“Hands on Resilience : Interview with Russell Evans, Director of Transition Lab” by Willi Paul, Planetshifter.com Magazine
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Transition Lab has developed viable alternatives to the 40-hour-a-week job that enable the underemployed to get to work doing what they love. First, we connect inspired and creative young people with hosts who are willing to put their empty guest bedrooms to use so their guests can do good work in their community. At the same time, we offer students a curriculum that covers everything from growing their own food to creating affordable housing, participating effectively in our democracy, starting their own business and bringing to life their deepest calling on this planet.
Empowered with a comprehensive skill set to build a resilient future, and with the ability to meet their basic needs in just 15 hours of work a week, our graduates become “Skilled Residents.”
Think about how radical this is: If you get all your basic needs taken care of in 15 hours a week by doing things that you would do in your free time anyway--things like running a community garden or becoming a green builder--you suddenly gain the freedom to do whatever you want with the rest of your week! One Skilled Resident paid off thousands of dollars in debt in just a few months, while another has reduced his life expenses to $50 a week and is putting his free time into starting a new business. Becoming a Skilled Resident gives you the freedom to do what you really want your life, while also making the world a better place at the same time.
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Interview with Russell by Willi
What is your definition of transition?
I have always thought of "Transition" as an organic term that refers to nature constantly adjusting and evolving to co-create a world that we can all thrive in. At Transition Lab, we are excited about the possibility of building a resilient future and part of that is trying new things out. That's where the "Lab" comes into our name- because we know that we'll have to experiment a lot if we are going to be successful.
How do you balance the spirit vs. technology mandates at the Lab?
Do I pray and interact with Spirit every day? Yep. Do I use computers? Yep. That's just part of living in this age I guess.
How is the lab marketing its programs and vision?
Being part of Transition Lab is about being a storyteller that articulates a very different vision of the future. So many people have very apocalyptic views of what lies ahead because of the combination of traumatizing news and a scarcity of visible solutions. We have had the most success marketing our vision by simply living it and sharing our experiences in every way we can- whether we are talking on the phone to a friend, or a putting together a video. We tried to use paid advertising last year which failed spectacularly because it couldn't express the heart qualities of our program. Conversely, the folks that we've been able to sit down and drink tea with have been our best participants.
Define localization and share some examples in your work that address this critical Transition theme?
I think that Localization is really about having control over our lives. Gandhi had a term "Swaraj" which meant making the choice to live justly in all aspects of your life. This includes your job, your community, and yourself. When we look at globalization, it becomes impossible to have any say or control over many of our choices because the systems that are in place where never designed to give us power. Many were even designed to take away our voice. What localization does is to focus our energy into places that really matter- where we really have a voice and opportunity to be creative and responsible people. Good food comes out of that, as do good business practices, good governance, and good communities.
Who are the enemies of fixing climate change?
The only enemy of fixing climate change is old thinking that believes we will be able to solve it through using existing economic models. It's not that I don't believe in using tools like a carbon tax that would fit into our economic system. It's rather a question of creating economic models that can support people as citizens and not just as consumers. When this happens there will be thousands of people ready to engage as global citizens to demand the changes we need to see.
Another way of saying this is that there is no shortage of people who want our government to do something about climate change. But we are limited because those folks have mortgage payments and jobs that prevent them from taking the time to participate as citizens. In addition to not having the time to participate, most folks who do have the time have never trained in what it takes to be affective citizens.
Transition Lab was created by a unique set of folks who found ways pay the bills AND to engage as citizens. One of our teachers, Jim Branscome, taught at the Highlander Folks School in the 1950's, which trained Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr. and many others key civil rights figures in civic engagement. More recently, Jake Hanson and Ashley Sanders have been on the forefront of the Peaceful Uprising, Occupy, and Move to Amend movements. These people have also managed to pay the bills and created prosperity in their lives.
So we are have brought together models that can economically support folks to become active citizens, while also giving them training in how to be the best active citizens that they can be. As long as people show up and participate, I think we can create the kind of movement that we need.
What kind of values and experience are you looking for in Skilled Residents?
More than anything, we are looking for people who have realized that things are not going to work out if humanity maintains its current trajectory. At the same time, our students need to possess a radical self-respect that drives them to continue working for a more beautiful, just, and fun world that we know is possible. It's so easy to become apathetic, depressed, or cynical about the world. It's much harder to have the courage to think that we have a chance- but we also know that having the courage to move forward is a lot more fun.
What zone is most important for the Transition: the home or the neighborhood?
I don't think any zone is more important than any other. From every place - whether that is the self, home, or neighborhood, we need to act in creative and compassionate ways. We also need to build the models which will support this behavior. Like nature, it's all inter-related and we are just seeking to observe and interact in the ways that best serve us and others.
Please view and react: "Transition Visions from Parking Lots" : Premiere Video, The Sharing & ReSkilling Show
I'm always inspired to see folks trying things out. I think that's the key to the future- that we don't necessarily try to do everything at once, but focus on our own communities and the solutions we see there. In a sense I think every community does what it sees best for itself. What will need to unfold organically is for communities to radically alter their approach of what they believe is possible. I think that the Transition Visions for Parking Lots is a step in that direction.
How is the lab promoting new songs, poems and myths?
The storytellers of the digital age gather around Youtube instead of the campfire. So we're making videos all the time- each time refining our narrative a little more. Here's the latest. We are also sending out a monthly newsletter each month with all the fun stuff we are up to. Folks can subscribe to that here. Enjoy.
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Russell’s Bio –
Russell began teaching as Program Coordinator at Intercambio in Boulder, CO. He later taught high school Spanish for 6 years and earned a Master's Degree from Naropa University in Contemplative Education. He wrote his master’s thesis on Loving Kindness Meditation and how it could help relieve trauma in high-school students. This work was subsequently published in Shambhala Sun Space. He has also been recognized by various organizations including 350.org and The Huffington Post for his ideas and activism. He is the director of Transition Lab -- and when he is not teaching, gardening, or making ice cream, he spends time with his wife Heather, and their daughter Genevieve.
Russell Evans- Director
russell at transition-lab.com