deju vu

A double dose of deja vu today on the futures front.

Living in Bristol allowed a drop in on the launch of Rob Hopkins’ Transition Handbook (available from Green Books). He’s an impressive chap – good communicator, persuasive, and has synthesised a lot of information about peak oil, climate change and what people could actually do about them if they want to. The book is a result of the Transition Towns movement, which he began in Ireland a few years ago and is now spreading as a grassroots thing allowing people to work optimistically for a different future.

Deju vu comes in because it all sounds a lot like stuff I was hearing 30 years ago, the days of the long defunct Undercurrents magazine, when we lived in Manchester. And then as now the chance of it making much of an impression on a large city seemed remote.

We’ll see. Transition Towns has obviously made a difference in quite a few small places (Totnes is the exemplar – I imagine it as full of old hippies, though I’ve not been down there at all recently). The big cities on the list so far are Nottingham, a small part of London (Brixton!) and Bristol, which has 400,000 people, a carbon footprint which belies its somewhat Green reputation, and a vast airbus plant which is celebrating its new mega contract to build wings for a fleet of airborne fuel tankers for the US airforce. So a bit of a way to go before they join the transition. Still, Transition Bristol have planted lots of fruit trees, and every movement for change has to start somewhere. I may join in next year with a tree of my own.

The whole thing is positive in outlook, optimistic and energising, and committed to the idea that the transition means a better (more fulfilling etc) life. Skimming the book, though, gives the impression that it is small town stuff, not in any pejorative sense, but just that the people involved don’t really like living in cities. This isn’t on a par with James “Long Emergency” Kunstler’s loathing of the suburbs, but it is still there I think. Me, I’m a city boy, deeply committed to the existing division of labour, and anything remotely approaching self-sufficiency strikes me as wrist-slashingly tedious, I’m afraid.

And the other bit of déjà vu? It is this flying car, a “prototype” on show at the New York Motor Show which will allegedly be in production by 2010. Yeah, right. Interesting how the old techno-fantasies never die, they just keep on getting recycled so that Retro-Futures websites end up looking like the news pages. Expect to see the jetpack on MSN any day. Presumably if Transition Towns people ever met the designers of the AirCar there would be a slight communication problem?

Explore posts in the same categories: optimism

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