"The Solution According to Transition US" - Interview with New Co-Director Don Hall by willi paul studio / planetshifter.com
"The Solution According to Transition US" - Interview with New Co-Director Don Hall by willi paul studio / planetshifter.com

"While supporting collaborative leaders and organizations had long been a special fascination of mine, this passion was further stoked by the realization that many of the new Transition initiatives I was coordinating with were struggling just to survive. I began addressing this issue by creating a 16-week course in Deepening Community Leadership, which I taught in Boulder, Colorado in 2009. However, I gradually came to realize that to be of even greater help to Transition leaders and initiatives, I needed to integrate practical, on-the-ground experience with the many powerful theories I had learned at Naropa and elsewhere-. Through all of this, I learned a tremendous amount about the complexities and subtleties involved in forming a group, raising awareness, forging partnerships, and managing large projects in a Transition context." - Don Hall

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Interview with Don by Willi -

What is universal about Transition US?

Transition US is universal in that it points to a better way to live for everyone. Addressing current social, economic, and environmental challenges by growing local food systems, strengthening local economies, reducing our dependence on fossil fuels, and fostering more interdependent local communities is not just for the wealthy or the poor, people of color or European-Americans, or Republicans or Democrats. Everyone can get involved by planting a garden, riding a bike or the bus, supporting locally-owned, independent businesses, and getting to know their neighbors. Everyone has both the ability and the responsibility to be at least a small part of the solution.

What are the top 3 ways that Transition US actionizes its values?

1. The primary mission of Transition US is to support local Transition Initiatives, the groups that are building local resilience and self-reliance from the ground up every day in their local communities. We do this by providing monthly teleseminars, quarterly telesalons, in-depth leadership trainings, mentoring, and peer-to-peer learning cohorts. We also regularly highlight stories of what Transition Initiatives have accomplished through our website, newsletter, and social media, produce how-to guides on a wide variety of relevant topics, and develop programs that Transition Initiatives can easily replicate in their local communities, such as our REconomy Project or Transition Streets.

2. From the very beginning of the Transition Movement, there has been an emphasis on decentralizing power, trusting individuals to make good decisions, and unleashing the collective genius. As a result, Transition US does not seek to dictate to local initiatives what we think they should do. Rather, we encourage them to respond directly to the needs and desires of their local communities, and engage their work in Transition in whatever way works best for them. We also uphold these values on the national level by supporting the emergence of regional hubs and volunteer-led working groups, as well as through our Collaborative Design Council, a national advisory body that is comprised of local Transition Initiative leaders, representatives of regional hubs and working groups, and Transition US Board members and staff.

3. Transition is explicitly both an outer and an inner process. Drawing on insights about the psychology of change, Joanna Macy's Work That Reconnects, and effective methods of collaboration, we strive to build the conditions for external success upon the solid foundation of healthy individuals and harmonious interpersonal working relationships. We promote inner resilience by integrating Inner Transition practices into everything we do, from our trainings and teleseminars to monthly Transition US "Big Picture" staff meetings. Recently, a national-level Inner Resilience Network has taken shape, and we believe that this will serve as an important vehicle for embedding the Inner Transition even more deeply into our national movement.

I would say that our Earthly mess is first and foremost a spiritual crisis. What do you think?

I think it works both ways. One can find a sense of peace, camaraderie, and connection with the natural world simply through building the soil and growing one's own vegetables in a community garden. Conversely, by connecting with our deeper selves and following our true calling in life, one can be led into greater engagement with the healing of our world. One finds one's self caught up in a virtuous cycle as soon as one steps foot upon the Transition path.

Can you change capitalism with capitalism? What are the hypocrisies and road blocks for Transition US under "das capital?"

Transition is clearly swimming upstream against the current of our hyper-materialistic society. However, I wouldn't exactly place the blame on capitalism itself. There is a big difference between the locally-based social entrepreneurship that Transition promotes as part of the solution to our current predicament and the out-of-control global capitalism that is currently widening the gap between rich and poor, pillaging our natural environment of its finite resources, and pushing all of us towards a state of economic collapse. Both utilize capitalist structures, but their impacts couldn't be more different. Transition is not about being perfect or pure, but about constantly moving in the right direction. We all have to live in the world that we live in, and sometimes that means making compromises.

What is a neighborhood?

We all know what a conventional neighborhood is, or what it has become. A Transition neighborhood would be one in which everybody knows their neighbors and all are working together to make their little spot of earth the best it can possibly be. This might involve people providing mutual support to each other, sharing garden produce, and celebrating their place through block parties and cultural festivals. Fences could come down and neighborhood associations could create policies that encourage their residents to be more sustainable and interconnected, rather than isolated in their homes, ringed by bright-green chemical lawns.

Can the community be the Hero? How?

Yes - by working together to find local solutions to the biggest problems of our day, like climate change, industrial agriculture, consumerism, economic inequality, disconnection, mental illness, bigotry, and violence. The time of the charismatic lone ranger-type hero is over. The challenges we face right now are far too massive and urgent for any of us to hope to tackle them alone. I have a quote in my email signature from Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hahn, that says: "It is possible that the next Buddha will not take the form of an individual. The next Buddha may take the form of a community - a community practicing understanding and loving-kindness, a community practicing mindful living. This may be the most important thing we can do for the survival of the earth." I believe this to be true.

What are the goals of the Transition US Collaborative Design Council?

We are currently in the process of significantly expanding the Council, so we'll know more about what its goals will be in the next couple of months, once new members have been seated. However, the Council's purpose is to connect key leaders in the national Transition Movement with each other, help shape strategy for the movement nationwide, and collaborate on projects of common interest. For example, earlier this year, the Council organized and hosted our first two-day Movement Strategy Session and Leadership Retreat that took place in Minneapolis, Minnesota and was attended by 34 Transition leaders from all over the country. We are considering holding another Movement Strategy Session in 2018, and would expect the Council to be involved in planning it. They may also choose to create committees to focus on capacity-building or communications. It's really up to Council as a whole to decide what it wants to work on.

Is sharing one of your marquee values? What are you sharing, Don?

Sharing is one of our marquee values. Almost everything in this movement is Open Source. There is no concern about copyright infringement. Moreover, the sharing economy is a big part of Transition: housing co-ops, car sharing services, tool libraries, seed swaps, etc. Transition US shares much of its knowledge and resources freely. Personally, I am involved at the moment in creating an intentional eco-cooperative house here in my hometown in Sarasota, Florida. I previously lived at the Chrysalis Cooperative in Boulder, Colorado for three years, and it is still the best place I've ever lived. We purchased all of our food together from CSAs and bulk organic distributors, prepared community dinners most nights, participated in upkeeping and upgrading the house, went on an annual retreat each year, sponsored countless cultural events, and held weekly house meetings, where all decisions were made by consensus. 14-16 people lived in one big pink house together, and it ran more smoothly than many other situations I've been in with only one or two roommates.

How does Transition US relate to the permaculture movement? To survivalism? To the anarchists?

Transition grew out of the permaculture movement. The founder of this movement, Rob Hopkins, was an accomplished permaculture teacher and has repeatedly referred to Transition as "community-scale permaculture." So there's definitely a close relationship there. I also see connections between Transition and survivalist and anarchist communities, but also with small-government Republicans and Libertarians. Transition has worked quite hard to be non-partisan from the outset. This doesn't mean that we don't get involved in politics sometimes, but we try to provide a neutral ground where people from all across the political spectrum can come together around a common cause. Even if we don't agree on everything, we can still work together on the things we do agree on. And I firmly believe that if you scratch beneath the surface, you'll find that there is more that typically unites us than divides us.

If I do not own land, how can I implement your food-related (localizing) strategies?

You could first talk to your landlord and find out if he or she is opposed to you growing food on the property. They might not be. However, if they are, you could still grow some of your own food in containers, or rent out a plot in a community garden. Furthermore, you might know someone who has land nearby that they are not using and would be happy to have you cultivate it. Beyond that, you could support other local growers by purchasing a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share, shopping at local farmers' markets, and investing some of your savings in a local food-related business. If you're even more ambitious, you could start a local food enterprise of your own, such as a communal kitchen, a community composting project, or an edible landscaping service. You could also work to change policies at the local level that make it easier for urban agriculture and cottage food industries to flourish. In short, there's so much you can do, even if you don't own land. Maybe the toughest part is deciding how best to get involved.

Do any new stories, songs and mythologies support your cause?

Absolutely. Authors like Rob Hopkins, David Holmgren, Joanna Macy, Richard Heinberg, Margaret Wheatley, David Fleming, Brian Swimme, Thomas Berry, Wendell Berry, Harrison Owen, Christopher Alexander, Charles Eisenstein, Bill McKibben, and countless others are pointing a new way forward for humanity through their stories and mythologies. And many of my favorite artists, such as Andrew Bird, Arcade Fire, Bob Dylan, Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes, Gillian Welch, Gregory Alan Isakov, Iron & Wine, Jose Gonzalez, Josh Ritter, Leonard Cohen, Modest Mouse, Mos Def, Neil Young, Patti Smith, and Radiohead, are singing or rapping about what needs to change in our society, as well as spreading positive visions for the future through song. So much compelling art and philosophy is focused right now on how to create a better world in the face of rapid change and disintegration, which is just as it should be.

The issues that Transition is addressing are the foremost issues of our time.

Please define resilience vs. resistance in Transition US terms?

These two terms are fundamentally interconnected, as resilience-building is a potent form of resistance to the status quo and resistance work both requires and builds resilience among those who participate in it. While Transition US is primarily focused on the former, it is clear that we need both. Joanna Macy talks and writes about three types of actions that are necessary to bring about The Great Turning to a life-sustaining society: 1. "holding actions in defense of life on earth," 2. "analysis of structural causes and creation of alternative institutions," and 3. "shift in perceptions of reality, both cognitively and spiritually." In this schema, resistance is number one, outer Transition (or resilience-building) is number two, and Inner Transition is number three. Again, we need all of them if we are to have a chance of turning this current global crisis into an opportunity for the continued evolution of the human race.

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Bios -

Don Hall currently serves as Co-Director of Transition US, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that provides inspiration, encouragement, support, networking, and training for more 160 grassroots Transition Initiatives nationwide. For those who aren't already familiar with Transition, it is an international movement focused on cultivating more just, sustainable, and conscious local communities from the bottom up by growing local food systems, strengthening local economies, and reducing dependence on fossil fuels. Previously, Don founded and directed Transition Sarasota from 2010 to 2016, organizing hundreds of educational events and spearheading a Local Food Shift campaign that included an annual Eat Local Week, an Eat Local Resource Guide and Directory, and a Suncoast Gleaning Project that harvested nearly 250,000 pounds of organic produce for those in need. A certified Transition Trainer and experienced facilitator, Don also holds a Master's degree in Environmental Leadership from Naropa University. [don at transitionus.org]

As Principal of willi paul studio / planetshifter.com, Willi partners with companies and individuals to provide custom contract media services including articles, interviews, edu-videos, roundtables and eWorkshops. He co-develops and expands each clients' creative vision and excels in delivering content in a captivating and authentic way. His target clients are Start-Ups, B-Corps, Incubators and Non-Profit Organizations.

Planetshifter.com is an online community resource, diverse database and outreach network that launched on Earth Day 2009. Planetshifter.com provides a deep database and wealth of information that includes 225 thought leader interviews with leading mythologists, permaculturists and artists, 1700 articles, 20 workshops, 107 New Myths, 39 eBooks and 176 edu-videos. As a globally-connected writer and activist in the Sustainability, Permaculture, Transition, SpiritNature, and New Mythology sectors, Mr. Paul is a visionary for the new global mythologist. Please find him on YouTube, academia.edu, Facebook, LinkedIn and DepthPsychologyAlliance.com [willipaul1 at gmail.com].