Localisation and Resilience at the local level: the case of Transition Town Totnes
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This thesis provides a critical review of the Transition movement, a grassroots response to peak oil and climate change, co-founded by this author. It focuses on two key aspects of the Transition approach, resilience and economic relocalisation, with the aim of analysing whether and how they can be implemented in a locality based on the Transition approach, and assessing what socio-economic and community-related structures would be necessary to implement such a process. The focus of the research is Totnes, Devon, which because of its status as the UK’s first Transition initiative and the longer history of various initiatives to promote local resilience, offers a valuable case study of attempts to practically implement resilience and localisation. A variety of research methods were employed, including surveys, focus groups, oral history and in-depth interviews, as well less conventional public participation methods such as Open Space and World Café. The first major finding was that Transition Town Totnes (TTT) has become a significant organisation in the town, with a high level of popular support. It was also found that the obstacles to resilience and relocalisation lie not, as was hypothesised, in a lack of skills or an absence of community cohesion, but in issues of governance and the need for increased social entrepreneurship. It was found that what researchers call the ‘Value Action Gap’ (i.e. the gap between people’s declared sympathies and intentions and their actions) exists in Totnes as much as anywhere else, but that some of TTT’s projects, such as ‘Transition Together’, are working imaginatively to overcome this and to reduce emissions. From this evidence is it concluded that Transition’s approach towards relocalisation and reducing carbon emissions can be argued to be effective in, generating engagement and initiating new enterprises. Like other ‘green’ initiatives, it struggles to engage those from more disadvantaged backgrounds, but some of its initiatives are showing promise for overcoming this. Its primary contribution is in suggesting a redefining of resilience, not as a state of preparedness for disaster, but as a desired characteristic of a sustainable society. A more resilient community, it is argued, would be one more in control of its food and energy production, as well as being one that enables inward financial investment. It also argues that the government focus on ‘localism’, the devolving of political power to the local level, ought to be expanded to include ‘localisation’, the strengthening of local production to meet local needs, a shift which would financially benefit local communities. It argues that the key challenge for Transition initiatives such as TTT is going to be scaling up from being ‘niche’ organisations to become economically viable organisations with a broad appeal and engagement, and also articulates the need for ‘Resilience Indicators’ which would allow communities to measure the degree to which their levels of resilience are increasing.
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