Friday, January 1, 2010

Rob Hopkins' letter to L.A.

As part of our September 2008 "Life After Oil" event, Rob Hopkins, founder of the Transition Towns movement, wrote the following letter to Los Angeles:

"A while ago here in Totnes in Devon, a group came to see me from Brazil. They asked if the Transition model would work in Brazil. I asked where in Brazil, and they said Sao Paolo. "You mean you're asking if a model that works in a town of 8,000 people will work in a city of 10 million people? I have no idea". And I don't. I have no way mentally of imagining anywhere that big. LA is even bigger, and so likewise, I cannot guarantee that what we have developed here will be successful.

I do know that here in the UK, the way urban Transition projects (and there are many of them now) are working is to break the city into neighbourhoods and then train, inspire and network them. Working at the neighbourhood scale means working at a scale people feel they can influence. They are developing many new tools and approaches, and this is what is exciting about Transition, we are all making this up as we go along.

I would suggest you don't call what you are doing Transition Town LA. You aren't a town, you are a city, and that is something to celebrate. Transition City LA. We need to find ways of reclaiming what it means to live in a sustainable city, not just wish it were a town. In doing this work you will develop your own tools, your own insights, your own vocabulary. The work you are starting to do is seminally important. You are pioneers, doing some of the most important work to be undertaken anywhere. I wish you well, and please keep the rest of the many hundreds of communities around the world also doing Transition work posted as to your successes, and perhaps most importantly your failures. We tend not to talk about those, but they are just as, if not more, rich with potential for learning.

The Transition of the next 10 years will be from a time when one's sense of wellbeing, prowess, economic status and social standing directly correlated to one's amount of oil consumption, to one where one's degree of oil dependency is also one's degree of vulnerability. This is an astonishing shift for somewhere like LA, but it CAN be done, and the more playful, historic and empowering we can make the shift, the more likely it will be to happen, and the more likely we are to make it. All power to your collective elbows. "

--Rob Hopkins, for the “Life After Oil” event,
Los Angeles, September 2008