My Playground, March 2012

Like many children, I was a connoisseur of playgrounds. In my day, they were mainly in school yards. Monkey bars, slides, teeter-totters…some things you could count on in a new playground. Sometimes there were surprises.

Welcome to my new playground. I slapped the first draft of my new sketch-map of reality together for a presentation to a University of Minnesota class. My two biggest learnings: It “needs work” & I really love sharing this stuff.

Intro to Richard

Two years ago, I attended a transition Town training and a bunch of things I had been mulling on for years fell into place. For instance, pollution and the environmental crisis; the materialism of Industrial Civilization; individualism & community; humans’ proper relationship to the Earth; and a positive vision I can hold out for myself and others to move toward.

Transition Town (TT) doesn’t talk about all this stuff, but I’d like to, in the Q&A after I introduce TT.

A brief intro to Transition Town and to “Transition.”

To my mind, TT is a growing subculture where people can meet, think together and work together.

I think the most important aspect of the TT cultural space is that it is optimistic. It insists on maintaining a positive tone. Also important, it aims to be inclusive rather than divisive. It aims to reach across lines of race, social class and political affiliation, looking for what we can do together, rather than focusing on our differences.

TT Analysis of Our Present Situation

TT’s optimistic tone is important because the analysis of our near-term future is pretty challenging. I’ll simplify the analysis greatly, because I imagine most of you already know variations of it.

  1. Industrial Civilization can not go on at its current pace. We are profoundly dependent on cheap oil for transportation and materials like plastics. While we are not running out of oil, the cost of extracting it is rising rapidly, and “business as usual” is already faltering. The jargon name for this process is “Peak Oil,” and the web is full of gloom & doom scenarios, and websites of folks who deny these scenarios.
  2. The second major element in the Transition Town analysis is global climate change. Even if we found something else to burn instead of oil, continuing to get most of our goods from global supply chains that stretch thousands of miles will further disrupt our climate. This obviously applies to most of the stuff we buy in chain stores, but it also applies to much of the food we buy. “Local” is going to become increasingly important, and relatively affordable.
  3. Another reason to focus on local resilience is a future with even more financial instability. It looks like the U.S. administration has got the economy “growing” again, but this can’t last. And shouldn’t. We are “growing” way beyond the carrying capacity of the land, and the sooner we find ways to live that don’t take more than we give back, the better off we will be.

A familiar grim picture.

This is where Transition Town’s optimism offers a surprising and refreshing alternative.

“What we need to do,” says TT, “is to get to know our neighbors, find the ones we can work on shared projects with, and start building local resilience. This can be fun and surely is a good thing, whatever the future holds. TT says,

Here, let’s start with ___, right here in our neighborhood.

The emphasis is on getting started, locally, with the needs and resources and personalities near at hand. Don’t worry about figuring everything out in advance. TT offers four major areas that neighborhoods should think about covering:
food, transportation, home heating & cooling and health care. There are millions of appropriate-technology solutions that address these issues that haven’t been promoted because they don’t enhance corporate profits, home canning of farmers-market produce, for instance.

“Neighborhood” and “town” are vague terms here, but the basic idea is “resources you can get to without the use of a personal automobile.”

In my own case, my neighborhood may soon get a bus line, linked to the Central Corridor Light Rail. Based on that, I have come up with a vision of New Lexington, and a map of “my town,”one mile wide and 20 miles long.

This is just a vision. I’ve done little follow-through. I offer it here only as an example of what a Transition “Town” might look like within a major metropolitan area.

TT History and Current Scope:

TT blipped into international awareness in Totnes, a little market town in England, in 2006.

A handbook on how to do what Totnes was doing came out in 2008.

That same year a support organization for U.S. Transition efforts was launched. This organization has an excellent website with multiple resources for people at various stages of Transition awareness. They have developed a training program and certified trainers in many U.S. locations including two trainers in the Twin Cities.

The TT support umbrella has criteria for groups becoming an official part of the U.S. Transition network and over 100 “towns” have claimed that official status. Including Corcoran Grows in South Minneapolis.

Beyond the official Transition Town efforts there are many more efforts that have not sought official recognition. A typical overview of some local efforts appeared in a Minneapolis neighborhood newspaper, Southside Pride.
Twin Cities, metro-wide, has a coordinating website at

These websites are an excellent way to learn the basics and to dive deeper into the areas you care most about.

The Wikipedia article has a good overview and lots of good links.

End of TT introduction.

~ ~ ~

Topics I’d love to get questions about, and where I would go to respond to them:

  1. Humans’ proper relationship to the Earth
    1. We are animals, primates
    2. Primates and other mammals have morality & empathy “built in” we are naturally community members. We contain both natural selfishness and a natural tendency to share, even at our own expense.
    3. Animals are expressions of earth: “The earth used to be molten rock. Now it sings opera.”
  2. Materialism is wrong. Mary Coelho
    The commercial “materialism” of “buying stuff” rises out of a much more profound “materialism” of believing “the material world is all there is.”
    There is an invisible world, out of which the material world arises.

Humanity is at a choice point. = Life on earth has reached a turning point.

Choice. Conscious choice. Co-creativity.

Awareness or Consciousness

The Universe Story, told
* simply, with pictures,
* by Brian Swimme,
* by Mary Coelho
* by Connie Barlow

Astrophysics, high-energy physics, Rupert Sheldrake’s morphic fields and the mysteries of life and evolution: What the Bleep, Neal Rogin, Awakening the Dreamer

I claim: There is a tendency toward wholeness.

Even though Industrial Civilization has run amok, we are not lost

  • The convergence of spiritual traditions
    • Thich Nhat Hanh’s Living Buddha Living Christ [opening a can of angels]

But what can we do?
The invisible world offers guidance. We can find our way.

Where we are now
Humanity has developed in mostly-separated populations Guns, Germs, Steel
Now we are coming together in ways we can only dimly imagine

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About Richard O Fuller

Quaker, living in the Twin Cities, Minnesota.
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