the world we perceive and take account of is very restricted. We are not using our flower minds, our bee eyes. When you relax you can see things the way the bees see the earth. You make different moves when you are in that state of harmony, the kind of sure-footed moves we need to be making, looking at the way things are sliding in Transition - peak oil, climate change, economic collapse.

The Empire keeps everyone in a state of hostility: we’re bred to be aggressive and competitive, cold, calculating, territorial, ritualistic, obsessive. Our attention narrowed by battles and big business. This is the reptilian, dinosaur brain in command. We’ve been trying to work out our difficulties with our mammal minds, with our psychology and emotions, our sense of loyalty and kinship, but we need to get to a different level. Only the neo-cortex can deal with that dinobrain. All shifts of consciousness happen in a moment of enlightenment. That’s why we need to tap into the intelligence of ourselves that connects directly with the sun, the way bees and flowers do.

We write about a lot of subjects on this blog, as we find ways in our ordinary lives to deal with Transition. but one label stands out: Reconnection with Nature. Even though we live in cities, work in offices, live in houses, drive in cars, watch screens all day, think about diets and film stars and everything going horribly wrong, something in us knows otherwise. We’re not going to weather this evolution on our own. We've got to connect with who is with us, all the way.

Flowertalking: skullcap flowers in the Hen reedbeds; purple loosestrife by the River Thames; honey jar with bell heather in Southwold Wildflower exhibition 2004; toadflax with bees by the road 2010; Taramahara sunflower in the garden.

Monday 9 August 2010

Zero Carbon Holiday

“It’s an attitude,” I explained to Philip in the lane, talking about tents and The Holiday.
“Ah,” said Philip,” Bonnes vacances.

We're not-going on a zero-carbon holiday. We’ve put the tent up in the garden and are taking turns to sleep under the greengage tree, moored in the long grass sprinkled with wild carrot. It’s a good space inside. A mattress, a stool, a wooden box for a table, a candle, a coloured mat, a glass of water. In spaces like these you don’t need much. There is something magical about their containment. Yurt, shed, studio, tree house, den, cabanas with rooves of leaves and a communal kitchen down the hill. Thousands of tent-dwellers are having this experience right now in fields and festivals everywhere in England, as they listen to the wind move around their small shelters like the rigging of a ship, as they step out each morning, bare feet on dewy grass. Fresh air. Sunrise. Mist. Today it feels like everything will be all right.

Half of our diseases are in our heads, and half in our houses.

That’s what Andy told me. He was reading a quote from the man who began the Woodcraft Folk in 1912. Ernest Thompson Seton advocated living as much as possible outdoors in tune with the elements. When Andy came down last Friday with Ollie and Antony, we walked along the windy cliff edge and jumped in the rough sea, and then we came home and talked in the tent. The boys played cards and whittled sticks. I made tea. It started to rain, and though there were five of us and it’s only a three person tent, it felt just fine.

That’s what I mean about attitude. Everything gets pared down. You do what is necessary. And that simplicity brings out the best in everyone. You feel connected to the planet and to your fellows. Most of our lives we do what is unnecessary. We work to maintain an empire that creates massively complex earth-damaging, people-damaging systems - systems of technology, systems of commerce, of psychology, of addiction, power struggles. But, like our bodies, what we really need, is neither fancy dishes with extravagant ingredients, nor junk food with a hundred additives, what we hunger for is simple fare. What we long for are picnics and campfires, blackberries and wild greens, sitting under trees, swimming in the river, walking on the earth, sleeping outside with the stars above our heads.

And maybe for the odd weekend, maybe for two weeks of the year, if we are lucky, we get to live this life we were constructed to lead. We call it holiday. But maybe it should be recognised as sanity.

If we could get a taste of that simplicity, that outdoor existence, and value it above everything, our lives would be much happier, We would be less stressed and less conflicted. But we would have to look hard at this indoor life first: these houses and our heads full of complicated nonsense – and find ways to deconstruct them. The houses are demanding and expensive. They suck up energy and time, need constant cleaning and decorating. They are full of machines that need servicing and replacing. Sometimes in our Carbon Conversations a feeling of hopelessness would come into the room. It felt out of our hands. It did our heads in. As if the lifestyle were running our lives, rather than ourselves.

Big house, big head, small world.

Last August Andy and the boys came and put their tent up in the garden and their visit sparked off an idea. Maybe there was a way we could chart this carbon cutting journey we were embarking on together (then called Transition Norwich 2.0) that would treasure all our small independent moves. This Low-Carbon Life was born. My first regular blog post (The Reality Business) in November was written from this tent. Since then, like some of my fellow bloggers, I have completed a year of reducing my carbon emissions by half. Done a cycle of Carbon Conversations. We’ve looked at electricity bills and car logs, swapped stories and useful tips. Now some of us are moving outside: we’ve started to dig gardens, chop firewood, swap vegetables and clothes, organise wholefood co-ops – working to create a culture that is stronger than the allure of the energy-sucking pleasuredome.

Where do we go from here? One thing I’ve realised: this attitude is a good place to start, where life does not feel out of our hands, or hopeless or ignoble, the place the poet calls:

A condition of complete simplicity
Costing not less than everything

We have to start where we feel things are all right. Where we are valued for what we do. Small tent, large universe.

Andy, Ollie and Mark (and Anthony) playing Go Fish in the Tent (rescued last year from Latitude Recycling point); Sustainable Bungay Summer Picnic; Mark taken by Andy at Covehithe.

Thursday 5 August 2010

Sustainable Bungay - Pattern Portrait of an Initiative

In the recent Transition Suffolk meeting we discussed highlighting the patterns our groups had already engaged in and had created some of the identity/style of the initiative. In our up-and-coming August gathering Sustainable Bungay are going to look at their future in terms of the Patterns. To help catalyse this process I have written a brief (and personal!) summary of the patterns we have have experienced so far . . . (Charlotte Du Cann)

1 Skills and Qualities

Sustainable Bungay has been active for two and a half years and our neighbourhood is the market town of Bungay and its surrounding villages (Understanding Scale 1.3). Our core group revolves around 15-20 members - half of us very active and the other half supportive. Our age group ranges from the 20s to 70s (less if you count our several children!). We have various working parties that include people who are not in the core group (e.g. Bungay Community Bees, Community Garden project). Though none of us have done the Transition Training 2.3, having learned “on the job”, we do have good links with other East Anglian initiatives and the Transition Network. We are less focused on workshop-type activities and more on community events and projects. We have a lively blog/website and meet once a month (upstairs in the Library) and once socially in the pub (Green Drinks in the Green Dragon). Our strength lies in our abilities with communication and the fact we hold many different kinds of skills beween us and we are quite informal and creative in our exchanges.

In June 2008 we showed a sequence of Transition-themed films and afterwards shared our feelings about key issues to do with social change and the state of the earth (Post Petroleum Stress Disorder 1.1). Most of us are highly aware of climate change and peak oil in the group. Some are highly articulate on the subject and others have a deep understanding of the difficulties we face on the mental and emotional levels, as well as the physical.

This shared understanding has created a stable base for our co-operative actions. Because we have outlets (events, blogs, discussions) where we can share our knowledge of subjects such as economics and sustainable food systems, patterns like Critical Thinking 1.2, Thinking Like A Designer 1.4 and Civility/Manners 1.7 can be absorbed osmotically by everyone. By engaging in Transition events such as the Permaculture Course we’ve found ourselves interested in subjects we would have never considered before.

Does the individual quality make the initiative, or does becoming part of a Transition initiative elicit that quality?

That’s hard to tell!

We went through a very difficult stage (see Set 3) and managed to pull through, so most of us by nature and experience have Personal Resilience 1.5. Finding individual value and meaning through being part of a group, sharing our practical and intellectual qualities, doing stuff together is the key attraction of Transition. How We Communicate 1.6 is based on the desire to showcase these activities with others in Bungay and neighbouring communities. We’ve hosted many stalls at local events (e.g. The Greenpeace Fair) and from the beginning we’ve had different members Standing Up To Speak 1.8 in front of people - from the Rotary Club to local television cameras. Several of us have spoken with different initiatives to give them a hand to start up (Beccles, Halesworth). Kate has addressed local schools (Car Free Day, the Unleashing). Josiah has spoken about local food systems (Greener Fram, Transition Diss, Transition Woodbridge) and the Bee project. Nick recently gave a breakthrough talk on Economics at the local Chaucer Club.

Sustainable Bungay at our first Give and Take Day, March 2009; Mark speaking about wild plants on the Spring Tonic Walk, 2009

2 Forming an Initative
We have been an open core group (Forming a Core Team 2.1) from the beginning and kept this configuration after the Unleashing. Everyone is welcome to attend and contribute. Like all Transition groups our difficulties have been experienced within our attempts at Running Successful Meetings 2.4. Some of our meetings have been a success and some haven’t. We are now quite open about where they don’t work and change our format accordingly. We take turns to facilitate and have a spontaneous agenda at our monthly Core Group meetings and afterwards go to the pub and let off steam!

We took an active part in a Bungay Vision -ing 2.5 day for the Town Plan in 2009 and also had a Time- Line for our Unleashing that same year, which will enable us to do some Backcasting 2.14 at a later date (sic). We have done a certain amount of Measurement 2.5, such as our forthcoming Carbon Audit, and though we have several scientists amongst us, our heart, it would be fair to say, is not particularly focussed in data.

We are a creative group, including writers, artists, photographers, singers, dancers and actors, craftsmen and cooks and like to bring Arts and Creativity 2.7 into all our events. We are lucky to have Gemma, a professional cake maker, in our core group so not one event goes by without Transition Cakes 2.15! Our unleashing was celebrated by a mountain of multi-coloured cup cakes (though the one in the pic was made for a Transition Circle birthday and anniversary celebration).

Some of that creativity comes in very useful with our Communications with the Media 2.9 and many of our activities have been covered in the local press. Several members have been on BBC Radio Suffolk talking about our Awareness Raising 2.8 events (End of Suburbia to our Give and Take Day). Our Bee project made the regional television news and Charlotte writes about Transition and SB on the OneWorldColumn on the regional paper, the Eastern Daily Press.

In 2010 we have set about Forming Working Groups 2.10 from the Community Garden project to the Bio-Diesel initiative. We are also engaged in Building Strategic Partnerships 2.11 with local organisations that range from the social enterprise Bright Green (who we ran our first Give and Take Day with in 2009) to the local Suffolk Wildlife Trust. Although we have never formally sat down and considered The Project Support Concept 2.12 we’re very much involved with it. Small groups working together is definitely the way forward in our area.

Making steps and still to do: 2.6 Becoming a Formal Organisation and 2.2 Inclusion/Diversity

Making hives for the Bungay Community Bees, June 2010; Graham Burnett from Southend in Transition teaching a Permaculture Course, January 2010 for our Community Garden

3 Deepening and Broadening

Transition Towers – Having an Office or not 3.1 Not in the case of Bungay! As you can see from the pic, we’re still at the kitchen table stage. We are lucky to have the Library however for our monthly meetings and the Chaucer Club as a venue for our events. And how are you Financing Your Work 3.3? you might ask. Well, at this point we are mostly self-financing. We have been given some funds to develop and print our Carbon Audit. We have received generous donations and we run the Bungay Community Bees, for example, by subscription. No one gets paid, so we’re all in the same boat - all happily Volunteers 3.2!

We may not have an office or a big grant, but Celebrating 3.4 we have down - summer picnics, Christmas parties, birthday drinks, green drinks. We all like food and we happily bring and share meals and cakes, swap plants and chickens. This informal exchange system is what really helps with Emotional Support/Avoiding Burnout 3.5. We’re not therapy types, so wouldn’t go down a counselling route, or seek outside help for Conflict Resolution 3.15. Instead we help ourselves. We have learned that by communicating and working with each other and exchanging "stuff" the responsibility for the initiative is shared. We can keep up Momentum 3.6 and not burn out.

We almost did last year. One of our greatest challenges arose when antagonistic town councillors turned down our application to put on a Big Green Street Market. It came at the same time as a stressful involvement with a Community Consultation for the Town Plan and our Unleashing (see below). Several members had worked very hard on the project and the refusal was a big shock and very difficult to talk about. However eventually we were able to make light of being called “smock-wearing eco-fascists” and Celebrate Failure (and Success) 3.7. The mood of the town council softened towards us and we became stronger and more determined as a result. One of the hardest things Transition has to face is the “old order” coming through people and quashing the new. As well as the divide-and-conquer mentality we inherit from our culture that can so easily split groups.

This shock also enabled us to become more aware of what we were engaged in and more strategic. In short we regrouped and became more resilient. We have occasional Big Meetings in which we put a day or an afternoon aside to look at the year ahead Gathering Feedback (how are we doing?) 3.8. We were aware that awareness-raising events can easily come and go leaving no trace, so creating Working Parties has really helped the Pattern of Practical Manifestations 3.9.

Our Community Garden in the centre of town is beginning to act like a Transition beacon as well as our community beehives and other Local Food initiatives 3.10. If there is one subject we all share it’s food. So as well as our highly successful Growing Local food event, Bungay Community Bees and Seedling Swap we are starting up a pig club and an apple share project. We’re really lucky having Josiah in the group who has a working knowledge of sustainable food systems, as well as many enthusiastic growers and cooks on board.
This second phase began after our Unleashings 3.14 on May 9 2009 at the Community Hall. Over 70 people came to hear Shaun Chamberlin speak about his recently published The Transition Timeline. We had our own Timeline along one wall and the tables were organised according to the working parties/theme groups we wanted to create for the following year. Kate and Josiah introduced the event. The hall was decked with garden and wild flowers and the tables loaded with home-cooked, low-carbon food. We had elderflower punch and beer from the local micro-brewery and local musicians played for free. Many initiatives are not keen to do an Unleashing (or use the term) but it is an important rite-of-passage and the initiative definitely goes into a different phase after you have gone through the door!

Still to consider/do: 3.11 The Great Reskilling 3.12 Working with Local Businesses 3.13 Ensuring Land Access

Josiah and Mark (and Iris) working on the new Sustainable Bungay website/blog, March 2010; homemade food for our Summer Picnic, July 2010; Shaun Chamberlin and the SB Unleashing Crew in front of the Bungay Timeline, May 2009

4 Outreach

Sustainable Bungay regularly interacts with neighbouring initiatives in Beccles, Halesworth and Diss to Form Networks of Transition Initiatives 4.2 and we have Transition contacts all over East Anglia. Mark, Charlotte and Josiah were involved in the Transition East Regional Support group that set up and ran the second Transition East Gathering last November. For this event we produced the Transition East 2009 document that profiled 29 initiatives across the Eastern Region (and initiated this blog), as well as the Transition Troubleshooting paper based on the “troubles” initiatives reported they were experiencing. We also took part in the recent forming of Transition Suffolk, and Mark and Charlotte have been instrumental in setting up personal carbon reduction neighbourhood groups in Norwich Transition Together/Transition Circles 4.1 and taken part in Carbon Conversations as future facilitators.

SB has its own community blog/website and active googlegroup and contributes to two other Transition blogs - transitioncircleeast and Transition Norwich’s This Low Carbon Life. We also produce our own quarterly printed and on-line newsletters (Becoming the Media 4.3). These articles and photographs provide material for our press and publicity, and perhaps more importantly reflect back and give value and meaning to what we are doing, helping with the process of Pausing for Reflection ('How Am I Doing?’) 4.15.
Keeping an on-line record also helps us showcase our personal and cultural stories The Role of Storytelling 4.14. Most of our attention so far has been focussed on building up the initiative and forging strong links and relationships. In 2010, as we’re starting to branch out and explore this fourth Set, we’re hoping to use our creative and communicative skills to engage further community interest. For example, we’re planning to map the local area for neighbourhood fruit trees (Meaningful Maps 4.11) as part of our apple share project and produce a flower calendar for our Bungay Community Bees.

Meanwhile as regards Engaging Schools 4.10 and Engaging Young People 4.9 we have made links with the local schools in respect to the Bungay Car-Free Day (Kate gives classes on climate change and environmental awareness), and now we’re hoping to get them involved in our local Cycle Strategy. Bungay Community Bees is teaching a class on bees at the Primary School in September (Charlotte has already helped run Transition/Creative Partnership classes on Peak Oil and Reconnection with Nature in Norwich). We have several “Transition kids” in our initative and they are definitely part of what we do!

SB has in the course of two years made some strong and successful Networks and Partnerships 4.14 from the local Emmanuel church to the food-growing co-operative, Greengrow. We have now also begun Engaging Local Landowners 4.8 in respect to our food initiatives.

Still to consider/do: 4.4 Engaging the Council 4.5 Energy Resilience Assessment 4.6 Community Brainstorming Tools 4.7 Oral Histories

Bungay Cycle Strategy outside our meeting house, the local Library, July 2010; helping plant a community orchard at the local co-op Greengrow, February 2009

5 Scaling Up

We’re not large or influential enough at this point to engage in Scaling Up 5.3 as a single initiative, so this is where our regional network becomes really valuable, where we learn from fellow initiatives e.g Transition Ipswich with their Energy Descent Action Plans 5.1 and wind turbine project (Community Renewable Energy Companies 5.4) and link up with other low-carbon and sustainable groups.

We are however engaged in Strategic Thinking 5.10, evolving our projects within a framework of the bigger picture. We’re also setting in motion some of the other aspects of this set, such as Social Entrepreneurship 5.2 especially in respect to our biodiesel and soap enterprise and our Community Supported Agriculture/Farms/Bakeries etc 5.9 projects, Bungay Community Bees and the pig club at GreenGrow.

We are also communicating with District Councillors and local and regional organisations in respect to these larger Patterns and exploring Community Ownership of Assets 5.8 e.g. future allotments.

Still to do: 5.5 Strategic Local Infrastructure 5.6 Strategies for Plugging the Leaks 5.7 Intermediate Technologies

Transition Suffolk meeting, Stowmarket, July 2010

6 National Policy

We’re not talking to the government yet about our Policies for Transition 6.1 and Peak Oil Resolutions 6.2 but we’ll have plenty of things to say when we do! (the newly elected MP came to our Unleashing)
Sustainable Bungay at The Wave, December 2009

Sunday 1 August 2010

Dancing at Lughnasa

Happy gathering
Happy harvest
Happy dancing
One and All!

Dancing with Kerry and Elena around the stone circle at Mangreen at Summer Solstice; walking the ley through the barleyfield; sunrise on the sunrise coast