It has been brought to our attention by multiple people in this community that things on the ground floor are painfully slow and that although the 12 Steps is good for doing stage one many groups and individuals are feeling lost and unable to proceed to further stages of evolution. 


Please share you story here so we can have some in depth conversation that ideas and solutions can emerge from. 


So don't be afraid to break the ice and lay the cards on the table about your frustrations or thoughts about this phenomena (and it is a phenomena found in every movement...for sure)


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Do the 12 Steps or a subset constitute what you call stage one?  A version of the 12 Steps

How many groups that feel lost or stuck have developed an Energy Descent Action Plan?  If next to none, why?  How many have built bridges to government officials and agencies?  If next to none, why?  BTW, I'm not saying they should have done so, but that the reluctance/refusal is important to look at.

Once an EDAP exists, though, it's time to review, update and upgrade it because very little that it mentions is static.  It must be a living document.  Begin by adding an appendix regarding preparations, not exclusively material, for various sudden excursions from normal.  These are disruptive weather, geologic and big-delivery-system events that can be hassles for days to weeks and might bring on a new normal.

Yes, it is good to acknowledge the slowness of things, especially compared to the thrilling expectations many of us had after reading The Transition Handbook and hearing about the progress of the UK initiatives. Rob Hopkins said something like, "Unlike traditional environmental activism, which felt like pushing a car up a hill, Transition work seems to be like give it a shove and it takes off."

In 2008 when we started here in Santa Cruz, it did seem that way. Many people showed up to all our events, and signed up on our email list. There was keen interest in peak oil. Things plateaued, although we still get decent attendance and media attention. Now it feels, if not like pushing a car up a hill, at least like pulling a bike trailer. At one point I called up Raven Gray, who started Transition Penwith, and asked her to talk about how she got Transition rolling in Penwith, a working-class area with a host of practical problems like unemployment. She described the amazing amount that she had done, and said, "It's bloody hard work, isn't it Michael?" I adjusted my expectations.

We have diverged from the 12 steps in a number of ways. First is that we never did a Great Unleashing. It didn't seem to make sense in our city of 60,000 people as a way to create a citywide feeling of having turned a corner. Second is that we have had to adjust our idea of working groups to match the fact that they weren't very active. So far they have not become the engine that moves our Initiative forward; the steering group remains the closest thing to that. Third, I think we have drifted away from the idea that an EDAP is our centerpiece or main goal. One strongly motivated and capable steering group member did a ton of research and networking and wrote an EDAP chapter on water, which is on our website. That's it so far.

Here is what is going well:

  • Our monthly potlucks with a purpose continue to draw 20-70 people, build a sense of belonging, provide education from a Transition perspective, and allow us to meet people, some of whom eventually gravitate to volunteering or leading something.
  • A small group of us have worked with a couple of local environmental groups on a document recommending 16 improvements to strengthen the City's draft Climate Action Plan. In this context, we have met with all the City Council members, the head of Planning, and many times with the Climate Action coordinator. It looks like our recommendations will largely be adopted, but we are launching a public campaign just to make sure.
  • In general, elected officials and City staff seem to view us as thoughtful collaborators, who push a bit on energy and resilience issues but don't use "us and them" tactics.
  • 700 people get our monthly newsletter, and about a third of them even open it any given time. Along with our website, it keeps disseminating Transition thinking in a way that I think people find hopeful and informative.
  • A group that we spun off into an independent organization (Santa Cruz Desal Alternatives) is the major advocacy group in town opposing the construction of a desalination plant.

This last point is interesting in that it demonstrates the challenge of being a pro-active, big-picture, consensus-building group as opposed to a traditional advocacy group. We did not want to become known as an anti-desalination group, because this issue is polarizing. The Desal Alternatives group is getting lots of attention and volunteers, because single-issue fights are exciting and easier to understand. We have to trust that our "less exciting" approach has merit even though it seems slower.

A few of us are in the process of designing a new neighborhood outreach program with the intention of reaching beyond the choir. We have looked at the success in Port Townsend with their emergency preparedness program, L2020, and also at models like City Repair in Portland. I think the challenge is to offer something to people that they can see addresses their immediate concerns (the only way to organize, according to Saul Alinsky), and then to tie those concerns and solutions to a larger picture, in this case the need for Transition.

The focus of the program will be Neighborhood Resilience. Each neighborhood will be able to determine what that means to them. We plan to have a menu of ideas for resilience, such as developing a neighborhood resource catalog of skills and stuff that people want to share, or bulk purchasing of items to save money or for use in emergencies. I am excited about the potential of this program and would love to talk with anyone who is working along these lines.


It is wonderful to sample such openness.  Thanks, Michael.

From my short exposure to this area and having visited a few intentional communities i find that they are each unique in their own evolution and that a few key passionate people have to be very persistent over the years to realize their community.  One size does not fit all.  I find that some are mere 'glorified condo developments' with a common kitchen, while others are a throw back to 60's style communes. 

The key for me right now is to network and find a unique blend of people and passion/philosophy to help guide some community toward total energy independence and micro-power.


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