I thought this was a great article that brings together two great inspirations for me - Tom Atlee's work and the Transition Initiative.
Tom is adept at exploring many social process endeavors and being very honest about their strengths and weaknesses. Tom shares my own vision that we cannot stop at just one movement, just one initiative, just one good idea. We need to constantly be exploring new approaches, and refining old techniques. We need to constantly strive to re-evaluate our evolution and always question ourselves and each other about what is really the most beneficial situation to involve ourselves in.
Can Transition become a stale institution in just a few decades? Not so if my hunch is correct and that there is a large mind-field emerging that will create safe space for such things as Transition and every other movement that comes up with good ideas and that sees results and brings our communities, and ultimately our nations, into harmony and, most importantly of all, co-intelligent living.
I am amazed at the article below -- not only because it brings the Transition movement <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transition_Towns
> into the mainstream New York Times, but because of its breadth of understanding and perspective.
While I share the Transition movement's belief that converging crises present a monumental challenge and opportunity, I also know "there's more to it than that." In any complex adaptive system like a society, we cannot predict with any certainty what will unfold. The complexity is too dense and unpredictable "wild cards" are too likely. What does "being prepared" mean when you don't know what's going to happen?
One of the most remarkable aspects of a self-organizing, resilient system is its mix of redundancy and diversity -- lots of people and organizations serving the same function in different ways. This mimics the diversity that drives the evolutionary process of natural selection: Many are called and the most 'fit' are chosen by the dynamics of life. (This is the underlying life-supporting dynamic of markets. The destructive nature of modern markets is not that they're competitive, but that they are governed too much by financial capital at the expense of social and natural capital.)
When "business-as-usual" seems to be working, the mainstream (status quo) dominates and alternatives are marginalized on the fringes of society. When "business-as-usual" begins to bend and crack at the weak points, alternatives begin to expand and spread into the cracks. When "business-as-usual" collapses, alteratives swarm into what was once "mainstream" space and compete for which will become the next "mainstream."
This is a pattern as old as life, and definitely has its cultural parallels in the rise and fall of empires, businesses, technologies, ideas.
But we are in a radically new era and there is a new possibility: Among the alternatives being born are initiatives that attempt to embrace a broad spectrum of diverse alternatives WITHIN ONE STORY -- within one cooperative or self-organizing enterprise. One of the most powerful principles upon which to build such an enterprise is the understanding that resilience COMES FROM diversity and redundancy. Based on that understanding, such an effort would not push one agenda but rather make space for many approaches to co-exist, thrive, and interact creatively.
The Transition movement is one of the most remarkable of such current experiments. At its best, it creates space -- often Open Space gatherings <http://www.co-intelligence.org/P-Openspace.html
> -- in which EVERYONE working on improving local food security (and other necessary community functions) can learn from each other, coordinate, and create new collaborations. They don't ALL have to do organic gardening.
And therein lies the dynamic tension which drives the Transition movement to break new ground in social organization. It invites people to do what they are passionate about, which tends to split people off into groups of like mind, fragmenting the movement. On the other hand, it invites people into a common vision with a common project of creating a common plan, which tends to bring people together. This tension between divergence and convergence is apparent within the article below and also in a major Transition Town initiative I recently visited.
Can hippy environmentalists, conservative traditionalists, businesspeople, government officials, lovers of technology and all sorts of ordinary folks work together to help their local communities make a transition from oil-based global growth economies to resilient local economies based on people's connections to each other and the natural world? There is a natural tendency for many in the consciously alternative environmentalist subculture to split off and do their own thing, for local economics fits comfortably with their back-to-the-land, voluntary simplicity impulses. On the other hand, the Transition movement is designed to pull diverse people together -- including people from government and business sectors -- so some Transitioners are focusing on that and bewailing the emerging hippy reputation of their movement.
I suspect the Transition movement will succeed to the extent it does the following:
a. It holds gatherings that are as ritual-neutral as possible that help people connect in functional groups that actively respect diversity and redundancy even when it seems questionable to them (which the Open Space approach does) AND
b. encourages people to create sub-culture clusters WITHIN the movement where like-minded souls can use their familiar rituals, and those who don't want to pray or hold hands or pledge allegiance or work for consensus don't have to, with everyone honoring (or at least tolerating) each other doing their own things in their own groups.
c. It actively recruits "bridge builders" and "diplomats" to assist the co-existence and cross-fertilization of different sub-cultures drawn into the movement, and develops such roles as key elements in the Transition program.
d. It proudly flaunts its diversity as proof of the importance of its work (see "Circles and Dress Codes" <http://www.co-intelligence.org/S-pcmrchcircle.html
> for a story of how the Great Peace March came to use its conservatives and punks together to spotlight their shared concern about nuclear disarmament).
e. It provides community activities like well-designed street parties, potlucks or concerts (see the reference to Willie Nelson in the article) to build a mutual sense of common humanity.
And, in the big picture, no matter how inclusive it tries to be, the Transition movement is only one of thousands of efforts operating on different beliefs about our shared Tomorrow. They are on a leading edge and their rapid expansion suggests there is a hot "market" for working together in the face of challenges. What other approaches can we try? The very existence of the Transition movement challenges the rest of us: How far can we go with the belief that our differences are our greatest strength and using them creatively is our greatest challenge?
Because, whatever happens,
We are All.