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Transition Whatcom’s Great Unleashing - Local Group Hosts Extravaganza To Plan For More Resilient Future

March 2010

Transition Whatcom’s Great Unleashing - Local Group Hosts Extravaganza To Plan For More Resilient Future

by Rick Dubrow

The plight of our biosphere has been weighing heavily on my mind for 40 years now … grieving for the relentless destruction of the fabric of life. My fears, born of the 1960s, are coming to pass quickly now as the walls of our natural world become less and less resilient. It feels like traveling through a funnel, with the walls getting tighter and tighter, offering fewer and fewer opportunities for life to flourish.

Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross helped us all understand the five stages of grief when she wrote “On Death and Dying” in 1969. Remember them? Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

Four decades have given me plenty of time to travel down Kübler-Ross’ pathway. My grief for the plight of the planet is now very much one of acceptance. Sure, I do see the good things around me get better and better; there’s profound awareness, focused action and infinite groups working their tails off. But I also see the bad things around me getting worse and worse, and the breadth and depth of said evil feels like they’re winning the race.

Nowhere does my grief cry out stronger than my concerns about peak oil, climate change and their readily apparent impacts upon economic instability. Considering our global politics and scientific knowledge, I’ve concluded that humanity’s ability to reverse the peak, to reverse the warming, to stave off economic instability, is gone. I’ve accepted the sad and pathetic reality that it’s now time we all adapt to the outcome of our grow-or-die culture.

The problems feel irreversible, so adapting to them, accepting them, feels like the rule of the day. It feels like we’re flying down the constricted portion of the cultural funnel and we’re spinning faster and faster as we approach the outfall at the bottom.

Local Activist Discovers Transition Movement

So what am I supposed to do with my 5th level of grief, my acceptance?

For years this has meant voluntary simplicity at home as well as working for activist groups on the community front. In a word, acceptance for me means curtailment … cutting back on my footprint. With baby steps … relentless baby steps. More and more of less and less.

During my journey along this path, in 2008, I came across an innocent e-mail about the global Transition Town movement. Born in the U.K., Transition Towns, or Transition Initiatives, appeared to offer an organizational structure that:

Embraces curtailment, especially with respect to petroleum use and any and all efforts to reduce the production of greenhouse gases

Embraces how poorly skilled most of us are if the fabric of society unravels before our eyes (growing and storing food, making and maintaining homes and clothing, etc.)

Embraces a grassroots organizational structure that is horizontal in nature, as opposed to a top-down, hierarchical structure

Embraces the importance of proactively confronting the need to re-skill ourselves sooner rather than later so that, for example, we might actually enjoy ourselves during this process. This would work better than trying to mend our ways after the walls of the funnel collapse around us and we’re in free fall.

My wife Cindi Landreth and I headed to San Francisco in Dec. 2008 to get trained, big time, in Transition work, becoming two of the first 20 Americans trained to teach others to embrace the movement. We returned to Whatcom County and helped co-found Transition Whatcom along with Tom Anderson, David Maclead, David Marshak, Kate Clark and Chris Wolf.

Transition Whatcom Plans Own Demise

Roll the tape a year later and here we are planning our own demise. Say what?

An intriguing aspect of the Transition model is to plan the automatic decomposition of the organizing group that creates an initiative like Transition Whatcom. We call ourselves TWIGs — the Transition Whatcom Initiating Group. The model is brilliant in its drive to avoid “founders syndrome” — that syndrome in which an organization can grow stagnant or even toxic at times because the founders hang on far too long. So the TWIGs will decompose soon.


At The Great Unleashing — on April 10 and 11 — a two-day extravaganza at Bellingham High School that will motivate, excite, educate and engage our community by coming together to envision a vibrant, resilient, and dramatically less energy-dependent Whatcom County. Together we’ll unleash our collective genius as we start working towards a tangible and compelling plan to get us there.

Soon after The Great Unleashing the TWIGs cease to exist, turning the reins of our local initiative over to the team that self-organizes itself at The Great Unleashing.

Two days? You bet. It’ll take that long to have the kind of fun we plan to have and to do the work we plan to do. So how about a deeper glimpse into The Great Unleashing? First, know that I’m writing this on January 23 so many a detail is yet unknown. So, yes, I’ll go deeper, but not that deep. You’ll just have to come to Bellingham High School on April 10 and 11 to really get it.

Here is the working plan for Day 1:

Provide interesting show-and-tell opportunities, information, and hands-on experiences that promote many compelling examples of resiliency

Invite, acknowledge, engage with and in all humbleness, show gratitude to those who have already been working to build resiliency, self-reliance and a reduction in the use of fossil fuel energy

On a grand scale, begin the visioning process for a Whatcom County 10 to 20 years into the future — what do we need? What do we want? What does it look like? Where do you fit in? Are there new business opportunities? New working relationships between existing businesses and organizations?

Provide presentations and panel discussions about compelling issues and solutions related to resiliency, appropriate technology and re-skilling

Celebrate the work Transition Whatcom members and the new Transition Initiatives in Whatcom County have done so far

Keynote presentations by:

• Vicki Robin (author of “Your Money or Your Life”; board member of Transition U.S.)

• Trathen Heckman (founding executive director of Daily Acts Organization; publisher of Ripples, an award-winning journal; an avid backyard farmer; creates programs, policy and models that harness the power of nature and inspire action to restore the health of our lives and communities.)

• Rob Hopkins (co-founder of Transition Town Totnes and of the global Transition Network) set up the first two-year, full-time permaculture course in the world at Kinsale Further Education College in Ireland. He also coordinated the development of the first eco-village in Ireland to be granted planning permission.

On Day 2, we’ll roll up our sleeves and form the work groups that will create the backbone of a tangible and compelling energy descent action plan. More visioning and collaborating and community building … and well, who knows where it will take us?

Know that this Great Unleashing is the second such event in the U.S. Sandpoint, Idaho did it in 2008. We’re up next. Come learn some new skills, watch a bicycle parade converge on Bellingham High School, listen to some great speakers, watch your neighbors show off intermediate (appropriate) technology, become a part of a work group aligned with your own passions and strengthen your neighborhood and the resiliency of this great place.

It just makes sense. Shouldn’t our community travel down a path whose energy needs are aligned with the probable energy descent pathway that’s coming soon to a neighborhood near you?

Please come help us unleash our creative genius. §

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