Transition Towns and New Rules

Andrew Fletcher

Andrew Fletcher once wrote “Let me write the ballads and I don’t care who writes the laws.”  Ballad writing I think is so much more important in our culture today than writing laws.  Laws are increasingly favoring unsustainable companies and globalization, not because these laws are not being challenged but because big industry and big government are mingling with each other and influencing each other.  As shown in the previous  videos with Elinor Ostrom and Dan Ariely,  face to face interaction within a group is much more effective for wise use of resources than top down management through law or attempted influence of global corporations.  Ballads are simply cultural stories that present a problem and show an example of good action.  Today the stories of our culture say many things in error–i.e. oil is without limits, freedom must be restrained, etc.  Following are two organizations that try to address these faulty ballads by teaching people new ones.

The Institute For Local Self-Reliance

I’ve just rediscovered the ILSR.  Find their website here.  A few years ago, I had followed a group called the New Rules Project that eventually morphed into this group.  From the about us page:

ILSR challenges the conventional wisdom that bigger is better, that separating the producer from the consumer, the banker from the depositor and lender, the worker from the owner is an inevitable outcome of modern economic development.  Surprisingly little evidence supports this conventional wisdom. In every sector of the economy the evidence yields the same conclusion: small is the scale of efficient, dynamic environmentally benign societies.

And unsurprisingly, we make better and more informed policies when those who design those policies are those who feel their impact.  History shows that most policy innovations come from below: unemployment insurance, worker’s compensation, minimum wage and maximum hour laws, environmental protection, and health care reform.

Ahem, Amen.  This is exactly what I tried to show last post using nature as a model.  Nature operates its government and its economy on a small scale effectively.  ILSR shows how local communities can take back these systems of economy and government from big, centralized institutions (big government and big corporations) and actually thrive because of it.

Transition Towns

The Transition network project shows people how to adapt their communities to a world without cheap oil.  Their solutions however I think show much more than just a solution for the energy problem:  a re-dependence on local community support structures, a fix to the problem of resource scarcity, the benefits of engaging and interacting with the natural world, and good, local resource management.

Since we’re talking about the economy (and government) in these posts, here is a video on their economy project called REconomy

It’s helpful to note that the type of local solutions they propose are  not politically slanted.  Particularly in the US we have been so tainted by political flag waving that we’ve forgotten how to think.  The transition town website mentions peak oil and climate change as their impetus to change things at a local level, but the solutions are very good, sound solutions that would warm any political conservative’s heart (even if he/she didn’t agree that peak oil and climate change were problems).  Strengthening local governments, small businesses, and communities without big government intrusion, taxation, or compulsion are issues that are dear to conservatives and ones that the solutions provided by the transition towns initiative solve very, very well.

As Tolstoy wrote in War-In-Peace, it is not the Napoleans of the world that direct history but it is the common folk, those who are interacting on the ground in the wars of these Napoleans and those who are made to struggle to survive .   We little guys and gals need to take responsibility for managing our own systems, moving towards systems of smallness, and humanness, equity, justice.  This is not in the realm of politics or economics per say, but it can involve these structures and transform them; and more importantly, it is within our reach.  Hopefully the ballads of these organizations and others like them will influence us to survive in the bounds that nature has provided for us.  This is not a step back.  As I hope to show when I address modeling nature through decentralization of our industry and our agriculture, it is a great step forward and could even lead to more advanced technologies, and more sustainable advancements, than globalization ever could.

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4 Responses to Transition Towns and New Rules

  1. mobius faith says:

    Cool stuff. Thanks for posting more people need to know this stuff. Thanks for the links.

  2. Hi Jeremy, great post. We had a movement in the UK. ‘Small is Beautiful.’
    In case you haven’t heard of Schumacher – his college operated from Dartington UK

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Small_Is_Beautiful
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E._F._Schumacher
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schumacher_College

    • Yes, thanks Ashen. Schumacher has influenced me considerably. When I was 18 and had not the slightest interest in economics, I bought his book “Small Is Beautiful” and took it along on a three week sailing trip across Lake Michigan. The sailing trip was a great experience, but that book was entirely in a realm of its own, or so I thought at the time.

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