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Living in a Transition Town

English in Totnes is situated in the small town (around 9000 inhabitants) of Totnes, half an hour from the beach and the sea of the South Devon coast and 20 minutes from Dartmoor, an area of some 368 square miles or 954 square kilometres (roughly the same size as London).

For a countryside town, it's environmentally ahead of the game in terms of its ambitions, being one of the first towns to declare itself ' in transition' towards an existence without oil and thereby to be popularly known as a Transition Town.

But what does that mean?

From the outside perspective of someone like myself who has lived in Totnes for the past 25 years, it involves searching for ways to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels through various locally-run projects. And to address the knotty problem of the social justice impacts of climate change and austerity.

It's an interesting movement too to someone of my generation (born in the late '50s) as it is a viral movement rather than an organised one and lives through donations, a small office and individuals' passions and time. And through making links with other organisations.

Their website highlights the three 'R's- local resilience, relocalisation and regenerative development- and also the importance of local people taking ownership of the process towards a place in the future envisioned to be positive, if as yet undefined.

It's taken me a while to get used to this concept and in the early years of the movement which was started in 2006, I focused more on the external evidence of transition

for example- the Totnes pound

which ran from 2007 to 2019- rather than its essence.

Somewhat naively maybe, I thought it would be something I could introduce into English in Totnes- then Totnes School of English-as part of the first day's introduction for example. However, it doesn't work like that as I discovered.....the organisation isn't top-down but rather an alliance of like-minded people discussing and trying to find ways to make a fossil-free, local economy a reality, across all aspects of the community.

So if you want to know about TTT, the best way to find out about it is to get involved in one of their many projects. Transition Town has various different projects going on: Transition homes- a project of 31 eco homes to be built in Dartington, near Totnes; skill-sharing where people share expertise and skills on a non-profit basis and Incredible Edible, a community gardening initiative. Have a look at their website for the full range of projects.

And also, over the years I've realised that the main impact of Transition Town on our school and our students is through the community of Totnes itself- through our host familes and our staff and by wandering through the streets and gardens on a voyage of discovery.

Do you live in a transition town? do share your thoughts and ideas about it.


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