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The Forum > Article Comments > Transition Towns: Contested Spaces and the Debate between the 'Local' and the 'Global' > Comments

Transition Towns: Contested Spaces and the Debate between the 'Local' and the 'Global' : Comments

By Chris James, published 10/7/2009

Transition towns offer a solution to climate change and peak oil, but they also bring conceptual difficulties

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Okay, whether you believe in climate change or not - and, sorry but the scientific orthodxy on this is now melting away - the author could at least have said what she means by "transition towns". I couldn't find a proper definition or example in the article.
As for the author's assertion that we are moving towards "non-politicised discourse", I would disagree with that - a lot of recent discourse seems highly politicised to me - but what does the author mean by this? What is non-politicised discourse? While Ms James is on the subject perhaps she could explain why she is asserting that this form of discourse is on the rise.
If we want to cut emissions in urban living the solution is well known. We have to crowd into apartment buildings all close enough together so that we can all be effectively serviced by public transport.
A resident of New York consumes far less energy than someone who lives in small towns in the North Eastern corner of the US.
I don't think this is what the author had in mind, but it would be nice to know what she did have in mind.
Posted by Curmudgeon, Friday, 10 July 2009 2:44:36 PM
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Curmudgeon "If we want to cut emissions in urban living the solution is well known. We have to crowd into apartment buildings all close enough together so that we can all be effectively serviced by public transport."

I don't have the source for the material I saw but I recently read material recently claiming that on it's own that's not the case.

There is similar in http://www.fbe.unsw.edu.au/CityFutures/publications/researchpapers/researchpaper7.pdf (but I've not read the article). From page 19

"While not specifically focusing on dwelling type per
se, research by Foran (2006)14 has show household greenhouse emissions in Canberra and Perth, based upon an assessment of total household energy consumption, is higher in inner city locations compared with suburban locations. This analysis includes both consumed energy for power and transport, but also embodied energy consumption in consumables and the buildings. Foranís analysis suggests strongly that urban density is positively related to total greenhouse gas
emissions,"
The claim was that inner city dwellers tended to have higher energy/emission profiles than those in the burbs. Public transport was just a part of the equation, inner city dwellers tended to be more reliant on air conditioning, artificial lighting, lifts etc. They also tended to fly more for holidays and their recreational persuits tended to be more energy intensive than those enjoyed by those in the suburbs.

R0bert
Posted by R0bert, Friday, 10 July 2009 3:29:41 PM
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RObert - a useful point. Makes more sense than the article. Now I was under the distinct impression that US calculations showed that much less energy was used per capital in NY than in the state's towns but, now that I think of it, heating rather than cooling is the main problem in NY, as opposed to here. However, also we are talking different socio-economic classes and about quite different living densities.. in inner cities in Australia people would still use their cars for most things, and still be in terraces with perhaps a few blocks of flats.. Inner-city NY densities are two or three steps up. But a point worth noting for future research.
Posted by Curmudgeon, Friday, 10 July 2009 3:57:31 PM
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The transition town movement is relatively new and for that reason many people are still thinking through what it may mean in practice. The reason I am attracted to the concept is largely because of a relatively little know experiment that has been going on in Mandragon since 1948. Very similar to transition town ideology the local priest decided to set something up that would give the youth of the Spanish town comntrol over their own financial destiny. The movement has grown and it is generally regarded as an example of how market socialism can be made to work successfully. The community is resilient in much the same way as any sound business protects its interests. If your business stands or falls if you lose one or two big accounts then you are not resilient similarly with transition towns, their resilience depends on their capacity to withstand change, be they caused by shortage of oil or by the climate. Given that these movements started in England they are designed for English conditions; what transition towns will look like in Australia remains to be seen
Posted by BAYGON, Friday, 10 July 2009 6:33:52 PM
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Guys, the ecocity builders have calculated that the RIGHT kind of eco-city can cut energy use in urban areas to 10% of that of normal suburban and city life. What you are forgetting is all the embodied energy in the roads, plumbing, drains, pipes, transmission wires, cableTV & internet, phone towers, and all the extra stuff and energy that goes with servicing all that spread over hundreds of km's of suburban sprawl instead of condensed into walking distance communities.

http://www.ecocitybuilders.org/

If you can create a world that uses, say, 80% less car trips, imagine the energy saved by 80% less cars to build?

My sister-in-law has a Phd in this stuff, and helped design Christie Walk in Adelaide.

Also, see the Village Town concept that is going to be built south of Sydney. This lecture is a 30 minute lecture cut to 15 minutes and delivered to University of NSW. Enjoy! (It was at TEDx Sydney recently).
http://villageforum.com/
Posted by Eclipse Now, Friday, 10 July 2009 9:41:04 PM
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Along with Curmudgeon, I remain confused about the actual premise of a "transition town".

With increasing impatience I also skimmed first through this jargon-infested piece for a definition and then went back and read again more slowly, but am still unclear.

Why is the word transition the definiting adjective for the concept. Is it a political movement? A socio-economic schema? A concrete concept or an abstract one?

Anyone able to bring some clarity to this for the uninitiated?

And, Robert, - yeah I have also read material supporting the theory of which you speak, but am damned if I can remember where. I tend to think also, that someone provided a link to a similar article in one of these threads. Can anyone corroborate this?
Posted by Romany, Sunday, 12 July 2009 9:48:16 AM
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