Transition Initiatives by Rene Michalak

Just about three years ago now, ReThink Red Deer was born as an expose of pedestrian accessibility, or lack thereof, in the city of Red Deer. And like most urban communities, car is king here. The streets and sidewalks are paved for all kinds of transport but the private automobile outnumbers them all. That’s not to say Red Deer is lacking in alternative transportation amenities; we have a bicycle trail system that is world class. But when it comes to getting from point A to point B, and all points thereafter, cars come first and people come second. This is by no means unique to our city. Car culture is ubiquitous and some would say necessary if we wish to keep this thing we call “progress” going. But, ReThink Red Deer sees “progress” in a different way than most. What is it that fuels “progress”? And, more importantly, how have we grown a culture that’s driven us off the very paths that guide us safely through our daily lives.

As ReThink Red Deer has grown, these are the types of questions we’ve been considering. Looking at it through the lens of sustainability –  basically, looking at the economic growth model, moderating what comes in at one end and moderating the outputs at the other end – we found answers that would strip Al Gore of his Nobel Prize faster than a melting glacier. Looking at it through the lens of resilience, however, we see a much more positive view of our world – one that defines progress in more equitable terms. True “progress” if you will. Amazing stuff. What’s amazing is that this ‘stuff’ is what we already know. But somewhere along the way we’ve misplaced it.

As we improvised our way through coordinating ReThink activities, raising public awareness, and catalyzing citizen action, we just happened to come in contact with a way of looking at things that profoundly changed how we view the world. This view is best described by the Transition movement – and eloquently told by movement co-founder Rob Hopkins:

Transition provided us with two things: a proven framework for organizing collective response to root causes of serious community issues, and a network of engaged people around the globe, each facing the same basic challenges. Suddenly, to our surprise, this big old world got a whole lot smaller.

Today we find ourselves immersed in projects to make the streets friendlier for people, we’re growing local food systems, moving closer to producing our own energy, and working to finance it all through local capital; putting power back into the hands that can best use it. Our local network is growing and we’re celebrating by hosting a major provincial conference called Pathways to Sustainability. We’d love it if you join us!

Today, the world is changing so fast. So fast that if you blink you just might miss it. But, what exactly is it changing into and why do we have to be driven there so mind numbingly fast? We’ve chosen to transition at our own pace; a pace that will take us to a world of our own choosing, not the choosing of an elite few. We’ll be more connected to power than we’ve ever dreamt possible – power with, not power over. We’ll have interdependence with and responsibility to the community of life. This is the work of initiation, folks. Stepping into this cultural maturity, we will take our rightful place in the community of life, and we will fall back in love with the world. It’s simple enough that we can all do this. But only if we choose to. The choice is yours to make.

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