Transitioning, resilience, and participation in Sandpoint, Idaho

John Robb comments and quotes from a long reportage on the Transition Town movement, based on the experience of Sandpoint in Idaho, stressing the participatory aspects of the process.

John Robb:

“the real value of the Transition Towns approach isn’t its emphasis on energy descent (which may neither be sufficient nor ultimately valuable for resilience), but rather its concisely crafted methodology for catalyzing community participation via a messy open source organizational process (which allows people to deviate from the “energy descent approach” if they desire to). ”

Jon Mooallem, in the NYT, has illustrated this point in a conversation with Councilman John T. Reuter, of Sandpoint Idaho:

“What Reuter said he felt was wonderful about the Sandpoint Transition Initiative was how quickly it was rejuvenating people’s faith that the changes they craved were worth working for. “To say the group has only created a community garden so far really isn’t sufficient,” he told me. “It’s something really more substantive: they’re bringing people to the process.” It was easy to argue that at the initiative’s core, in place of any clearly defined philosophy or strategy, was only a puff of enthusiasm. But Reuter seemed to argue that enthusiasm is an actual asset, a resource our society is already suffering a scarcity of. “There’s just something happening here that’s reviving people’s civic sense of possibility,” he later said. “Politics is ‘the art of the possible,’ right? I think what the Transition Initiative is doing is expanding what’s possible in people’s minds. It is expanding people’s ability to dream bold. And that’s what we need to do: dream bold. Because people have been limited by their own imaginations.”

Reuter had a utopian vision, too: the one laid out in the U.S. Constitution. And the Sandpoint Transition Initiative seemed to be moving Sandpoint closer to that ideal in its own small way, even though it was working out of a totally different handbook. They were managing to make the functioning democracy in their town a little more productive. For a wide range of not-always-consistent reasons, people in Sandpoint decided that Transition could help them build the world they wanted. And now, only because enough people stepped forward and made that decision, Transition actually looked like a good tool for the job. They were picking it up by whatever handle they grasped. They were swinging it as earnestly as they could.”

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.