In Transition

Yesterday, Clif and I went to the Winthrop Center Friends Church to see In Transition 2.0, a movie about Transition, a movement celebrating community and the environment. It also re-imagines a different economy, based on supporting local stores, farmers, and artisans. Transition began in the United Kingdom, and some of you have perhaps heard of Rob Hopkins, one of the founders of Transition. (Transition provides a more detailed account of the movement and its various aspects.)

Released in 2012, In Transition 2.0 follows the usual rah-rah trajectory common to upbeat documentaries about the environment and social change. The gist of the movement is explained, and then big and small examples of action from around the world are featured—community gardens (relatively easy); a group that focuses on personal action (again, relatively easy); local currency (a little harder but manageable); and starting a small power company that is based on renewable energy (very hard).

I’m aware that the above paragraph makes me sound like a cynic when it comes to movements such as Transition, but nothing could be further from the truth. As a Mainer, I am very much aware of the problems addressed by Transition, especially climate change and the decline of small communities. I’ve already written about the weird winter we’ve been having and how this seems to be the new normal. Climate change is here, no two ways about it.

However, I haven’t written about how Winthrop, the small town where we live, has gone from having a vibrant downtown with clothing stores, a craft store, a five and dime store, and a little grocery store to having a few sandwich shops, some thrift shops, and not much else.  It’s been sad to witness this decline. There are many reasons for this, including the closing of major businesses and poor leadership. I could go into great detail about this, but I’ll stop here.

Therefore, my sympathies are with Transition, but having once been a part of a failed Green Committee, I am also aware of how difficult it is for people to come together to make a change.  And, to be fair to In Transition 2.0, the movie does acknowledge that groups do fail and even highlights one that has.

After the movie, the handful of us that came discussed what we had seen.  Maggie Edmondson, the Friends pastor, did a fine job of leading the discussion. However, because most everyone came from a different community, there was really no possibility of starting anything in Winthrop.

And yet. The movie and the discussion made me think more about what I can do to live a greener life, about how I should use less of everything, throw away less, buy more local food, and drive less. (This is very difficult in central Maine as there is not much in the way of public transportation). In fact, I grapple with these issues on a daily basis, and seeing this film has made me resolve to do better, do more.

The title of the movie, In Transition, aptly catches what we are experiencing regularly in this country and, I think, around the world. Fires and mud on the West Coast. Dreadful hurricanes in the South. Twelve inches of snow and frozen alligators in North Carolina. Flash floods in Maine in January.

We are, indeed, in transition. Now it’s up to us to decide what to do about it.

The Kennebec River in Augusta, Maine, on January 22, 2018. More rain, more ice dams are predicted tonight and tomorrow, and these, in turn, could lead to more flooding. Good times.


39 thoughts on “In Transition”

    1. I agree. We are so lucky to live near Woodstock NY which has the tourist industry to support it, and yet enough boonie folks to keep it from becoming plastic.

  1. Interesting post. I have mixed reactions to efforts like Transitions 2.0. On the one hand, I’m for anything that promotes hope and positive change. On the other, there is a tendency to think that voluntary efforts can serve as a substitute for changing public policy. The reluctance to jump into the dirty world of politics is understandable but if we are really going to change our direction, there is no way around it.

    1. I absolutely agree that we need changes in public policy as well. No question about it. Right now, we are so far from having an administration that supports alternative energy that it makes me feel sick to my stomach at times. And very discouraged. We all have our superpowers, and being a politician is not one of mine. But I wholeheartedly support candidates who care about the environment and about climate change. I vote. I look to my own life for ways I can make a difference. And I write. This might sound simplistic, but we do what we can.

  2. Very interesting post Laurie. Where I live, here in Canberra many people are trying to live more sustainably, and there is no doubt that the dramatic changes in the seasons in recent years are constant reminder that things are indeed in transition. Hopefully some positive changes can come out of this.

  3. All change starts with a few tentative steps, there may be setbacks, but we must believe that grass roots movements collectively can make a difference. Anything we can do will add up!

  4. Good conversation. At home in NH, we recycle everything. I’m down to such a small bag of trash each week it makes me smile, Here in SC at the condo, they do not recycle anything. I feel guilty every time I chuck that big bag down the chute. I’m hoping your ice jams don’t cause serious damage, and I pray that our seasons will level back out. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Judy! Today and tomorrow, we should know about the ice dams and whether the rivers will flood. Hope your condo soon sees the light and starts recycling.

  5. Thank you for the thoughtful and thought provoking post. If everyone took the steps that you are taking there would be a lot of positive change. But everyone won’t which makes the efforts of those who do that much more important. Having lived in New England for my entire life causes me to know also that climate change is real and not going away because the weather is different than it was. I feel the saddest for the generations who follow us. But we are living here now and can try to figure out each day how to do the best we can to help. In a sense we are sometimes flame keepers as people who know the value of community and respect not just for people but for all living creatures and the environment. Your blog creates inspiration and community for the rest of us who read it and is greatly appreciated!

  6. As an exhausted veteran Eco-Warrior of more than 45 years myself, I know how hard it can be for people to come together and act as a group on Green issues. Nowadays I just do what I can in my own life and home and know that it is not enough, but it’s what I can do and it will have an effect. Think globally, act locally, take care of you and your own energy.

    1. Yes, yes! Because writing is my thing—and I have no one to blame but myself if it doesn’t come out well—I’m thinking about doing occasional profiles of people who are making a difference—in a variety of ways—in their communities. It might sound Pollyanna-ish, but I think we need good examples to encourage us, to make us feel as though we are not alone. Anyway, it’s a thought.

  7. I Have not seen this movie, Laurie, but will be on the lookout. So true about these small Maine villages, once they were much better at providing neighbors with most of what they need, Now everyone is forced to ‘ head to town’. Years ago we had a resiliency group that met here in our town, we thought over ( and tried to implement) ways that our community could be more self-reliant. Some very good things came out of it. One very positive thing about movies like you are describing and the discussion that follows is the awareness and personal consideration it promotes. That is surely a good thing. It is also very comforting, and reassuring that we are out there looking for solutions…even the small ones matter in the long run, I feel.

    1. Many thanks! Onward we go. You, your nursery, and your lifestyle are beacons for the rest of us. This has started me thinking about doing regular profiles of people, in towns, cities, and the country who are making a great effort at living sustainable lives and are making their communities better places. I know a dynamo from a town called Wayne, the next town over, who has started a group called Sustain Wayne. Very impressive. Anyway, we shall see.

  8. Did Winthrop’s downtown die recently? This happened to so many towns around here but 40 years ago or more. Malls and Walmart . . . The changes in the climate are harder to ignore every day–and I guess we have to depend on ourselves to make changes since we get no leadership from our “leadership.”

    1. Unfortunately, the downtown’s death has been slow and hard to watch. It didn’t collapse all at one, but gradually, one store at a time, until the downtown was just a shell with too many empty storefronts. Sad. Especially nowadays, this country’s leadership on climate change would be a joke if it wasn’t so serious. History will not be kind to this administration and to all the people who insisted that climate change was a hoax.

      1. Fortunately, despite all that has gone on, we can still speak or write freely without fear of persecution. May this never change! If it does, then we will know we have certainly become a totalitarian regime.

  9. There are so many small examples of how we are destroying the environment. As a Gardner I find that chemicals to control weeds are prevalent everywhere. People should be educated about what happens when these chemicals get into our water supplies.

  10. Well said, Laurie, about wanting to do your bit to help the environment. I’m sorry, too, about the decline of your town. I remember a similar thing happening in the two small towns near where we lived in the 80’s and 90’s. Today, however, one has transformed itself into a vibrant arts community and the main street has lovely stores and bistros/coffee shops. The weekender population no doubt helps, but the many events held there also bring in outsiders. The second, larger town (though still very small) attracted the semi-retired crowd from big cities, who were attracted to the quaint buildings and lake. As a result, many of the old businesses have closed, replaced by new ones, and while there are fewer young families today, the town is alive and the downtown is vibrant too.

    1. Thanks for sharing the good news about towns in your area. It’s happening here, too, with surrounding towns. Just not in the town I live in. Sigh.

  11. Well said, Laurie! We all need to do what we can to help our communities to work together and we all need to do much more for the health of our environment. My local towns are struggling too. The downturn in the economy and now this awful ‘Brexit’ business has meant there is very little spare money around to help small companies and small communities.
    However, I do believe that changes are being made in the world and many of the biggest changes for the better are coming from the third world (which will be taking over from the first and second world before we know it!)

    1. Thanks, Clare! I clicked on the link you sent and read about India. Then, I clicked on the accompanying link about trying to go plastic free and how hard it is. So true! Plastic is everywhere, and it’s pretty much impossible to avoid it. But onward, ho! Thanks for sending me those links. Brexit, Trump, the far right—they are all symptoms of a larger problem.

  12. I like the issues you raise and, like you, I support the movement in concept. In our little town of Hartland 15 businesses have closed since we moved here 13 years ago and only two new ones were added. Our property values have decreased dramatically. We try to shop locally,Our little grocery store in Hartland in those in the surrounding communities have a limited selection. Sometimea I long to drive to Waterville 25 miles away for the better quality and variety of selection but we shop closer to home most of the time.

  13. It’s difficult – we’ve all got used to having our own cars, convenient plastic items, and a vast choice of exotic foods. Life is hard enough, without putting the clocks back. My own record on the environment, I admit, is patchy. It always seems like two steps forward and one step back.

    1. No, we don’t want to put the clocks back, but we do seem to be on track to changing Earth’s climate. Scary.

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