Climate Change

I have been absent from posting on South Coast in Transition as I have been finishing some books and getting them on Kindle.

To go with that I have set up a new blog site How to Advise The President, which I hope you will look at and join in the dialogue.

Some of the issues in South Coast in Transition are really global, so things like Climate Change will be posted more on How to Advise The President than on South Coast in Transition.

I hope that makes sense.

All comments welcome.

From community garden to world citizenship

I think one of the great things about life is the very great expanse between living richly as a big part of a very small project, to living as a very small part of a very big project.

At lunch time in Chichester a group of over 10 people met to look at the possibility of a community garden right in the centre of the city. Not a huge garden space, but who would have believed that this plot of land, perhaps about the size of 2 allotments, was sitting there unused? It is a truly beautiful spot, facing south, a good solid old wall to grow things against, masses of grass cuttings, lots of weeds and some very tasty blackcurrants. I am sure we will be getting this into shape soon enough, with the promised support of the council and its far sighted employees.

Thank you Mike and others!

At the other end of the scale we have a world community being built, people sharing a very clear desire for change. You can see on the Avaaz site how many people have signed up from countries all round the world. How amazing that purely on gut instinct people are joining a new kind of democracy, many who probably never vote, who feel disenfranchised  by the system, not by any lack of pieces of paper on which to make a mark.

I think there is not a lot of difference between how Transition has grown and how Avaaz is growing, both are based on that sense of belonging coming pure from the heart.

Somewhere in between we have Hub Westminster, an innovation space for individuals and businesses, an open space for creating, what a great idea for London! What a great idea for all cities! Lets revive community space, from the village hall in our smaller communities to expansion of the idea of sports and health centres to be diverse spaces for people to play together and build the next generation of ideas.

Of course we have to be a bit careful about trusting our heart without any checks and balances. We can be whimsical in our affections, and leave a lot of debris behind, but for now I guess we are all one with the idea that we need change and we need it now.

With the right motives we can build the right skills, and then leave behind the right memories.

Universities in Transition

Having come back from my ‘retreat’ in Spain where I nearly finished my next book, entitled ‘How to Advise the President’ (it was too hot for my notepad to work properly!) I am now looking forward to an event on the coast here, Portsmouth to be precise, entitled ‘The Future of Universities’.

Organised on behalf of the RSA by me, together with a great team from Portsmouth University, we have 5 superb contributors who will kick off the ideas session but for no more than 5 minutes each. The list includes Liam Burns, President of the NUS, Pat Killingly from the British Council and Rebecca Bunting, Deputy V-C of Portsmouth.

There can be little doubt that 2012 will be the beginning of transition for many of our Universities. The issues to be faced are like many in Transition, how might short term and long term work in such a way that we have sustainability in the system? Universities are created as long term institutions, and societies pressures are more and more on short term goals. As we see from other areas of concern, the short term creates costs long term.

Asking students to pay £9000 a year for fees alone (and most will be that and many more will be very close) while a recent report suggests 28% of graduates from 2007 still don’t have full time jobs, well, what do you think the outcome will be? If you cannot afford to subsidise your children, what would your advise be?

Some students are looking abroad. I have been told Dutch Universities are charging less than £2000 a year, so why not get a degree from Holland?

Creating a new debt stream for young people while standing on a platform saying we need to reduce our debt seems ingenuous at least, contradictory at best. You know who I mean.

But the event will not be about politics, it will be about helping find ideas for institutions which share the Transition goals of sustainability, which look long term while being pushed, like our schools, for short term targets.

Come along, listen, join in, help, Transition needs passion, and it needs people able to take a long look,to help integrate fact, reason and intuition, we need our Universities, but in what form?

The timetable looks like this:

6.30 to 7.05 Arrivals and food and drink (you will not need more to eat than is provided)

7.05 to 8.00, Our guest speakers, just a short time for each.
8.00 to 8.45 round table dialogue, 7 or 8 people per table with a table host, and some different food at the tables
8.45 to 9.30 reports back from all 10 or 11 tables and some comment back from the speakers.

Book here:

The cost is to pay for the food, you will have enough to eat and drink for the evening, so think of it as a night out!

See you there I hope, last time I looked there were just 40 places left so book now!

Oh, and just so I don’t leave them out, the other superb contributors are Nigel  Biggs, who is doing a great job at Surrey University as Entrepreneur in Residence, and Chris Millward, from HEFC, the Higher Education Funding Council.


Map of the Day – Syria

Damascus is apparently the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world, so it may be useful to reflect on how it might transform itself and what we can learn about transition from it.

With Caliphates and Sultanates, Syria has had a lot of changes over centuries, but the most tumultuous was from 1949 to 1970, including a short period when it was united with Egypt, and military coups were frequent. The Assad family have ruled Syria since 1971. With over 22 million people, but an area of land not that much less that the UK, population density is about half that of the UK, income estimated at $5000 annual on average.

As Syria is one of the oldest civilisations, it is clear that sustainability is no easy thing to maintain.


Krak de Chevaliers has a great festival in August, but I guess current protests might make you think twice about how safe it is to go.

Clearly Syria has a lot of desert, but at over 1% water cover,  and most people living nearer rather than further from the coast, it is not unreasonable to ask why things are as they are, that is, why they are very unsustainable.

The Beetles song, ‘I get by with a little help from my friends’ seem apt here. Syria has had, and continues to have, some pretty unfortunate friends, though even those are now departing. The Geopolitics of ‘Friendship’ is probably one of the sicker aspects of societies, which date back to the origins of Damascus. Another term for it would be playground politics, the kind that has been going on in the US over its Debt Crisis, the kind of ‘if you will be my friend then I will be in your gang another time later’.

It was that kind of playground politics that crippled Africa, first when the battles were between the various European Navies, France, England, Portugal and a few others, then more recently with the old Soviet Union and the USA. That kind of politics also fractured South East Asia, leading to massive corruption and genocide.

This brings me back to Transition. As those involved in ‘Recovery‘ programmes know full well, whether it is recovery from alcohol or drug abuse or recovery from debt, with the wrong kind of friends you will find it very difficult to change for the better. R D Laing had it well documented in his books Self and Others, and Sanity, Madness and The Family, and it runs clear in Mike Leigh’s great film, Secrets and Lies.


So Syria will only come out of this when its ‘friends’ stop supporting abusive behaviours, when their intent is to be a true friend not a selfish friend.

Can this be done? Maybe this report on Brazil and Africa offers us some hope that some countries know what it truly is to be a friend.

Citizen power in Peterborough

There is a lot of talk about Big Society and some scepticism about what it might deliver and it being a way of passing off cuts in council services, but let’s see how Peterborough gets on, now they have made a start.

Here is what they are going to do:

“The project has six strands of work all addressing priorities identified by the local authority and its residents:

  • Work with five schools on the creation of the Peterborough Curriculum, which seeks to encourage higher levels of civic participation amongst pupils, parents and develops learning in partnership with local organisations.
  • A series of projects, which are building ‘green skills’ amongst citizens while bringing waste land back into use
  • The development of new civic commons where people are being trained and supported to tackle local problems like anti-social behaviour and social isolation.
  • A new approach to drugs services where people who misuse drug and alcohol are being asked to co-produce services and develop a network of ‘recovery champions’.
  • A programme of arts and social change which supports local artists, raises awareness of the arts, engages local citizens and provides a firm foundation for developing a sustainable arts offer for the city.
  • Developing a map of the civic leaders out there who have the enthusiasm, ability and networks needed to generate citizen powered change.”
My immediate response to this is that it is significant, it is a substantial commitment, and it will need a lot of continuing effort to deliver, so well done.
My afterthoughts are about things missing:
1. There is no jobs programme – paid or unpaid, and I ask why not?
2. There is no local currency scheme, these are being trialled in places around the world, surely Peterborough, with this kind of initiative, could push for it and make it work.
3. There is no transport initiative, what about an electric bike network? I seem to remember Peterborough as being pretty flat!
I think the lack of these comes from a mental separation between the Civic things, Health, Education  and the Arts, and the Business Profile, SME’s, Corporates, Profits and Taxes.
If Big Society is going to succeed it needs to get people thinking of integrating all these, so business is oriented to health and education, so health is oriented to business.
How we perceive things is core to how we nudge and get nudged.
Good luck Peterborough, and I hope South Coast Councillors look, listen and learn, and ACT, the sooner the better.
Like, Chichester Email for the Mayor, Tony French
And Brighton and Hove Email
And Portsmouth Email
And Southampton Email
And Exeter  Email
And the rest – so why not give them a NUDGE!

‘Service not included’

We are used to the idea of giving a tip at a restaurant for good service, and to know it is appropriate on the bill there is a note saying, ‘service not included’.

The latest fine for British Gas suggests on their bills there should be a notice, saying, ‘Service not included’, and two other energy providers are being looked at, so BG won’t be the only one to get hit with a fine.

Twice today I have had big frustrations with big companies. One was for an incorrect money transfer which was admitted by Bank no 1, but I had to contact Bank no 2, who told me I would get a charge but I could claim it back from Bank no 1! So they make a mistake and I have to do the work to correct it.

The second was for car insurance, can I insure myself to drive a friend’s car which is registered in another country where she lives? Call the AA, response, no we don’t offer that policy, no help to find out who could provide, and no explanation as to why not. So, the AA does not provide a service, they sell you things but if they do not have those things then please go away.

The lack of efficient, effective and friendly service in the developed world is of course nothing compared to the lack of just about everything in other places. But in places good service is available, and one of those places, Ethiopia, may seem the most unlikely of places to get it.

Owen Barder’s report on the famine in the Horn of Africa is the best I have seen, simple and enlightening. Yes, Ethiopia is affected, but emergency plans are working, so far.

Somehow, responses in one country, or from one company, are massively better than from another, and this must be because of fundamental differences in service ethics, that people feel and know their job is to provide a service. Decades of management improvement programmes, of leadership development, don’t seem to have put service at the forefront of the business. It is time this happened.

What’s on that’s green and furry!

With the end of July people may be looking out for things to do which are green and furry, so I have browsed through the Transition Links and selected the following, but please car share, go by train, cycle, or even walk, (and do you remember the days when you could hitch-hike?)

Grow your own apothecary is on in Brighton, Stanmer Park, August 6th, 10 to 5.

Fruit Tree Grafting, same place, August 13th, same time

There’s a talk and picnic in Christchurch this Friday 29th July, 2011, timed for 20.30 to 22.30, which seems a bit odd so maybe check the time, or maybe the sun doesn’t set in Christchurch in summer?

The Good Life Family Week at Monkton Wyld  – August 8th to 12th

Near Chichester, Sunday July 31st there is Bracken Clearance for the healthy minds and bodies, in a wild daffodil area, but no daffodils this time of year of course.

If you can get to Exmouth with your bike there is a cycle ride planned for this Sunday.

Near Falmouth there is a Yoga event over several days, and kids go free.

Now this is advance warning for gardeners, and you will understand why, Swap Seeds! here. September at Wakehurst Place.

Help is needed now in Hythe for the Venetian Festival, building a float

Help is also needed for  a Beach Clean up,  Mothecombe Beach, which is a beach somewhere in the middle of the South Coast of England, I think!

Lewes has a family fun day this Sunday

Green Open Doors sounds a must for those wanting to know more about green energy, September but may be booked up if I didn’t tell you now (actually I am not sure you can book, but it is still a good thing to put in your calendar)!

This weekend at Stanmer Park there is Scything courses, but don’t forget to count your fingers and toes before you start.

Some magic in living is on offer at the end of August, 28th to be precise, near Totnes

This Friday 29th July there is a tea dance, Sturminster Newton

Today, Wednesday 27th July 2011, there is a Produce Swap in Southampton (why doesn’t every town do that?)

In Sidmouth there is a BBQ  on 9th August 18.30

If you are quick you can get a look in on the renewable energy show, on Thursday 28th and Friday July 29th, Cornwall.

On 29th August Ottery has an opening for a new cycle path


So, there is plenty to do this summer, in all kinds of ways. A pretty mixed bag of events too, but apart from Brighton the big cities seem to have less Transition activity than the smaller towns and villages.

If you didn’t find anything of interest then maybe you could browse here and find something.

And whatever you do, have fun!








A few friends watched the film The Economics of Happiness on Sunday night and then chatted about the state of the world and what we can do, or not, while drinking home made Elderflower ‘Juice’ and eating home made locally grown plum crumble.

Our review was a mix of despair and hope, and in the end Hope won, but perhaps for no rational reason than that it is a better state of  mind.

We had wondered how the next generation were feeling and what they were doing (so you can guess how old we are), and of course on Monday morning I get this link sent about some young people who are brilliant, creative and very very green.

Isaiah Saxon (left), Sean Hellfritsch and Daren Rabinovitch began collaborating on films in San Francisco in 2003. Their digital animation company, Encyclopedia Pictura, combines live action, stop-motion and CGI components into a unique visual style.

Now you may not think this is very green, but this is the house they built to live and work in:

Rabinovitch's grass hut combines a primitive design with more advanced  solar technology. Trout Gulch's 18 residents live in a variety of tiny  homes, huts and tree houses.

Yes, they need the solar panel because they create animations for products, but only products they use. And they seem to have jobs available, though I am not sure how US Homeland Security would welcome you at the airport, ‘Yes sir, and your job is going to be working for this company in California as a Farmer?’

One of the people speaking in the Economics of Happiness film is the not quite as young Zac Goldsmith. As former editor of The Ecologist and more recently author of The Constant Economy Zac has some pretty green credentials. He has been pretty vocal about cloned animal meat being on sale, which as he is an MP of the Government in power which is allowing it shows he sticks to his principles, but given he seems to have different views to many or most Government policies, one may wonder why he is an MP for the Conservative Party.

The Transition Movement has a bit of a tradition of not being political, and does attract people from all ways along the line of left to right, and probably at right angles to it as well. Maybe our Hope for the future has to lie in getting those in power, those with a lot of power, more closely connected to those Green Entrepreneurs who can work within the contradictions of a sustainable economy without growth. Maybe Zac could donate a few copies of his books to Transition Towns?


A common purpose

There are probably thousands of groups now formed and many thousands more being formed which, like this one, centre on a common purpose, to develop a new kind of society,  one in which selfishness and greed are not predominant, one in which people belong, and one which  has true long term sustainability for all of us and our planet.

Some  may be more political than others, some are simple steps to facilitate change, there is even a Social Enterprise for Social Enterprises.

The August event for Uncivilisation is being held naturally enough at the Sustainability Centre in Hampshire, England, and the organisers have in mind the Dark Mountain Project, which is an intriguing name to say the least.

They have 8 Principles, which are I guess deliberately open to interpretation. All a bit gloomy and for those who were around when Hippies hit the trail some of it will be very familiar.

It is easy to react to the various versions of Change Process without thinking much about why one may suit you better than another, and this post was inspired by the following picture from the Transition Network web site:

system diagram

The picture came from David Pollard who comments: “What is disconcerting,” he adds, “is that there is relatively little awareness among those in the four movements of what the others are doing, and the possible synergies between the models.”

I think one reason why, in an age of media, we find it difficult to connect these 4 is because we have lost how they connect within ourselves. We have become disassociated people.

Economy: How I manage my life, and it does need managing of sorts

My coexistence with others: How I exchange my emotions with others

My activism: How I work with my vision and sense of mission and purpose

My aesthetics: How my reason and intuition work with each other in harmony

My sense is that our sense of being excessively busy is because we have made efficiency more important than it should be, and it is not delivering effectiveness, in which my life as a worker is integrated with my emotional life and my mission and my aesthetics. The endless cycle of work, giving me money which leads to spending which needs more work and more money, it is not working for people.

I’m sure the Hampshire event will be great fun, and for those who go maybe take a copy of David Pollard’s picture as a guide. Thanks David

‘Life doesn’t get any better than this’ – Robert A Alper

When people tell me things are not going so well, I have a few books I like to lend them. One is a book by Robert A Alper, Life Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This.

Robert is a Rabbi and Stand up Comedian, from Vermont. There are lots of lovely stories in Robert’s book, but I want to pick out the Chapter on ‘The Man Who Was Not Religious.’

The story is real, it was the time of Martin Luther King’s assassination and Robert was in Washington D C to see how, as a Rabbi Intern, he could help the local community. He met a guy who was trying to get the devastated area back on its feet, as riots had destroyed much of the community assets, though also, usefully, the liquor stores.

Robert called a local businessman and although he did not know him he asked for furniture for the community volunteers.

I quote:

– His answer was abrupt. “Sure. Come over and pick what out what you need.”

And just as quickly he changed the subject. –

They talked about religion, and the man said, “But you know, I don’t attend services very often. I’m not religious.”

– “I’m not religious.” A thirty second request from a stranger and the man was willing to donate furniture to an unknown activist –

And when the man was asked how they would get the furniture to the volunteers’ office the man said “We’ll deliver it. Just stop by and pick out what you need.”

A few of the titles of the Chapters tell you what the book is like, ‘Holding, Loving, and Letting Go’, ‘Moments of Connection’, ‘The Blink of an Eye’, ‘What Really Matters’, ‘A Child Comes Home’, ‘The Glance’, ‘Choosing a Different Path’, ‘Gerda’s Gift’ and many more.

Alper reminds us that life isn’t easy, but for everyone, including those who are ‘not religious’, life is full of the holiest of moments, not only on Sundays, not only with people we know, not only on the good days, but also on the bad days.

Alper reminds us that no matter how bad things seem, somewhere there is someone who has it worse than you and is still smiling. If you think you haven’t enough money, someone has less, and values it more. If you think you haven’t enough friends, someone has fewer, but values them more. If you think life isn’t good enough, then the message is very clear, Life Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This, because actually, it is truly wonderful.