It’s taken me a long time to get around to starting this blog, which I hope will enable me to think a bit more carefully about certain issues, and to share my thoughts about them with more people than I usually do, in the hope of getting some helpful dialogue going. The issues I’m interested in are those connected with bringing about a transition from our current ecocidal addiction to fossil fuels – and, in particular, oil – to a lifestyle which is genuinely sustainable and which reconnects us to the natural ecosystems of which we are a part. To do this a small group of us have started Transition South Lantau (TSL), which follows the guidelines established by Rob Hopkins’s Transition Movement in the UK (see http://www.transitionculture.org ). As South Lantau is part of Hong Kong my focus is naturally going to be on what we can do here in our local communities. However, we can obviously learn a lot from other groups and individuals from around the world.
When we first started TSL about three years ago we tried to raise awareness about Peak Oil (PO), and so we showed films such as End of Suburbia, Crude Awakening and The Power of Community. I thought people would be astonished at the imminence of such a major crisis as PO, and would be eager ‘to take up arms against a sea of troubles’, but instead it was more a case of a shrug of the shoulders and ‘what else can you show me?’ Nevertheless we persevered with that for a while, but turned our attention more to what we could do as a community to deal with the problem of food. Being in a rural part of Hong Kong (HK) where a number of people have gardens, or could get one, we concentrated on encouraging organic farming and gardening. We organised workshops on growing organic vegetables and fruit at Kadoorie Farm; we had a compost workshop; we showed how to make a square foot garden; we showed how to create a wormery; we did a seed swap day; and we’ve linked up with three excellent local environmental businesses to do some tree planting (Paul Melsom’s Eagle Owl); to learn about the principles of permaculture (Jenny Quinton’s Ark Eden); and to see a system of micro-gardening for rooftops in action (David Sanders and Bing Law’s Green Patch). We’ve also visited local organic farmers to learn from them and we’ve started a very small-scale Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) scheme with Mabel Kwong, who is setting a fine example for all farmers in the area, being the only one selling produce who is fully organic and who is one of the few to increase the size of her farm while most people seem to be only too keen to completely abandon agriculture. At the moment there are only two families in the CSA scheme, but we hope to expand that once the growing season starts again in September.
We’ve also had a talk on Food Miles and Sustainable Consumption in HK by PhD student Peggy Yang; a visit to local families who have installed solar water heaters to see how successful they have been; and a beer-tasting evening at Mui Wo’s very own, excellent local micro-brewery the Typhoon Brewery. We also organised an event on 350’s International Day of Action last October when we stopped the traffic outside M&S in Central for 350 seconds while we paraded around with our 350 logos on view. This was filmed and uploaded onto YouTube. Our next activity will be a Swap Party in which we’re asking people to bring along quality goods that they don’t want which can be swapped for goods brought along by someone else. It’s a small step towards encouraging people to withdraw from the manic consumerism that’s at the root of the destruction we’re wreaking upon the world around us. (See swap_party_poster )
These activities have been supported by numbers ranging from about 5 or 6 up to a maximum of maybe 25. But it’s as if all the activities have been disconnected from one another, with no sense of continuity, and no group ‘feel’ about any of them. It’s probably true to say that TSL is not much more than a list of email addresses. We have no official status, and I can’t think of more than two or three people (myself included) who would say they are part of the TSL group. I know of only one other person who has read The Transition Handbook from cover to cover, and who feels inspired by it. So, what to do? I tried to get other people interested in creating a community garden, but people lived too far away, so I’ve carried on working the plot by myself. We invited people to a session in which we were to try to envision a future for our village, Mui Wo, in 20 years’ time, taking into consideration the twin threats of Global Warming (GW) and Peak Oil. I wanted to use Open Space Technology, but as only five people turned up we just sat and discussed the issues together. A very interesting and fruitful discussion, but we needed five times as many people, and we wanted people to pick up an idea and run with it (‘OK, I’ll look into renewable energy and the chance of getting discounts from local companies….I’ll look into transport/education/local building materials like bamboo,etc.’). Like everything else, nothing came of it. I wonder if anything has come of anything we’ve done. Has anyone started a garden, planted fruit trees, built a compost heap or a wormery, bought a solar water heater, built a square foot garden, worked out their carbon footprint and actively reduced their emissions? I don’t know, as I get no feedback about these things and I’ve made no effort to systematically find out and record the information. Perhaps that’s the next thing to be done.
Whatever, just writing about it has made me feel a bit more optimistic. I often wonder if I’m making a total mess of everything, or if, as Naresh Giangrande and Sophy Banks of Transition Totnes said when they came to HK to run a training session last year (to which our group were not invited by the organisers), some places are simply not ready for Transition. Even so, Transition looks to me to be by far the best way to tackle GW and PO, and it’s simply not possible to turn your back on these issues and walk away. I’ve got two young children, and they are the primary reason I started TSL in the first place. Knowing the sort of world that seems to be in store for them if we carry on with business as usual, how could I not do everything in my power to try to avert such a future? “After such knowledge, what forgiveness?” (T S Eliot).