The Transition town movement believes we need to have a positive vision for our communities for the future – let’s say 30 years in the future – 2042 – when we have made a transition to a “post peak oil world”.
For most of us, including me, this is a terrifying thought – how can our lives and communities exist without the vast amount of cheap energy we have become used to. What will we eat ? How will we move around ? How will we get our children to school ? How will we heat our schools and homes? What work will we do ? Will there be conflict over resources? We have little in the way of positive cultural stories of how this future might look, there is the terrifying “Max Max” film where we all fight over the last bit of oil, or the ‘Star Trek’ story in which we go off to live on other planets where there are more resources to use. We have positive stories from the past from just 60 years ago from our parents and grandparents of how they got by in on very limited oil resources during the War and how happy they were (apart from the fighting bit!). They grew their own veg, pulled together as a community, darned socks, cycled to work, listened to the radio. But what visions are there for a future in which we have a happy and secure future in a world with less oil?
As a trainer in this area I often ask people to take a moment (well 15 minutes) and imagine that they lived where they live now but 30 years into the future; in a world with limited oil. You might want to do it yourself? They wake up eat breakfast , go to work, take the kids to school, go to a meeting or celebration, eat a meal and then go to bed again just like a normal day but in a world with limited oil resources. It is a surprisingly positive vision that people have, life is slower, simpler, happy, and quieter. There is less stress, and more time to talk to people. Work is local. People walk and cycle and notice the trees and flowers. Eat simple meals. Share more.
When I have asked people I know in Manningtree what they would like in their town in the future, the answers are; a full high street with shops selling food and other essential goods, a thriving market, cafes, a community centre with meeting places ,a youth club, a swimming pool possibly a tidal one on the river, a joined-up walk along the river front, a cinema …. All lovely things to have in a small town like Manningtree today. These are also things that would make Manningtree very resilient to the changes that are to come in the future, and able to thrive in a post peak oil world that may or not be 2042. Even if we do not have to face this challenge any of the things in this list would make it an even more wonderful place to live! I am not imagining for one moment that creating a community centre, tidal swimming pool or filling the high street up again with butchers and fishmongers would be easy to create, and in our current economic situation would it even be possible to create? My point is that it is important to have a vision and a dream and then to find a path to get to that place, and it seems that there is a very rich vision for Manningtree.