In England, the Transition Town movement is one of the community responses to the Earth asking us to change our ways as climate change makes it clear that our way of living is unsustainable. The Transition Town vision is about making the change from an oil-dependent society, through the time of Peak Oil, to a post-oil society.
My Badger loves the Transition Town movement. It works with the idea that government response is too slow and unwieldy for the speed of change we need, and that individuals working alone cannot manage the scale of change needed – but if we energise local communities, then change can happen.
At the heart of the Transition Town movement is a focus on small local communities. This focus takes various forms. Transition Town people would seek active community engagement on a number of levels – perhaps volunteering in projects like (here in Hastings) cleaning litter from the beach or clearing overgrowth from the streams in the Country Park. They would support local choirs and amateur dramatic groups in their performances. Avoiding car use, walking and biking, Transition Town people lay special emphasis on local trade. They shop at small local stores and seek small family businesses as service providers. They buy veggies from the Farmers’ Market not the supermarket. They might also have allotments to grow their own veggies.
The Transition Town movement links easily to the Permaculture movement – and to the US Urban Homesteading movement.
All my adult life I have been passionate about green issues, and also about taking responsibility for my own health through nutrition, herbs, and traditional, natural modes of healing. Gandhi’s maxim ‘Think global act local’ has put down roots into my heart.
I also care very much about the living beings that share this beautiful earth with me – and compassionate, ethical farming practice is of great importance to me.
I try to walk a spiritual path, living simply and patterning my life on God’s word to me in the Bible. I believe that Jesus came to teach His people Himself, and I believe my life is made whole by a living relationship with Him sustained daily through faith, prayer and practice.
In walking this way I have felt a call to simple, modest dress and to the covered head that symbolises a way of humility such as Francis Clare Fischer writes about here and here. I love the Plain People and much about their way of life speaks straight to my heart – and links up in many ways with the whole Transition Town and Permaculture scene.
Just recently, my dear Badger invited me to go with him to a Transition Town conference that is coming up. He is keen to attend, and would love it if I go with him.
I don’t want to go.
Why? Because all these things I am describing amount to so much pressure. It’s hard to source the vegan food we enjoy without supermarkets – I mean, it can be done, but it becomes either too expensive from the little wholefood shops or else the diet becomes a bit . . . er . . . penitential.
I got everything all organised to be without a car and then Life moved the goal posts and I need to run one again to care for my mother.
Living in a way that harmonises spirit and earth and faith is possible for us by sharing and budgeting carefully – but as commodities rise relentlessly in price, we who have low incomes rely on supermarket prices.
I do buy my clothes either second-hand or made by small businesses – Christian ladies who work from home as seamstresses: but they are in America, not England, so they do have to travel a way to get here. Most of our things we have at home – furniture and so on – is second-hand or passed on by friends and family. We try to live simply.
Among my friends of faith, I am disturbed at times by the focus on externals – bonnets and religious rites and whatnot. People refusing to celebrate Easter because it has pagan connections, people talking about Satan and abominations and getting into how thick a petticoat should be to make totally sure no sunlight gets through so no-one can see you have legs. People wearing hats all night in case they feel called to pray. People saying C.S. Lewis is ‘of the Devil’ – and there’s even a woman with a massive sign all over the back window of her car saying “To Be Married To The Divorced Is Always Adultery – Mark 10” as if it was an actual verbatim quotation from the Bible.
Each individual thing is interesting in its way and makes a sort of sense, but together it turns into a sort of scary jungle of religious and political imperatives and rules that make me feel like I can’t breathe.
I don’t want to go to the Transition Town conference because I can’t walk the walk, so there seems no point in talking the talk. It’s just too stressy and difficult to figure out how to make life work without the supermarket. I mean, okay, I guess one day it’ll be forced upon me, but in the meantime it makes my head spin, all this religion, and all these worthy causes and things to remember and do and get right. When I look at the sign on the back of that lady’s car I feel like I could just drop the whole lot – it gets too big to hold it all and keep on travelling.
I want it to be simple. It makes life complicated enough trying to be wheat-free and vegan – that by itself at one stroke turns any social occasion into a nightmare; especially once teetotal and no coffee and no tea are added into the mix. But that’s how I stay well.
We kind of muddle along here and do what we can. We try to take care of one another and live naturally. I want to be modest and humble and gentle. I love Jesus and His beautiful Gospel, and I love the Bible, and I love the beautiful Earth; I want to walk lightly on the Earth. And when we have some money in, we try to do the good stuff like solar panels and loft insulation and the wood stove. And though Badger has a car and I have one too now, his is a special hybrid one that uses less gas and mine is a very small economical one and I try to use it very little. I don’t really go anywhere much – well, just to church and to visit my mother and to get in the groceries; that’s it mostly.
But all the rules and religious obsessions and things to remember and things to get wrong are doing my head in. And all the people have their own set of preoccupations and expectations, and I can’t keep up with them. And I have been divorced and I am married to someone who has been divorced – so where do we go from there? I mean, hey, life bowls you a googly sometimes, it’s all not as straightforward as you might think.
Recently, I got all the way to applying for Quaker membership, and I thought I knew what I was doing with that – then right at the last minute after it had gone to Area Meeting and everything, I thought it was the wrong thing, because it cut me off from my family, took me into a group where they couldn’t follow, cos it’s just not their scene – and because one of us is only a toddler, and I don’t know if you’ve noticed but sitting in motionless silence for an hour, well, toddlers are not great at that. So I backed out of the Quaker thing, and started to go back to Badger’s church again, and everyone was really sweet and understanding but . . . I wish I felt more grown up. I wish I could be a bit less dysfunctional and get my head straight. I feel permanently bewildered and inadequate and ashamed. And then there’s all the scary stuff like Fukushima, and expanding deserts and GM crops and melting polar icecaps . . . it’s too big, it never ends.
Isn’t life hard enough without religious rites and bonnets and terrifying women threatening us with the Bible?
“He has shewn thee, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of thee but to do justice and to love mercy and to walk humbly with thy God?”
That’s it, isn’t it? Isn’t that all we have to do?