Bill Sharp © July 8, 2020
Fifteen Transition Centre Resiliency Blueprint Core Action Modules
There are three components to the Transition Centre Resiliency Blueprint:
2. Core Modules
The core modules represent a list of the major subsystems of a sustainable and resilient community ecosystem. Each is a planning process in its own right. Each requires its own team. However, it must be understood that they are all parts of an integral program. As in any ecosystem, they are interdependent. The relationships of the modules must be constantly reviewed.
Transition Centre does not propose a planned economy. It does advocate a framework that empowers planning and development of local communities. The Blueprint provides such a framework.
The Assessment must be completed before starting work on the core modules. You are welcome to change the list and definition of these modules to suit your own community. They need not all be pursed at once, however, Module 1: Vision, is mandatory. Module 2: Local Food, is highly recommended as it provides a foundation for an emerging resilient economy.
Module 1: Transition Centre Resiliency Vision
The vision module is the outcome of the Assessment component of the Blueprint process. It should and likely will begin to form early in the process. Visioning is considered the core process in Resilient Communities. It represents the identity of a mature community and sets standards by which each of the other modules may be pursued. It is a dynamic process – a process of steady learning and adaptation.
Each community must develop its own framework for a resilient community. The Assessment Component provides a solid understanding of your community. It should be considered an ecosystem model – all the Modules connected. Patrick Geddes, who pioneered the Regional Assessment constructed what he called a “thinking machine.” I was a square of paper which each major Module of the regional ecosystem was listed.
Starting with “Vision,” you think about and discuss each of the action modules: food, energy, local business, etc. And then, starting with food, explore its relationship to energy, business, etc. The process works in reverse and different ideas can come up by comparing say energy to food. Eventually you will get back to “Vision” and you will have a new perspective on your community ecosystem and its needs and potential. As you work through this exercise over time, it becomes increasingly clear that whatever you do in one area, affects the others.
The process may sound tedious at first but as you gain insights you will understand its power. It is also a useful group exercise. You don’t have to do it all at once in order to get energy to flow. And you don’t stop after one round. It is an ongoing practice.
Module 2: Local Food
Local food is the foundation of a regenerative local economy. Transition Centre conducted an original assessment of our regional agricultural potential in 2008, updated in 2015 as a Local Food System Network and now continues as Foodshed Strategy.
On the average, only a fraction of a percent of food comes from local sources. It could be 10% within ten years if, and only if, a workable business plan and enterprise network is established. Ten percent local, including food and related products and services, represents as much as $400 per capita. A robust local agricultural program would create ancillary business environments: on one side a supply chain to support farming operations and on the other a distribution chain to process, store and retail agricultural products. In addition, research suggests that for every dollar spent for local food, an addition $4 – 7 is spent in the local market for other goods and services. And that revenue stays in the local economy.
Home and community gardens can produce a significant (5 – 7 %) amount of fresh foods for home consumption. The Victory Garden program of World War II produced nearly half of local food needs. Borsodi’s homesteading model can produce nearly all of the food and other goods needed for a family and establish cooperative homesteading communities.
A vibrant local food economy cannot be developed casually. It will only happen if a vigorous enterprise team forms for the specific purpose of getting the job done. It is driven by the revenue and social benefit it creates. Revenue generated by a robust local food economy can catalyze other sustainable economic sectors.
An introduction to the Transition Centre Foodshed Strategy can be found at this link.
Module 3: Renewable Energy
The adverse impact of fossil fuels on the environment motivates development of alternative energy. Fossil fuels are, in any event, a non-renewable resource. The cost of renewable energy generation has and should continue to successfully complete with fossil fuels. A decaying national electrical infrastructure suggests the need for significant investments into local micro-grids. Wind turbines, solar cells and passive solar heating and geothermal systems can (and are being) installed by municipalities, institutions and private interests on buildings, schools, manufacturing plants, farms, and in neighborhoods and developments as well as individual homes. Community level enterprise can produce an economy of scale that reduces cost of equipment, installation and maintenance. The investments needed to achieve even 10% local electrical power generation are, however, substantial and will require a dedicated and innovative professional team to accomplish.
Our community organized a Community Solar project in 2015 with representatives from the university, local business, government and environmental interests. Since then we have seen 4.5 megawatts installed, 3.5 in progress and 20 megawatts proposed; which will give us utility-scaled solar energy. On the ridge overlooking our valley are a number of megawatt-range wind turbines. As with local foods, albeit with a smaller margin due to capital investments, revenues from the installation of the micro-grid infrastructure and energy produced would accrue to the local community and not distant financial markets.
Module 4: Local, small-scaled, business and manufacturing
A local economy is a regenerative economy (link). It is a major part of the community ecosystem. As an ecosystem its function is to ensure the wellbeing of all of its members.
A global economy moved much American manufacturing offshore to cheap labor countries. The threat of eventual rising cost of energy over the years and the disruption of supply chains during the 2020 Crisis provide increasing incentive to reestablish local manufacturing.
Small enterprises once did and could again supply many of the commodities we need within a local trade area. They could also produce for quality, craftsmanship, durability and reliability. There is an emerging open source manufacturing movement that provides blueprints and plans for durable goods and their manufacturing in small, local facilities.
Communities have been increasingly pursuing development of small local manufacturing as a way to diversify their economies. This is advantageous for communities that are in economic decline and will be of great value should college towns see reductions in residential students. Many communities are developing more localized and sustainable business models.
Module 5: Transportation
Transportation consumes 25% of our national energy. We are dependent upon trucks, trains and aircraft for the delivery of goods. We tend to make long commutes to work and for shopping. Localization could have a significant impact on reducing transportation energy use. Walkways and bike paths are features of quality communities. Social distancing is also incentivizing at-home work, and reduced driving and travel.
Module 6: Waste
The objective is zero waste. It is not only a matter of reducing waste to start with but also of recycling waste products. Reuse, repair and refurbishing have incredible potential for extending the life cycle of many durable goods. Localizing production can incentivize more durable products. Recycling is a major source of businesses and jobs. This includes both solid and liquid wastes – such as a beneficial wastewater reuse infrastructure. There is no excuse for organic waste going into a landfill when they can be readily converted into compost of use to local food production.
Module 7: Energy Conservation
Energy conservation alone could save a quarter or more in energy cost and dependency. Conservation is mandatory in achieving energy independence. Both remodeling and new, energy efficient construction, create local businesses and jobs.
Module 8: “Village” Housing: Walkable neighborhoods
Suburban housing is about large houses on large lots and a drive to market, work and recreation. A more compact, village-scaled, living reduces the need for transportation, has a high aesthetic appeal and promotes community interaction. There are civic spaces, community hubs, libraries and cultural centers. Retail outlets are on the corner or around the square. Most businesses can be placed in aesthetic architecture or located on the fringes of town. Coworking facilities could provide office and meeting places for both employment and community activities. Livability is in fact strongly correlated to sustainability.
There was once a popular literature on greenbelt and garden towns. Ralph Borsodi and others designed and built pleasing developments, many on land trust. We like to vacation is such quaint towns and villages, so why not just build them?
Module 9: Health
Many believe we need to restructure health care. The pandemic tested the health care system to the limit. The US health care system is huge and costly and yet life expectancy has been on the decline. A localized health care system is about readily available services for all ages. Regional hospitals would provide for more demanding care. Medical services more closely integrated within the community encourage more healthful living and preventative care. Both community childcare and eldercare can benefit health and wellbeing. Local foods, more walking, less stress, less pollution and chemicals, a more pleasant environment, closer society, abundant green spaces, bike and walking paths and a stronger sense of community could all be benefits to healthier lives.
Module 10: Emergency Preparedness
Storms and natural disasters, toxic spills, fires and power outages and now pandemics suggest the need for short and intermediary term emergency preparedness. Following September 11, 2001, local emergency management programs have been mandated. Transition Centre, with its emergency management background, developed a three-day personal emergency preparedness manual and suggested a two-week neighborhood program. Neighborhood programs could also provide support for individuals and families isolated by quarantined. Providing greater local attention to and home-based preparation for such emergencies would enhance our sense of personal and neighborhood security, reduce the pressure on public emergency workers during emergency events, and promote community-building.
Module 11: Community
Traditionally communities, as once describe American culture, were tightly integrated and far more self-reliant than today. Building a stronger local economy, where you know the people who are producing your food and other goods, serves to build stronger community. More compact living enhances social interaction. Local economies and community go hand in glove.
Community is about culture. Community is a place, a people and shared values. Sociologist of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century expressed dismay at the decline of American community. Philosophers in Europe and Great Britain had their own experience of angst as the modern era unfolded. Durkheim wrote of the link between alienation and suicide; Nietzsche wrote a philosophy of both despair and hope; Spengler’s history is one about breakdown and the descent into a new dark age. Psychology since at least Freud has focused on the debilitating influence of industrial civilization. Borsodi wrote extensively about the problem of an ugly civilization and its remediation.
Transition Centre describes community as an ecosystem just as a lake or forest is an ecosystem. It is a largely spontaneous association that evolves to maximize the welfare of all of its parts. It’s not about metaphysics or ideology; it is what works for the general benefit of its members.
Diversity, in all its forms, gives life to a community ecosystem. Ideological and other factions that divide the community are in effect a form of cancer that eats the life out of it.
Community includes participatory governance. Local governments serve to maintain the good order of a community. Local governments are not only elected officials and staff but also include a wide range of authorities, boards and commissions staffed by local community volunteers. Local governance is covered more completely in Implementation.
Transition Centre firmly believes that local governance, education and other services should be locally supported and not dependent on outside funding to meet the community’s basic needs.
Module 12: Education and Training
The Transition Centre educational model integrates knowledge and living. Traditionally education once promoted citizenship and preparation for participation in community life. We need that again. A community requires job training and skill development. REconomy requires a significant amount of training at all levels from vocational skills to professional services to business development.
Transition Centre has worked to revive a life-long, integral and problem-centered educational program. Learning begins at home. Beyond the home, the community itself acts as a School. There is a school building where basic education begins and lifelong learning continues. The School contains a library. The School may well serve as the community center. Learning and living are like hand and glove. We learn in order to solve the problems of living and we learn to elevate our humanity.
Regional community universities may be established to provide more specialized training and to serve as a hub for educational development. Both the local Schools and the Community Universities are self-governed.
High on the list of objects is the training needed to develop participatory democracy. We are all essentially unique. Nature endowed us with a range of competencies. We have different styles of learning. Each must thus have the opportunity to develop his or her own capacities to the degree they wish.
This model is based on long research into learning and living and is being synthesized in a series of books starting with Self-Reliance: Achieving Personal Resiliency and Independence. The well-formed personality is the foundation of the well-formed community. We are also developing a textbook for Alfred Korzybski’s systems of evaluation and communication, general semantics.
Module 13: Arts and Entertainment
Art and entertainment are part of our quality of life and part of the fabric of community. Festivals and celebrations are bonding agents that create a more cohesive community. A growing local art and entertainment sector is a part of the local economy as well. Before the radio and TV, people learned to play music, to sing, to write and recite poetry, to enjoy great books and to converse about their learning.
Module 14: Land, Water and Natural Resources
Our commitment to preserving and restoring our natural environment is an important measure of our intention to achieve a sustainable future. Preservation of natural resources is a very large part of our enjoyment of and identity with the place we live. Our community has undertaking projects to define and enhance our watershed. One is an online Watershed Atlas Project that solicits a wide range of articles from local authors and has taken the initiative in creating this comprehensive, and readily usable, resource. It was organized and continues under the guidance of a group of volunteers. We also completed a two-year study of our rather unique watershed resources and the many parties who have some say in how it is preserved and used. It is a full-spectrum approach.
Module 15: Parks, Open Space, Recreation
Parks and recreation both help define the quality of life in a community and serves as a measure of commitment to the natural environment. These have a strong influence in defining the quality of life of any community. Such places have their own character and usually immediate access to natural features. They are worth the effort to make them an expression of the sprit o the community.
Local governments, including citizen volunteer staffed parks committees, regional authorities and conservation groups do much to provide