The Transition Handbook: From Oil Dependency to Local Resiliency

The Transition Handbook: From Oil Dependency to Local Resiliency
By Rob Hopkins
Green Books
240 pages

Photo: mjmonty, Creative Commons, Flickr

One of the things that bothers me about the movement against oil dependency and awareness-raising regarding global warming is the doom and gloom aspect. There are lots of statistics on how horrible things will be if we don’t change our ways, but it seems as though very little has been written on practical steps that can be taken to ease our transition away from dependency on fossil fuels. Perhaps this is why I found The Transition Handbook: From Oil Dependency to Local Resiliency by Rob Hopkins so intriguing.

The book does start out by laying out the problems we face with regard to oil dependency (as well as dependency on other fossil fuels — especially coal) and the risks we face due to global warming. Hopkins explains some of the problems that are likely to come with what is known as peak oil (the point at which global oil production reaches its high point and production can only steadily fall off) along with global warming. He makes an interesting distinction between the two problems, while at the same time relating them:

Climate change says we should change, whereas peak oil says we will be forced to change. Both categorically state that fossil fuels have no role to play in our future, and the sooner we can stop using them the better.

And this is the premise of the Handbook: Helping people see what they can do to help affect a transition from a reliance on fossil fuels.

Hopkins doesn’t just tell us ways to cut carbon emissions, he also makes it clear that we need to replace our bad energy habits with good energy habits. His process for doing this revolves around what he calls "local resiliency." This concept is basically the ability of a system to absorb disturbances even while it undergoes change. Hopkins acknowledges that shifting away from fossil fuels will cause some discomfort, but that it is important to localize our energy more in order to get through the changes. He hearkens back to the "good old days" of resiliency before the age of oil changed things.

The Handbook also focuses on positive thinking. After establishing the challenges that face our energy economy, Hopkins goes on to provide interesting ideas about how to overcome them. And he does so in a positive manner that focuses on what is doable. Hopkins offers six principles that are necessary to the transition model of ending our depending on fossil fuels:

  1. Visioning
  2. Inclusion
  3. Awareness-raising
  4. Resilience
  5. Psychological insights
  6. Credible and appropriate solutions

Overall, the book was interesting and thought-provoking. Case studies provide real-life and inspiring examples of communities working toward resiliency and transition. Additionally, the Handbook includes fascinating facts and quotes in the margins. There are also interesting figures and images that add interest to the book.

While I remain somewhat skeptical that this sort of idealism will take hold on a widespread basis that would make the idea of transition popular by 2030, as he anticipates, I did find the positivity and enthusiasm refreshing.