Thursday, January 22, 2009


Totnes was the first transition town in the UK having started three years ago. Hence it was appropriate that Guy Chapman from that group should travel to Estepona to give a talk on Monday night to the Ciudad de Transición Estepona (CTE) – the first such group in Spain.

Regular readers of my blog will know the transition town movement was started in Ireland but now over 100 Transition Communities in UK have followed Totnes lead with this group probably being the most advanced. Most of the initiatives that are under way are relevant to the economy of Estepona as like Totnes it is a coastal tourist resort.

CTE organiser James Machin told me: “High on the priority list is energy usage, and much effort is being expended on this issue. Guy explained how Totnes undertakes Oil Vulnerability Auditing, an innovative approach that helps small local businesses to assess and quantify their risk from rising/fluctuating oil prices, then understand potential solutions and take timely action. There’s also a solar water heating initiative underway that involves the bulk purchase of systems on behalf of participants, resulting in a significant reduction in cost.”

With the currency markets in turmoil it was perhaps appropriate that Guy took from his pocket a ‘Totnes pound’. The ‘Totnes Pound’ is the ‘local’ currency that was launched in March 2007. ‘Economic Localisation’ is considered to be a key aspect of the transition process, and local currency systems provide the opportunity to strengthen the local economy whilst preventing money from leaking out. They have also received an unforeseen bonus, in that the ‘Totnes Pound’ has become a tourist attraction, with visitors buying the pounds and taking them home as souvenirs. Businesses can also assess their supply chains to see how they can buy locally and thus support the resilience of the local economy.

Another part of the Totnes experience that is of keen interest to Estepona is the Food Group. James explained: “it is working to strengthen the resilience of Totnes and the surrounding district in the area of food. They work closely with the farming and business community to develop a re-localised food infrastructure as well as encouraging individuals and communities to grow their own food. One scheme that is proving to be highly successful is the ‘Garden Share Project’. The Project matches keen, enthusiastic and committed gardeners and local garden owners who want to see their gardens being used more productively.”

Guy Chapman added: “A core theme is for a community to come together around the challenges of Climate Change and Peak Oil (world oil production capacity declining). The full implications of these two factors are huge and mean a very different future ahead. But we can approach this as an opportunity to create a vision of what kind of world we want in say 2030, for ourselves and our children. Then what steps can we take towards that, what projects can we start now; in education, agriculture, with local government, businesses etc. The knowledge of our elders who lived with low energy needs and low carbon output has much to teach us, especially in local growing methods.”

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