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Hyperlocavore and the Transition Towns

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I was intrigued by hyperlocavore when I found it on Twitter. The short version (that’s all you get on Twitter) was that this site helps you find gardening partners in your area, so you can share your yards or dig up your lawns and grow food locally.

A lot of people in my area are involved in the slow and local food movements; in fact, a lot of people in my area moved here in the earlier “grow your own” era, and some of the ones who are still moving here have the same sentiments.

While this site is definitely in favor of “grow your own”, the vision is a lot bigger than that. I checked out some of the videos to get the flavor of what was on offer here.

One of the videos, “Transition Towns”, caught my attention.The video might benefit from a little editing. Peak oil philosophy is not a riveting opening for most. But I kept going, and found original and inspiring thinking about how gardens might be a part of  dealing with an oil-based culture that is running out of oil, and choking from the bad effects of oil dependency. That’s what Transition Towns are all about, according to Rob Hopkins, the movement founder.

“We could do nothing, let this unfold as a series of lurching crises, or we could do something…there’s no  reason why a world with less oil couldn’t be preferable to where we are now,” says Rob Hopkins “We really need to re-discover what was actually good about the life before cheap oil.”

So they set about doing it – what else? – locally. In Totnes, Devon, UK, Transition Town enthusiasts began mining their own resources; old people, with their memories from the time before cheap oil  came in and really started to change things.

One thing you notice when you start interviewing, says  Hopkins, is “how resilient people were in those days, how everybody had skills they could turn their hand to. Dig for Victory – Victory Gardens I think it was called in the U.S.  – that was possible because everyone knew how to garden. They hadn’t been to gardening college, they knew it by osmosis. Nowadays, if you said, ‘here’s a spade, dig a hole,’ you’d have lots of people who could design a hole, you’d have lots of people who could quantity survey the hole, inspect the hole up for you, put the hole-digging out to tender, and they could insure the hole-digging process against public indemnity,  but actually there’d be very few people who could actually dig: so we’ve moved away from being a practical, hands-on society.”

Transition Towns is no pie-in-the-sky idealist movement; their idea is to find workable community solutions – solutions that are, in fact, much more workable than the ones we use now.

“The idea is to look to draw what was good  about  those times before cheap oil, not to romanticize it. We try to apply the best of the old and the best of the new, but it’s really about getting people to ask the right questions. We don’t claim to come in with all the answers.”

What they’re looking for is a way to replace common misconceptions with common sense. “If you look at all the plans the government draw up, town planning, it’s based on the assumption that oil prices will always remain cheap, the move away from the household economy will continue.” Hopkins points out that we really have no basis for those assumptions, and so we make bad decisions based on shaky foundations. In the U.S., such decisions have allowed us to become a sedentary, obese, depressed people, whose food travels long distances, and is often highly processed and without nutritional value.

For  Hopkins and the Transition Town movers, one of the first obvious good decisions is to produce food locally. The old model puts “good economy” as the enemy of “sustainability”. The Transition Town movement seem to be saying that we need to work together, locally, toward a richer and more sustainable economy. Which only makes sense. If we mortgage the future, how good is our economy, anyway? Any gardener knows that if you deplete the soil, you’re going to have to pay somewhere down the line.

But I think the most inspiring part of the Transition Town movement is the concept that we don’t have to wait for Big Experts to Solve the Problem for us. “Rather than breezing in with lots of experts who design everything for everybody, it’s a question of unleashing the genius of the community around you.”

(To read more about local food gardening, visit http://hyperlocavore.ning.com/)

{ 7 comments… add one }

  • Anna/Flowergardengirl May 26, 2009, 6:33 pm

    Great post. Wow–our WW2 generation is smart and you are correct, they do know how to take care of themselves and rebuild the future. Will they lead us out? They must be terribly disappointed in us. I’m at the tail end of the baby boomers and I’ve seen us go from wealth to poverty.

  • Pomona Belvedere May 26, 2009, 6:46 pm

    I’m happy to say that Hopkins, at least, doesn’t look like a youngster to me – this is an all-ages movement I think. True what you say about wealth to poverty, maybe by small incremental changes we can make that turn another direction, a direction where money won’t be top dog in every decision made. We can hope and work toward it, anyway.

  • Town Mouse May 27, 2009, 7:48 pm

    Interesting thought. I usually trade granola or baked goods for veggies from the neighbors, since I don’t grow veggies myself. And I’m amused by the brilliant “new” ideas of drying clothes outside, using cloth bags, and riding ones bike for errands. I never stopped doing it…

  • Liz M owner hyperlocavore May 27, 2009, 10:16 pm

    Thanks so much for the mention of hyperlocavore – a free yard sharing community! The reason I built the site, is that there are many of us that would like to be growing our own food, but we may lack some essential part of whats needed; space, time, strength, skills or tools.

    It makes a great deal of sense for people to form small groups – community gardens have long wait lists in most places… organics are beyond the reach of some…

    But on to the Transisition Towns movement… which is a much larger phenomena. I highly recommend people interested look to transition.us and The Transition Handbook.

    I do hope anyone looking for gardeners or space to grow food, rebuild community and learn how to grow your own, comes by the site. It’s free…but I also hope you look into the transition town movement.

    Again THANK YOU!

  • Pomona Belvedere May 28, 2009, 8:31 am

    TM, it’s interesting to hear your version of local food; there are all kinds of creative ways of doing it. I know what you mean about the “new” green; for instance, those of us who used mason jars for water bottles and storage (hey, we could taste the plastic), are a bit bemused by the sudden discovery of this new miracle storage medium, glass.

    Liz M, thank you for coming by, and adding to peoples’ understanding of hyperlocavore and Transition Towns. And thanks for creating the site in the first place: excellent idea!

  • Liz M owner hyperlocavore May 28, 2009, 11:14 am

    Thanks!

    I once had the pleasure of living with a roommate who hated having advertising of any kind visible in her house. Buying mostly in bulk it wasn’t too big a problem, but for other things, she routinely took the product out of the box and used mason jars for the contents.

    The house was so relaxing an beautiful – it created a great deal of mental space! The house felt like the 1800’s in a good way.

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