Mapping & Transition

Jackie Bonomo, TTSC Steering Committee Secretary, has turned up some good online information and resources about mapping, especially GIS tools, that can be used for strategic transition planning, especially for food security here in the State College area.

Among other things, she found Geofutures, a British company pioneering some of these tools.

Mark Thurstain-Goodwin writes:

We need to make a transition away from a global economy which is dependent on cheap fossil fuels, because we have reached the peak of their extraction. Indeed, we will make that transition whether we like it or not, because fuel prices will inexorably rise, putting oil and gas beyond our reach well before they run out altogether.

The only question is whether we can effectively plan for it now, understanding what we need to do to make our communities resilient against the changes to come. Alternatively, we’ll experience this transformation through utter chaos – topped up with the impacts of climate change.

Cue the Transition Network, a charity supporting grassroots groups in cities, towns and villages, researching how they can plan and implement their energy descent, calling on expertise from established campaigners, older generations, farmers, craftspeople and other experts to help re-localise some or all of their supply of food, fuel, medicines, building materials, textiles, skills and more.

It’s a strong personal interest for me, but it’s also a professional one. As anyone worth their GIS salt could tell you, this kind of planning is crying out for spatial analysis. We have populations, we have topography, climate and agricultural land types, we have transport networks. To understand what’s happening now and plan for energy descent in future, we need maps.

Here’s Thurstain-Goodwin’s summary of the response from Colin Tudge, director of LandShare CIC  and leader of the Campaign for Real Farming:

Colin’s thesis is that the food security issue is a simple matter of feeding the population as far as practical from local sources, recognising that some trade between specialist production areas will always be necessary. He argues that we simply need macronutrients (energy foods and protein), mainly in the shape of grains, and micronutrients – vitamins and minerals – and that by growing lots of wheat and encouraging more urban horticulture we can feed ourselves…

However, at the end of his commentary he includes a postscript in a different mood. “This and all the other questions raised in this essay could and should have been addressed decades ago, and would have been addressed by any government that was truly alert to world trends. There are many other questions, too – scientific, economic, sociological, moral, practical. Since the government is unlikely to act this side of food riots…people who give a damn need to ask the questions for ourselves.

I believe in these sentences Colin contradicts his own conclusion that research – even elaborate models – are unnecessary. The Transition movement has been successful because it responds positively to this fear. People who have never been engaged in environmental questions are getting involved and feeling empowered to help plan their communities’ futures.

And government (here I include many local authorities, which have embraced Transition planning in local strategic plans) is witnessing this community feeling and slowly starting to respond…

Penn State’s GIS Program.

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