How economic growth and sustain development can be compatible? At this question, Rop Hopkins, the initiator of Transition Town movement, argues for a different economic model, focused on cities, by rethinking the way local communities feed, houses and power themselves.
In New Zealand, the Transition Town movement received a warm welcome in 2007, shortly after its launch by Rop Hopkins in Great Britain. Indeed, as an island country resources are limited, and the economy depend clearly on the importations. That makes Kiwis wishing autonomy but also developed strong feeling of belonging and a fear to lack. Moreover, as a commonwealth member country, the proximity with Great British boosted the launch of the Transition Town community in New Zealand.
In Lower Hutt, near the city capital Wellington, we met Juanita, one of the launchers of the Transition Town movement in New Zealand.
The Transition Town movement aims to gather communities together through self-sufficiency and sustainable living. More than 40 towns were involved in 2007. Today, half of these cities are still involved. Others evolve into various environment programs with different names.
The purpose is to connect people who are already involve in this kind of activities and wishing to build a resilient network. The idea is to move away from fossil fuel dependency and to respond to the challenge of climate change by applying a different lifestyle. To “re-localizing” and to make communities resilient and sustainable, Transition Town movement is animated by local coordinator, often hosted in the community house of New Zealand cities.
Juanita is one of them, she moderates the initiative in Lower Hutt since 2007. The 3 first years, she received funds from the city council, then she became a full volunteer.
Today more than 600 citizens received the newsletter in Lower Hutt and Juanita manages various local projects.
One of them is the plantation of fruit trees in booms (roadsides) and the maintenance would be ensured by former prisoners. This initiative combines both social and environmental purpose and is the first of this kind in this city.
Another project is the Transition Tuesday when workshops are organized to raise awareness. There is also the Mona Coffee, which gathers people to discuss different subjects in a tolerant area, Consumer Anonymous to talk about the topical consuming society, and Inner Transition which bring psychological support regarding the Transition. The local church is also involved in this environmental and social movement.
WHAT NOW ?
In 2014, a pop-up community workshop settled during 6 months in a lease building in the city. Juanita would like to reiterate this impactful experiment which had known a real success!
Today, Juanita has lot of projects in progress related to the Transition Town movement. Even if there are less towns involved in this community, the Kiwi sustainable dynamic grows in response to global warming issues.
This type of movement, focus on the reinforcement of communities, could be a response to global challenges by acting local. Spreading a message in a local community is easier than in a worldwide scale due to proximity. Nevertheless, the difficulties are based on how to generate commitment and to change people habits. One key point could be: which person spread which message? Public authorities and media have a strong influence on people ways of thinking. However, today more a more citizens share their opinions and have legitimity through their involvement into international movement with local impacts like Transition Town.