Energy Descent Action Plans – Idea Round-Up from Jackie Bonomo

Jackie Bonomo – Edible Plants Manager at Tait Farms & TTSC Steering Committee Secretary – put together some EDAP ideas, many compiled from Eat the Suburbs‘ primer on Energy Descent Action Plans. Readers interested in taking some next steps toward the State College EDAP are encouraged to click over to the “Jump In” page for ways to get involved:

The Transition movement aims for rejecting individualist survivalism in favor of community resilience. The role of a Transition initiative is to guide a community safely to the other side of the coming energy crisis. Transition asks, “Can we use this opportunity to re-imagine the way we live? How can we plan for a future with less energy?”

Community Energy Audits and Community Food Assessments help a community get a baseline assessment against which to look at goal accomplishments

Community Food Assessments look at food mapping, researching wind flows, solar radiation, incomes, local skills, current energy mix and vulnerability, existing groups and their potential to aid organization, to prepare the community to build more on the ground projects and strengthen community trust, through finding fun ways of building skills and investing in the future.

An essential factor in whether or not we can have a relatively successful preparation and adaptation to Peak Oil, will be whether or not the community has a sense of excitement and agency in the process. How do we facilitate this exactly? Some ideas: awards and prizes, continuing consultations, newsletters, inter-community activities such as permaculture backyard blitzes.

Rob Hopkins, author of Transition Handbook, has been asked “How might a Transition group know when it is ready to undertake [an EDAP]?” He said it’s hard to come up with hard and fast quantifiable criteria such as “when over 10% of people in the community have attended a Transition event” (the Totnes survey showed about 25%), “when over 50%, when surveyed state that the work your Transition initiative is doing is relevant to their lives” (in Totnes it was 61%), or “when over 50% have heard of your initiative” (in Totnes it was 75%). These criteria would be different for every settlement, although clearly some significant degree of community buy-in and support will be vital.

Undertaking an EDAP does, however, require certain foundations to be in place, including:

  • a dedicated group of people for whom creating an EDAP is what fires their passion, is the thing they most want to bring about for the Transition initiative;
  • good links with as many other organisations in the community as possible (i.e. the local council, schools, other environmental groups, community groups and so on), so the plan can represent their views as much as possible, and get them engaged in its creation;
  • some dedicated resource for the project, it is an impossible project to pull of with no budget whatsoever (you’ll need to run events, hire rooms and halls, produce materials and so on…);
  • strong Transition working groups who can drive forward, collaboratively, their parts of the Plan;
  • a good level of awareness-raising to have been done, so that an EDAP process isn’t constantly having to start from square one every time
  • space in the Transition initiative’s program of events for EDAP to become a theme that runs through it
  • good web facilities to enable discussion of ideas, collaborative editing of drafts, promotion of events.

What scale? The best scale on which to do Transition is the scale over which you feel you can have an influence. That could just be your street, your block of housing, your school or village, or on a much larger scale.

Thinking like a Designer – For me, permaculture is like glue, a ‘design glue’ if you like, which is used to stick together all the elements that will make up a truly sustainable and resilient culture. If you think of the ingredients that such a culture will depend on, such as local food production, energy generation, skilful management of water, meaningful employment as well as many other elements, what permaculture brings is the ability to assemble those things in the most skilful and beneficial way possible. It has also been described by someone else far more succinct than me as “the art of maximising beneficial relationships”. I rather like that.

Other important things to do: create meaningful maps, the idea being to create an imaginative way of documenting what is already happening. It “helps people to see they are not working on their own.” Transition Hereford and New Leaf decided they wanted to create a physical map on which they would invite individuals and organizations to register existing initiatives as well as their future commitments. People are invited to put stickers on it showing what they are doing, what else is happening where they live, and their visions for the future. Publicly displayed in several places, it has been a great success. Google Map of ‘Transition in LA‘ maps individual participants, initiatives, and projects across the city as a public map open to all, offering a very accessible way in for newcomers to the initiative. Others use Google Maps in connection to local food. For example, Transition Hackney’s ‘Hackney Harvest’ project and Sustainable Harringey’sUrban Harvest’ projects both use Google Maps to map street fruit trees in the area.

Ooooby (“Out of our own back yard”), a local food project in Auckland, evolved this idea further, with an online map underpinning a self-organising gathering of fallen fruit. The instructions are simple: look at the map, “form a posse” of fruitpickers, go out and harvest, and then one-third of what you pick goes to the owners, one-third to the pickers, and one third goes to Ooooby for distribution in their ‘Ooooby boxes’. One of the most cutting edge uses of maps is that being developed by Geofutures in Bath in association with Somerset Community Food. ‘Foodmapper’ is a website which invites the community to become community researchers, mapping all the land in the area currently being used by the community to grow food. It has huge potential as part of more detailed analyses of potential local food security.

Use maps, creatively and engagingly, to present ideas and information. They can be printed maps, GoogleMaps, 3D scale maps, models of the community in question, they could be quilted, embroidered, made from clay, drawn in chalk on the ground, projected onto the sides of buildings, or formed by the people at an event arranging themselves physically in the room. Maps can bring ideas to life, and enable people to see their part of the world in relation to others.

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