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Rob Hopkins talk

Rob Hopkins feature

Rob Hopkins featureAfter more Kagemusha to get my heart beat going, we transition to Rob Hopkins. Can you see what I did there?

He’s going to tell us a story, which has the potential to change, and is already changing the world. He’s a local boy, and the story is about Totnes, twinned with Narnia. Totnes has become a new age centre. Apparently there’s a new hormone called Totnesterone, where masculine and feminine come into perfect balance.

But Totnes has pockets of deprivation, and many important local businesses have shut down in the past few years. According to a local historian, the town is dying a slow death, and there is no cavalry coming to help.

He’s showing a clip from the new film Transition 2.0. Transition started with talks about Peak Oil, the second major challenge facing us, alongside climate change. Projects include the Totnes pound local currency, open eco-homes and eco-gardens, a cohousing group, a garden match scheme, among others. In surveys in the town, 75% had heard about what was going on, 33% had engaged. It has been picked up by groups around the world, and canoeists in remote areas of Canada have now heard of Totnes.

Transition Town Totnes was set up to help groups elsewhere get going, a ‘do-ocracy’ employing 1.5 people and bringing money into the town.

Two activities have really engaged people in telling the story of the town and making a difference: the Energy Descent Action Plan, and the Economic Blueprint. This maps the local economy. For example, £20m of spend on food in supermarkets goes out of the local economy. If 10% is retained in the town, that means £2m to boost the local economy.

Then there’s Transition Streets, on the premise that Transition sticks better if people work on it in communities. They may save tonnes of carbon, but people usually talk about the connections made with neighbours as the key benefits. Change happens through being contagious, viral and fun.

How can a new economy be made in the town? Other initiatives: Totnes Renewable Energy Society, sustainable homes built using local materials, a local entrepreneurs forum. The forum is looking for businesses that are: working within natural limits, bringing assets into the local community, and four other characteristics that Rob was proud to remember but I couldn’t type quickly enough. They invited the local political candidates to hustings, not for them to answer questions, but to talk to them about their ideas.

“Hippy town comes of age”, said the Western Morning News.

Rob’s best analogy for Transition is microrhizomes in a forest. Much of what Transition does is under the surface, so fruits aren’t always obvious, but results pop out unexpectedly. It has also spread like microrhizomes. There are now Transition initiatives in 34 countries, working in their own local contexts.

We don’t need the cavalry, we are already here. Cheers for Rob and his final quote from the Moomintrolls.

Rob Hopkins biography

Rob Hopkins BW

Rob Hopkins BWRob Hopkins is the co-founder of Transition Town Totnes and of the Transition Network. This grew out of many years experience in education, teaching permaculture and natural building, and setting up the first 2 year full-time permaculture course in the world, at Kinsale Further Education College in Ireland, as well as co-ordinating the first eco-village development in Ireland to be granted planning permission. He is author of ‘The Transition Handbook: from oil dependence to local resilience’, which has been published in a number of other languages, and which was voted the 5th most popular book taken on holiday by MPs during the summer of 2008, and of ‘The Transition Companion: making your community more resilient in uncertain times’, published in October 2011. He publishes the blog www.transitionculture.org, recently voted ‘the 4th best green blog in the UK’(!). He was the winner of the 2008 Schumacher Award, is an Ashoka Fellow and a Fellow of the Post Carbon Institute, served 3 years as a Trustee of the Soil Association, and was named by the Independent as one of the UK’s top 100 environmentalists. He is the winner of the 2009 Observer Ethical Award for the Grassroots Campaigner category, and in December 2009 was voted the Energy Saving Trust/Guardian’s ‘Green Community Hero’. He lectures and writes widely on peak oil and Transition, holds an MSc in Social Research and recently completed a PhD at the University of Plymouth entitled ‘Localisation and resilience at the local level: the case of Transition Town Totnes’. He lives in Devon and in any spare time he has, grows food for his family.