I'm not sure where I first heard about the transition movement, but it must have been before last May. I find it intriguing because it seems to be catching on fairly fast. The Transition Towns Wiki lists 204 towns that have some "official" participation in the movement. It started in England, but is now gaining popularity here in the US. There's a "mullers' map" listing groups that are considering drawing up some kind of transition plan. Here in the greater New York area, there's an informal organization.
On an Amtrak train this summer, my family and I happened to be sitting next to a young man who had a book sticking out of his bag, the Transition Handbook. I asked him about it, and he let me flip through it. What particularly struck me was a chart adapted from one by Bryn Davidson. Go look at it now. Seriously; I'll wait.
What Davidson's chart says is that there are a bunch of responses to peak oil that essentially defend the status quo or trust to "technology" to save us. There are a bunch of similar responses to global warming. But if you take peak oil and global warming together, every one of those status-quo or technocentric solutions is a no-go. We can't combat peak oil with dirty fuels, because that would release megatons of CO2, and we can't combat climate change with energy-intensive projects because we don't have the energy. In the Transition Handbook, Rob Hopkins gives persuasive arguments against the other "solutions" like nuclear, solar, biofuels and wind, and makes a pretty good case that in the not-too-distant future we'll have to make do with much less energy.
A pretty scary thought, right? But the transition movement is much more positive than you might think, and that's intentional. Hopkins spends a fair amount of time arguing that the gloom-and-doom put forth by environmental advocates has alienated more than it has inspired. He says that the meetings for transition towns have attracted large numbers of enthusiastic people who put hours and hours into projects. There's even a chirpy fashion article about it (offline, but still in the Google Cache, and here's an excerpt.
I was intrigued, and a few days later I bought a copy of the book. It (and the movement) hasn't quite lived up to my expectations. But I think there are a number of insights and ideas that we can borrow from it. I'll get into all that soon.