The invitation to participate in the Keynote panel during Resilience 2015 gave Christine and me a great opportunity to reflect on the early days of Transition Guelph and all that has come into being since then. Thank you, planning volunteers, for the invitation to speak, and thanks to everyone at the Keynote evening who asked questions and contributed to the discussion, and helped to cohere these realizations!
All of us have been on a rich venture of learning and doing since the beginnings of TG. I’d like to share some thoughts that stand out as I look back and imagine forward. Most of these represent knowledge we early organizers held early on that has been confirmed and enriched along the way.
The main points are:
- Resilience is about learning and adapting
- Visioning is vital
- Relationship is primary
- It’s about people care as Earth care, individual and group sustainability
- It’s about the power of community, and the power of one
Thanks in advance for your attention. Here we go!
Resilience is about learning and growing together in order to adapt.
Resilience is more than just “bouncing back” from adversity, as important as that is. The people of Transition Guelph follow a long-term strategy of connecting with one another to build thriving systems for meeting people’s needs – healthy social, economic and environmental systems – in changing or unpredictable circumstances.
I really like Nikki Silvestri’s definition: “I define community resilience as the ability, as a community, to withstand change in a way that protects all people, and an ability to take advantage of change (italics mine) in a way that increases the ability of the community to thrive.”
It has become clear that most of all, Transition is a cultural process, one that reweaves connections, bringing people together, empowering us all with a creative impulse. As Transition Movement founder Rob Hopkins wrote,”… my sense is that Transition embodies the possibility of something that few other things can achieve. It is about what is currently politically impossible becoming politically inevitable. Transition can start to change the tone, change the background buzz, change the sense of what’s possible” (http://bit.ly/1CMw4f9).
Change keeps changing, sometimes in surprising ways, and it’s energizing and rewarding to stay flexible and innovative. In Rob Hopkins’ words, “What we are seeing emerging around the world is a new narrative for these times. A narrative that says these are extraordinary times, and times that demand us to be extraordinary.”
Narratives about peak oil have shifted, with more commentators and the public recognizing that the world, especially industrialized societies, need to end the addiction to fossil fuels, even though presently prices are low, for the sake of the climate. Awareness of climate disruption has advanced to where it’s now common to know that burning carbon puts us most at risk of destroying the chances for life on Earth.
A longing for greater justice and sustainability in economic systems is catching hold and spreading. Models old and new that address these questions are arising in abundance:
- What would it be like for our human economy to be in harmony with the Earth’s economy?
- What would our communities be like if we put energy into personalized and localized resources that benefit everyone around us?
Re-use and swaps, DIY fabricating and repair, Time Banking, cooperatives and gift economy, even corporate structures like B-Corp that focus on social and environmental good are thriving. Their existence subverts the outdated story that non-stop growth of capitalized wealth is the only way open to humanity.
The importance of Visioning; imagining the world we want to live in
One of the features of the Transition Movement that drew me powerfully in the beginning is the central place of visioning and actualizing positive, forward-looking solutions that can include everyone. As we design and work on the many projects that our volunteers are passionate about, we are all guided by the shared purpose of creating the society we want to live in and pass along to those who come after, our human and other descendants. Intention is fully honoured as a powerful force for opening new possibilities in every realm.
Relationships are primary; building and tending them, we create the better life we want.
To paraphrase from the description of Transition Lab (well worth a read at http://transition-lab.com/#our-vision ): The Transition Movement goes much deeper than merely creating a better survival strategy. Many of us recognize that the biggest problem with our world is that we do not live in relationship with most things in our lives. We are not really connected to where our food comes from, where our phones are made, or where our gas is drilled. This often makes the ecocide all around us distant enough that we are able to keep on going about our lives without much thought to the consequences of our actions.
We grow life-enhancing relationships by:
- Connecting deeply with Nature – getting to know our place in the world around us and our own wild, intuitive, wise selves
- Getting really good at communication — learning and practicing the skills in order to foster harmony and make the most of different perspectives and diverse contexts
- Inviting each person to contribute their gifts and talents – trusting that everyone has valuable parts to play
- Balancing process and practical orientations in our gatherings and endeavours — inner & outer realms intertwine and enrich one another
- Talking and listening – as Grace Lee Boggs said a few years ago, “It’s not only important to act, it’s important to talk because when you talk you begin to create new ideas and new languages.”
Persons and organizations need and deserve care and support
Caring for the living Earth means also caring for ourselves and those around us. Giving attention to sustaining our energy and health individually and collectively, we create a better way that subverts the old extractive worldview that sees everything as only resources to be exploited.
Personally, this can mean recognizing the imperative to step back from endless activity before disillusionment or poor health ensue. Consultation, planning, and the goodwill of many have meant that we can make such choices healthy for TG, allowing for shared leadership and greater collaboration. Practices that prevent depletion and burnout will also grow our awareness, stamina and viability – actualizing the vision of resilience on every scale.
The power of one and the power of community
I have been amazed and fascinated to see how so few of us initially have been joined by more and more builders, nurturers, and warriors on the side of life (see Joanna Macy’s story of the Shambhala Warrior in Coming Back to Life), and how this has resulted in the vibrant, creative, busy Transition Guelph of today.
When I first came home inspired with this awesome Transition Towns idea, little did I know that I would find other passionate Guelves and it would turn into potlucks and parties, stimulating film screenings and presentations, community gardens and food-bearing perennials planted in Guelph, a time exchange system, focus on wellbeing and self-care, sustainable builders combining interests and expertise, alliances with wonderful community partners and social enterprises – wow! We have now an ongoing wealth of Inner Transition activities, a lively web presence, Transition Streets, music makers, local movement for Fair Trade, new narratives in the making, greater skills, a beautiful Resilience Festival tradition, and more … plus a robust web of connections and friendships for so many! All of you who are or have been involved are absolutely miraculous – together we are an adaptive, generative system that is alive, creative, and energizing.
A few last words if you wish to keep reading
… from Grace Lee Boggs again:
… I learned as I grew older … that how we change the world and how we think about changing the world has to change… The time has come for us to reimagine everything… How do we reimagine everything in the light of a change that is so far reaching and is our responsibility to make?
We reimagine by combining activism with philosophy, talking about revolution and evolution in the most fundamental terms. We have to do what [I call] visionary organizing. We have to see every crisis as both a danger and an opportunity. It’s a danger because it does so much damage to our lives, to our institutions, to all that we have expected. But it’s also an opportunity for us to become creative; to become the new kind of people that are needed at such a huge period of transition.
… and from Russell Evans, Transition Lab:
We can stop being consumers and instead advocate for our basic needs in ways that make us better citizens. These are relationships that require communication, boundaries, assertiveness, collaboration, and compassion to be successful. These are also exactly the skills we need to develop to be successful beyond our doorsteps in the fight for clean air, water, social justice, fracking, and so on. By working in relationship for our basic needs, instead of being consumers of needs, we fundamentally change how we walk on the planet.
We have to create forms of work that create community and expand our humanity. We know that giving ourselves to work that ignites our passion is possible in many cases only from a position of privilege. We can strive to create work with which everyone can meaningfully contribute, that all people can engage in because they care.
When we start growing our own food, exchanging and sharing labour and skill, and working with community, we make choices that consider the well-being of one another and not just our wallets. These are the ways to fundamentally change how we live and approach our lives. These are powerful, radical actions that we can take towards healing our planet and ourselves
… and from the Poet Rainer Maria Rilke
The Machine endangers all we have made.
We allow it to rule instead of obey.
To build a house, cut the stone sharp and fast:
the carver’s hand takes too long to feel its way.
The Machine never hesitates, or we might escape
and its factories subside into silence.
It thinks it’s alive and does everything better.
With equal resolve it creates and destroys.
But life holds mystery for us yet. In a hundred places
we can still sense the source: a play of pure powers
that — when you feel it — brings you to your knees.
There are yet words that come near the unsayable,
and, from crumbling stones, a new music
to make a sacred dwelling in a place we cannot own.
Well, as the week wraps up, I can honestly say it’s been an amazing week of events for this year’s Resilience Festival. I feel quite honoured to have been a part of the celebration this year. So far, I’ve been able to attend The Great Turning film screening and discussion, a wonderful film screening of The Garden hosted by our partners at OPIRG Guelph, as well as tonight’s Keynote Speaker event where we heard from local heros on the festival’s theme of “Unleashing Your Awesome”. I also facilitated an amazing visioning session and got to share my experiences with many new faces at a film screening of In Transition 2.0. I am also incredibly excited to attend the Main Day celebration at St. George’s Church tomorrow, including Seedy Saturday, The Reskilling Fair, Workshops, Candle Light Potluck, and Open Mic Entertainment. It’s hard to believe so many awesome activities can be jammed into a single day.
I wanted to take some time to reflect on the keynote speakers from this evening and share a message that I took away from the event. Kevin Sutton, Chris Green, Sally Ludwig, and Christine Mills all shared their personal experiences, stories, and views on how they believe that we can move forward with our own work and unleash awesome in our lives. Each speaker brought their own background and history to the discussion, but there were definitely some common threads between the presentations that really spoke to me.
Chris Green from The Guelph Outdoor School led the presentations and talked about deep nature connection and coyote mentorship. One of the points that he brought up that really resonated with me is how we all feel when we take the time to connect with the natural world (which he took the time to point out includes ourselves and the people around us!). Whether it’s intentional or not, we all feel better when we strengthen our connection with the natural world, which he described as “tentacles reaching out to the world around us”. I thought it was a great visual! He also explained that when our connections strengthen, it’s like our inner “switch board starts to light up with green lights”. I think everyone in the room knew exactly what he was speaking to when he presented this amazing imagery.
Transition Guelph Co-Founders, Sally Ludwig and Christine Mills spoke next about their experience in starting Transition Guelph, the space they were in when starting the initiative, and how the movement grew in Guelph. Both also spoke about the nature of “Inner Transition” which is so core in the Transition model. In addition to the external connections that Chris Green spoke about, Sally and Chris spoke about the connections that we have to make within ourselves, and how that personal connection moves us to action. That motivation can come from different places for each of us, whether it’s concern for future generations, or living a lifestyle that contributes to a whole earth economy, taking the time to recognize the inner change that happens is key to the movement and it’s success.
Finally, Spoken Word Artist Kevin Sutton shared an amazing poem appropriately titled “Keynote” and did an amazing job of connecting all of us in the room! When listening to spoken word, I often let myself be taken away by the rhythm of the poem, so I probably won’t do his message justice, but what I took away built on the previous speakers’ themes of connection, and focused on the connection that we must form with each other in order to make change happen. This sense of communal or community connection was delivered beautifully in his piece.
This theme of connection has been prevalent throughout my festival experience this year. Thinking back to the discussions I had with folks at the Great Turning film screening, one of the questions we were asked to explore was “What keeps your inner fire burning?”. I got the chance to talk with about a dozen people around this topics, and while there were a number of different responses, I think they can be grouped into a few key categories: 1) taking action and seeing change happen, 2) continually learning and educating ourselves on key topics, and 3) taking time to reflect, or taking “down time”. One of the key thoughts I left with that evening was how these three topics were a continuous cycle, and how everyone there agreed that all three kept them moving forward with the work they were doing. I can see definitely similarities between these three topics, and the three types of connection that were discussed at tonight’s keynote events. All three types of connection: nature, inner, and community help create a clearer path of how we can move forward in our own journeys and in our own work.
To wrap up, this year’s festival theme “Unleash Your Awesome” has been a wonderful way to explore how we can all take action – big or small – to realize our potential and contribute to something bigger. Tonight’s keynote talk really helped frame how I can focus on unleashing my own personal awesome – by fostering connection with nature, my community, and also within myself.
We would like to invite you to come and participate in an interactive, art-based focus group and help a master’s student co-create her thesis!
Lucie Bardos is studying human ecology at Lund University in Sweden but is currently in Guelph researching the connection between social justice and the Transition Movement by doing a case study on Transition Guelph. Lucie hopes that her thesis can be a kind of ‘time capsule’ that will capture some of the ideas, challenges and discourses happening around the theme of social justice and transition. In an attempt to make her research more meaningful to the movement for which she is writing her work, she has planned a structured art focus group session. During this session she will ask participants to reflect on different things such as: various aspects of Transition Guelph, ideas and opinions of social justice, and navigating privilege and language. The result of these reflections will be the creation of several art pieces that will be created and then co-analyzed with focus group participants.
Lucie will also be presenting a summary of her research to date and will be collecting feedback and ideas that she can incorporate into her thesis. Please do not worry if you don’t have confidence in your artistic abilities – this is not of importance!
There is a limit of 15 people, so please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as you can. Thanks to the kindness and open-mindedness of Sally and Christine, the workshop will be held at their house located at 33 Manor Park Crescent in Guelph on Thursday, Feb. 26 from 6:30-9pm. Snacks will be provided as well as most of the art materials, though if you are able to bring some spare markers, crayons, coloured pencils or pastels to share, please do! And if you are willing to make some notes during the discussion section of the workshop, please let Lucie know in your RSVP. Thanks!
There’s something wonderful happening next week in Guelph.
Everyone knows about Black Friday, and now there’s Cyber Monday – but what if the whole world decided to make a contribution to their preferred charity on one day? That’s the idea behind Giving Tuesday: one day where everyone can help make a change in their community by donating their time, money, or energy to help non profit organizations continue with the amazing work that they do.
Giving Tuesday is happening on December 2nd, and in standard Guelph format, we’ve given this wonderful concept a life of it’s own. Guelph Gives is aiming to make Guelph Canada’s most generous city (we’ve even been challenged by Regina!) and believe that Guelphites are up to the challenge.
1 City. 1 Day. $1 Million.
Transition Guelph is so excited to be participating in the wonderful events of Giving Tuesday. Guelph Gives is hosting a Giving Fair at Old Quebec Street Mall from 10am-6pm on December 2nd where you can go to learn about some of the amazing organizations in Guelph working to make Guelph a better place. You’ll be able to sign up for volunteer opportunities, make donations, and celebrate the day with us! At Stone Road Mall from 10-2pm you can participate in Charity Plinko (which just sounds awesome) and there will also be a free skate at the Sleeman arena from 11:30-1:30pm.
As a participating organization, TG is focusing on a few “asks” from you, the people!
OUR GUELPH GIVES GOALS:
- Sign up 10 new awesome volunteers to help organize Resilience Festival 2015.
- Raise $500 in donations or memberships towards essential (but not so sexy) costs like insurance and organizing costs of the Resilience Festival.
- Inspire others: a goal of a total of 50 retweets, #UNselfies or gifts to other nonprofits and charities.
So, are you up to the challenge? We will provide more information on December 2nd about how you can make your contribution to Transition Guelph. If you’d like to learn more about Guelph Gives (and we know you do!) you can visit their website at http://www.guelphgives.ca/
This week, we are happy to have our friends at the Elora Environment Centre share their thoughts on energy conservation. This guest post is from Emily Araujo.
Consumers have many technological solutions available to them in order to reduce their electricity consumption. Technologies such as LEDs, Energy Star appliances and smart thermostats are readily available and promise consumers higher efficiency and ultimately lower consumption rates. One emerging problem with high efficiency technologies is the mental rationalization that I can use it more because it uses less, ultimately wasting more efficiently.
Light bulbs are a common efficiency upgrade for consumers. Replacing a 60 watt incandescent light bulb to a 12 watt LED light bulb can decrease your electricity consumption by ¾. LED bulbs are more efficient but they are not the only component to decrease your electricity bill. Altering habits to take advantage of time-of-use pricing in conjunction with new technologies will save you from the wasting more efficiently trap. Practices such as running your clothes dryer at off-peak times (Monday to Friday 7pm – 7am & all day Saturday and Sunday) can cut your electricity costs almost in half. Alternatively, air drying your clothes outside in the summer and inside in the winter can eliminate your laundry drying costs entirely!
Eliminating consumption waste and increasing efficiency are key factors in keeping bills low. The staff at the Elora Environment Centre are energy conservation leaders in the Centre Wellington community and can assist you in reducing your electricity costs and becoming more energy efficient. We offer a house and small business-specific service that will look at how, when and where you are using electricity. The Take Charge! program gives you real data and realistic options so you can Take Charge of your bills. To find out how you can become energy efficient and start saving money contact the Elora Environment Centre at 519-846-0841 or by email: email@example.com.
Emily Araujo presently works for the Elora Environment Centre coordinating conservation programs in communities across southern Ontario. She has experience working in municipal and provincial governments, as well as in the utility industry. Her educational background is in Environmental Conservation, Geography and Geographic Information Systems. Emily personal interests, besides saving the environment… include running, backcountry canoeing & camping and traveling.
At the beginning of October, Transition Guelph was proud to co-present a wonderful event with The Guelph Outdoor School that brought Jon Young to Guelph to speak on the topic of forming deeper connections with nature, mentorship, and what we can do as a community to promote these topics. We had a wonderful turn out at Centennial High School that brought together different members of our community not only from Guelph but surrounding areas as well.
The event opened with a number of organizations setting up tables and sharing our goals and ideals with like-minded groups and individuals. There was a wide array of groups represented, including Transition Guelph. When I arrived at the event, I was instantly taken by the energy in the room. I had an opportunity to both share information about TG, and meet with other organizations that were there as well. Everyone I spoke with had a positive message to share and left me feeling encouraged and inspired.
When the talk began, we were greeted with a series of opening presentations, welcomes, and songs where everyone was encouraged to participate. From the songs, poems, and presentations, the room again reflected that high energy that I had felt in the gathering when I first arrived. Looking around at the room, everyone was smiling, enjoying participating, and connected with the energy in the room.
Once the songs were done and everyone was buzzing with excitement, Jon Young took the stage to share his story of how he discovered his path to developing the 8 Shields method of mentoring and inspiring others to form a deeper connection with nature. He spoke about his history and journey, and at the same time provided insight into how he views mentorship as tool to educate and inform. He shared different strategies and insights on how to get everyone, young and old, to join in on his approach. Personally, I found his story is both inspiring and encouraging, as I’m sure everyone else in the audience felt as well.
While I had to leave a bit early and missed the end of his talk, Jon Young’s presentation left me feeling positive as I look at my own life as a nature enthusiast and a mother. I felt inspired to use his approach in my own development as well as the development of my young son. I also felt inspired by the strong sense of community and positive energy that was present throughout this event. It is always wonderful to see such a strong, committed group of people come together to share their perspectives and ideals on how we can create a stronger community with engaged members.
Over the last few months, we’ve been collecting feedback from folks who are interested in volunteering with Transition Guelph. For those of you who have filled out our online survey, thanks for sharing your thoughts! If you haven’t filled the survey out yet, it only takes a minute of your time
One of the pieces of feedback that we’ve heard the most is that people don’t know how to get involved with TG. They ask “what are the volunteer opportunities that you currently have?“. Up until recently, I was reluctant to answer that question because our volunteers are our members, board, founders, program coordinators – you name it. Transition Guelph is a completely volunteer run organization, which means that you come to us and tell us what you want to do – not the other way around!
That all being said – we recognize that getting involved with a new organization can be overwhelming, and having a few tasks or to do items rather than diving in head first can be a less daunting task! With that in mind, Jess and I have been working on creating a few volunteer roles within Transition Guelph to help with administrative tasks, communications, and event planning. If you’ve been looking for a way to get involved directly with Transition Guelph, but didn’t know what you wanted to do, now is the time!
Check out our volunteer opportunities here, and share with friends! If you have any questions about the roles and responsibilities, you can always reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And as always, if you feel you have another gift to give to Transition Guelph, we’d love to hear from you!
Next week, there is an amazing event happening in Guelph that I am so excited for and I wanted to share with everyone. Transition Guelph is happy to announce that The Guelph Outdoor School is bringing Jon Young to Guelph to give a talk on mentorship, forming deeper connections with nature, and how we can become a more resilience community.
If you’ve never heard of Jon before, you’re in for quite a treat. Jon is the founder of the 8 Shields Institute, an organization that focuses on the mentorship model to create healthy and vibrant natural leaders and nature-based communities around the world. The methodology really helps building a nature connection on both an individual and community level, which is something that we are all about at Transition Guelph! As per their website, ““The 8 Shields Model is a proprietary road-map applied to educational strategies, personal development, community building, organizational processes and more…”
This talk will be a wonderful opportunity to hear about how we can better connect with our children, and with the world around us. If you are a:
- parent looking to find new ways to engage your children
- teacher looking for new methods of encouraging students
- friend looking to find better ways to communicate with others
- person looking to discover better ways of connecting with nature
then this talk is for you! Tickets are available now at a sliding scale fee. You can learn more about this amazing event and buy tickets online at www.eventbrite.ca/e/an-evening-with-jon-young-on-mentoring-deep-nature-connection-resilence-tickets-12995667391. There will also be a number of community partners tabling at the event, so come out and learn more about organizations (like Transition Guelph!) that are embracing Jon Young’s ideals and methods in our community.
We’ll see you there!
March 2015 may seem like a long way off, but we are already thinking about it at Transition Guelph. With March brings another amazing week of events in our annual Resilience Festival, and we are already getting things in gear! Our first planning meeting is scheduled for next Tuesday, September 17th and we have a few venues on hold for the main day events! We also have many of the volunteer coordinator roles filled and many others who are ready to lend a hand.
Why do we love the Resilience Festival so much? Well, it’s really an annual celebration of Transition Guelph. It’s a place where all our working groups, projects, and volunteers can come together to share stories, honour what has been accomplished over the year, and reflect on the events that have strengthened local community resiliency in our town. We can also think about the new friends that we have made!
This year we have a LOT to celebrate! With new governance restructuring, some great local food initiatives, and continued success with established projects, the volunteers of Transition Guelph are engaging more and more people around the city and bringing more people into the TG family.
What would you like to celebrate this year at the Resilience Festival? We are putting out an official call for submissions for events! Do you have a workshop that you’d love to run? Would you like to present an important topic as a speaker? Past festivals have seen shared storytelling evenings, presentations on building strategies, community gathers to talk about our inner transition, and more. We will be looking for events to host throughout the week as well as on our main day event.
Please fill out the form below to send us your ideas!
For those who might not have heard of the Transition Healthcare working group, I thought you might be interested in learning a bit more about what this wonderful group is all about. Often, healthcare is associated with going to your doctor, treating illness, or even dealing with an injury. The Transition Healthcare Resilience group takes a bit of a different approach, however, looking at preventative healthcare and the impact of the current healthcare system on environmental and social problems that we face today.
Exploring Healthcare Through Food
Food is a hot topic in both environmental and wellness discussions around the world. Increasingly around the world, we see food that is full of toxic chemicals through pesticides, herbicides, and fertizilers. We also see genetic modification of our food crops that hasn’t been well tested to understand the long term effects on the human system. We are surrounded by processed “fast foods” that are ideal for busy people on the go, but horrible for our bodies.
Transition Healthcare explores the world of food looking at organic, non-gmo, whole options that are healthy for our bodies and good for our wellbeing.
Alternatives to Medication and Drugs
In today’s healthcare systems, we often turn to medication as a solution to problems and maybe don’t stop to think of it’s effects on our planet or the possibility of exploring less harmful options to keeping our bodies healthy. Transition Healthcare seeks to look at herbal, homeopathic, and other alternative healthcare as possible solutions for treating ailments and also promoting preventative healthcare as a viable option. Also, how do healthy lifestyles including diet and nutrition play into those solutions? The group seeks to promote awareness among complementary or alternative healthcare providers as a contribution to healing the environment as we help people to heal.
If you are interested in learning more, you can read about the Transition Healthcare Resilience group on our website here, or get in touch with us at email@example.com. Are you passionate about alternative healthcare? The group has some big things planned for the future and would love to have you on board!