Transition Stroud

This is a shared history blog. Together we can write the history of our process of transition as it happens.

Thursday, 31 May 2007

Heinberg causes elation and inflation

The event at the Sub Rooms last night (30th May) exceeded my wildest expectations. I kept looking around the hall that we had wandered into at 5pm thinking 'It's a f****ing barn! We'll never fill it!' (well, the Blues Brothers fans amongst us), and noticing it heaving at the seams. We all learned a lot about the amount of heat produced by so many bodies in close proximity. I don't know if anybody counted but it must have been around 400 people.

The presentation was authoritative and had all the necessary stats and graphs to convince people of the need to address the issue of Peak Oil. I had the sense that most people in the room were already well aware of this so I feel we should move rapidly on to positive action and solutions, but the presentation definitely gave us a chance to do this. I hope others will also upload posts of their reactions.

It was interesting to hear the usual complaints about failure of action by politicians, although our own politicans were there--our mayor, MP and several district councillors. Somehow it seems that when they are ours we don't feel that they are politicians and don't appreciate the efforts they make and the successes they have.

Half a dozen of the working groups had prepared displays, which looked great and made it clear that stuff is already happening in Stroud. Around 50 people signed up to be added to the newsgroup list and quite a few others joined individual working groups. Everybody had a leaflet on Peak Oil and another on Transition Stroud so we'll have to wait and see what they make of the information!

The more committed members of our process are spending the day with Heinberg today and I hope they will post their reactions here, as well as feeding back on the meeting tonight when he addresses SDC cabinet.

Oh yes, and the elation was what Heinberg said people experience when involved in a community process to respond to peak oil/climate change. We all know that well don't we? And the inflation was created by Dave the energy slave and his amazing green balloons. Can we have the 30 bikes on stage next time, please Dave? And being ridden by naked people?

Monday, 28 May 2007

Very sad news

The hemp we planted with such enthusiasm a couple of weeks ago was sprouting nicely and just beginning to show its distinctive jagged leaves. But during Maggie's holiday it was eaten, she thinks by deer.

This seems like a terrible blow since we were all so looking forward to trying to process the hemp. It shows how much we still have to learn. We were celebrating the rain that followed the planting but had not protected it from the many wild animals that live around here. I had thought of slugs, but not deer!

It will have to be next year now . . .

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Thursday, 24 May 2007

Transition Drinks launched

The first Stroud Transition Drinks happened last night in Nine Bar. There were around 30 people, all involved in making the move to a sustainable future, many of whom had not met up before. A very limited amount of business was discussed but it was mainly just social and fun.

A considerable quantity of Stroud Brewery Budding's was consumed, with most people heading to the bar asking for 'a pint of Greg's'. As usual with Transition events people had made some effort to arrange low-carbon travel plans, with a good quantity of bikes in evidence outside the bar.

Dates for the next Transition Drinks are being discussed and the suggestion is to make a regular event on the fourth Wednesday of the month.

Next dates confirmed: Wednesdays' 27th June and 25th July at 7.30 in Nine Bar, 9 John Street, Stroud.

Monday, 21 May 2007

Cutty Sark and Trading Futures

The economics group met last night at the Waggon and Horses on London Road, Thrupp. It was Molly's birthday and hence a slightly celebratory and less formal mood was in evidence. The pub was chosen partly to support the landlord Julian, who has refurbished recently and wants the pub to help encourage a more friendly community in Thrupp. Also because it sells Greg's excellent local beer, and at least one member of the economics group is a shareholder of Stroud Brewery.

Before repairing to the pub we watched an OU teaching video about the barter clubs in Argentina. People enjoyed the 'flocking and foraging' aspects of the informal, table-top sales, but felt that this was a resort of necessity, whereas people in Stroud have more money than they know what to do with. For this reason an experiment with such a system here might not 'work'. Molly wants to try it none the less and is designing money.

There was a great wealth of new experience brought to the group. Alison Parfitt works for Stroud Common Wealth and is a board member of Gloucestershire Land for People, working to bring land into community ownership in the county. Clare Mahdiyone works at the Social Enterprise Centre and is an expert on local business. John Rhodes is a tree surgeon, boat-builder and mariner and has 15 years of experience with LETS schemes.

John has a long-term plan to buy a sailing vessel and use it to trade with low carbon impact. His suggestion that he buy a £60,000 ship now for sale in Gloucester docks was met with great enthusiasm and two offers to buy shares. Discussions were had about the possibility of using sailing barges to bring goods along the canal to Stroud. The inability of planners to see this waterway as a transport, rather than leisure, route were decried.
The group was fairly sceptical about the Heinberg visit, feeling that oil was a US not European obsession, that we can find other ways of making oil-type fuels, and that we have plenty of our own expertise in terms of providing local food. In general we favoured an emphasis on climate change rather than peak oil.

Saturday, 12 May 2007

Preparing for Heinberg and catching up on sub-group news

Thursday night we had a Transition Stroud Core Group meeting which was open to anyone to attend. The main discussion was the Heinberg event but also feedback from the sub-groups and various other bits of business.

Photo: Core Group at Nine Bar, Stroud on Thursday

The great news is that Richard Heinberg - who is an excellent public speaker - is coming to Stroud on Wednesday 30th May to share his knowledge about Peak Oil: The Challenge and Opportunity of Petroleum’s Waning Days (See the advert below for details).

Richard Heinberg will also be running a series of workshops on the Thursday for representatives from around the country who are involved in other Transition Town groups and talking to Stroud District Council's Cabinet meeting on the Thursday.

There was much debate on how best to sell the 450 or so tickets and make up the £1000 outlay for the Sub Rooms, advertising, tickets etc. Andy Treacher is coordinating the massive task and already has posters up across the Town and beyond, all email lists are being used and everyone is being asked to push the tickets. There was also discussion re the stalls and other bits being planned for the night.

What are the sub-groups up to?

There was some feelings expressed that looking at the Transition groups around the country, that few seemed to actually be at the action stage - lots of talk and meetings but not so much going on - however in reality it is very early days - for many even the concept of Peak Oil is completely new and hard to get ones head around. Also what is perhaps on the websites is not necessarily the full story....

It was clear that when the Sub-groups got to feed back news, that here in Stroud very much was going on....the minutes of the meeting will no doubt be more comprehensive but here is a bit of a taster....

- a licence has already been got and a small crop of hemp has been sown
- a banner is being created by the Textile group
- the Energy group had done an excellent presentation at a recent event and were looking to improve on it for future events - they were also exploring many different angles from the valleys hydro potential to community owned wind turbines and much more
- a local Stroud Woodcraft team came first in a huge national competition on climate change with their Enuffometer entry
- the Cuba film with food and music brought in many people and raised awareness
- see previous posts on this blog re the Moveable Feasts
- good press coverage - see this week in The Citizen as well as various articles before
- support to the Slad Farm initiative
- the Transport group are looking at several projects including stickers for cars to drive greener and showing a film about the wonders of bicycling in the very near future. Some of the group enjoyed reclaiming the streets at the recent Nailsworth Festival where the main A46 was closed for a while by hundreds of people and 20 foot high puppets.
- the Local Authority Liaison Group are looking to help promote the Heinberg event and use it as an opportunity to start raising awareness amongst District and County councillors plus businesses and more. They are also looking to set up a meeting with councillors to discuss a way forward - perhaps like Portland, Oregen with their Task Force.

We also heard about other new local projects in the District including Uley Go Zero and news of Transition groups hoping to form in Wotton-under-Edge and Chalford.

The Heinberg event: Wednesday 30th May

RICHARD HEINBERG, regarded as America’s foremost Peak Oil expert, will discuss the most recent evidence regarding the timing of the peak, its likely consequences and what can be done to mitigate its impact.

Photo: Richard Heinberg

Speakers from Transition Stroud will explore how Stroud and the Five Valleys can prepare for this crisis. After the meeting there will be an opportunity to network with members of our special interest groups.

StroudSown local food group will be selling seasonal delicacies on the forecourt before the meeting 3.00 -7.30pm

Wednesday 30th May 7.30pm - 9.30pm. The Subscription Rooms Stroud Gloucestershire
Tickets (£5/£3 concession) available from the Sub Rooms Box Office. Telephone booking 01453 760900.

FFI contact Andy Treacher 01453 756819
with sponsorship from the Hiram Trust, Ruskin Mill Educational Trust & Ecotricity

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

Moveable Feast

Odi and I have been talking about Moveable Feast: a rotating dinner party, also possibly known as the Interactive Dining Club. Odi runs a local business called Vital Squeeze, making and selling freshly squeezed juices made from local, seasonal fruit and vegetables. I like to eat and share food.

According to Wikipedia the phrase moveable feast comes from Christianity and means a holy day — a feast or a fast — whose date is not fixed to a particular day of the calendar year but moves in response to the date of Easter. This pleased me since I have always enjoyed the peculiar irrationality of the date of Easter even in our complex, controlled society. To have a major break in the year that moves in response to the Jewish lunar calender cannot but please an anarchist economist.

‘By metaphoric extension’, which sounds psychologically painful, Ernest Hemingway used the phrase for the title of his memoirs, since he took it to mean a party that was on the move. What more suitable event for Transition Stroud?

I see Moveable Feast as being a kind of reverse weightwatchers club, or a carbon weightwatchers club. Over our seasonal feasts we can discuss all aspects of our transition process: what scares us, what inspires us, what we feel proud of and our secret shames. One prominent member of our core group admitted to me recently that his addiction to aubergines means he has to buy them even in the winter. I proudly retorted that I limit myself to fondling outside the Mediterranean vegetable season. Such conversations are the stuff of moveable feasts: Michael Portillo eat your heart out.

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