"To be truly radical is to make hope possible, rather than despair convincing." - Raymond Williams

‘The Impact of Transition. In numbers’ – a note of caution

by Shaun Chamberlin on May 19th, 2014

This post was originally written by me as a guest post for Rob Hopkins’ Transition Culture blog, but I have kindly given myself permission to reproduce it here 😉


A response to a recent post by Rob Hopkins ‘The impact of Transition. In numbers.‘.

Transition is a wonderful melange of conversations, projects, interactions, inspirations, hard work, failures, successes and entirely unexpected events which we are altogether unsure what to make of!  Transition initiatives themselves are as unique as the people who make them up.  Initially termed ‘Transition Towns’, they have twisted and squirmed out from under that label like squealing children from under a favourite uncle, becoming Transition Islands, Sustainable Villages, Cities in Transition and all the rest.

To use Rob’s favourite quote from Moominland: 

"It was a funny little path, winding here and there, dashing off in different directions, and sometimes even tying a knot in itself from sheer joy. (You don’t get tired of a path like that, and I’m not sure that it doesn’t get you home quicker in the end).” 

Yes, Transition: fun, exciting, inspirational, powerful, even maybe uncharacterisable!

But, remember, it is just one thing, this Transition.


Deadening isn’t it, this counting?  

What does it even mean anyway: "one thing"?  Surely Transition is a mess of thousands of different people, communities, activities, passions..?  At best it’s one category.  And who wants to be categorised?  

And what’s a category anyway? 

There is always a difference between any one thing and any other, so to say that there are two of something (let alone two hundred) is always an imperfect statement, in the same way that an analogy between two things is always imperfect.  Analogies may highlight important similarities between two things, but they gloss over important differences too, which is why they can be dangerously misleading when applied too widely.  Numbers too are imperfect analogies for reality, and are dangerous in just the same way.

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Why our cultural stories matter

by Shaun Chamberlin on December 13th, 2008

Next Generation

“A person will worship something, have no doubt about that. We may think our tribute is paid in secret in the dark recesses of our hearts, but it will out. That which dominates our imaginations and our thoughts will determine our lives, and our character. Therefore, it behooves us to be careful what we worship, for what we are worshipping we are becoming.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have often written on the topic of cultural stories, but I am told I have never explicitly addressed on this blog why I feel they are so critically important in our struggle for a future.

I am on record as stating that climate change and peak oil represent perhaps the most urgent and significant forces shaping our age, yet in an important sense even these trends are only symptoms of an underlying issue. They are consequences of the choices we have collectively made and continue to make, and these choices are formed by our understanding of the world – by our stories. Read more »

Reinventing collapse

by Shaun Chamberlin on June 29th, 2008

Reinventing Collapse

As George Carlin once said, “they call it the American dream because you have to be asleep to believe in it”.

At the risk of this blog becoming ‘review corner’, that seems the perfect introduction to the book I just finished reading – Dmitry Orlov’s brilliantly enjoyable Reinventing Collapse. This is a true work of dark optimism, with a fair dash of dark humour to boot.

In it, Orlov draws on his experiences of the collapse of the Soviet Union to explore the future American residents like him are likely to face as the effects of the USA’s disastrous economic, energy and foreign policies take hold. Read more »