Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Transition Towns - or how to be less resilient and exclude the poor


Maybe I've been asleep - I don't usually miss left-wing, green wibble - but 'transition towns' were a new one on me. Apparently there's a whole movement of them:

Transition Initiatives, community by community, are actively and cooperatively creating happier, fairer and stronger communities, places that work for the people living in them and are far better suited to dealing with the shocks that'll accompany our economic and energy challenges and a climate in chaos.

The point about these 'transition initiatives' is that they involve the capture of a local agenda - and policy-setting within a specific community - by a small group of committed, green extremists. The point and purpose of these groups is to ensure that all the focus within the particular community is on "resilience". We are told the problem is - without evidence or the proffering of choice - with things such as 'runaway' climate change, peak oil and that:

Industrial society has lost the resilience to be able to cope with energy shocks.

The chosen methods for these activists are to stress those parts of the local agenda that are open to criticism on 'environmental' grounds - it might be anything from local concerns about proposals for a coffee shop or a supermarket to campaigns against housing development or new transport infrastructure.

These campaigns give the green extremists the crack into which to ram their anti-development, anti-industrial wedge. At the heart of this extremism is the seemingly benign idea of 'resiliance' - making communities more resistant to shocks such as "fluctuations in energy prices" and "anticipated changes in climate". And this resilience is all about excluding the regional, national and international - thus the lower prices and distribution resilience of the large supermarket is denied in favour of local growing initiatives, jolly little town currencies and campaigns to defend independent shops. All of which, of course, make it more difficult and more expensive for the less well off.

And cutting yourself off from wider distribution systems does not make you more resilient. You only need to look at the aftermath of the recent Hurricane Sandy to see that national retailers were far more able to respond to the crisis than were local independents. Why? Because their national distribution networks, dispersed warehouses and truck fleets allowed them to quickly redirect stocks to places affected by the hurricane.

The truth is that the last and best protection - that resilience - comes from well-managed private business rather than from government. The Transition Towns idea deliberately sets out to exlcude these systems claiming they damage the environment or actually threaten local resilience. Worse still Transition Towns seek to create local systems that are more expensive to manage, less robust and excluding of the poor - they are not just twee little groups 'doing good' but organisations actively damaging communities.

Most depressingly these Transition Towns do not seem that way. Clever and articulate people promote them, the same naive churchy types as were suckered by 'fair trade' get involved and none of these people realise that the losers in all this are the poor. The one's who'd rather like a nice supermarket or a Costa coffee. The one's who would benefit most from connection to the international network of trade. The one's who'd like their sons and daughters to have a fighting chance of affording to carry on living in the smart little market town. The people who benefit from that "industrial society" our Transition Town advocates disdain.

Transition Towns really are less resilient and exclude the poor.


1 comment:

Drumting said...

Not all "green-wibble" is left wing. Very clumsy generalisation, in an otherwise sound piece of writing.