The Transition Towns Model is coming to Truro.
The world has reached, or will soon reach, ‘peak oil’ – the point at which demand for oil exceeds supply. From that point on it is estimated that we can expect a 2% decline in energy supply per annum, whilst demand continues to grow. Our whole economy and life-style is based on fossil fuels, particularly oil, which, as well as supplying energy, is involved in the manufacture of many synthetic materials, most notably plastic. If oil were suddenly to disappear our economies would collapse, our transport infrastructure would grind to a halt, we’d have very limited electricity supply and we’d quickly run out of food. However, if we plan for the inevitable demise of oil in a holistic and imaginative way our quality of life could, in fact, improve.
Another consideration is carbon emissions – on burning, oil releases a great deal of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and, as most people now accept, this is contributing to potentially devastating changes in global climate.
Energy Descent Plan
In response to this situation, a group of students in Kinsale, Ireland, with the support of their course co-ordinator, Prof Rob Hopkins, put together a plan, taking into account every aspect of modern life in the town – housing, energy use, food, transport, economy etc. Starting with analysis of the present situation and then looking at the ideal situation about 15 years hence, when energy use will be drastically reduced without compromising well-being, either economic or personal, they devised a plan with annual targets, involving the whole population. It provides a roadmap to sustainability, localisation and continued prosperity, which can be readily modified to provide a plan for other towns.
This process is well underway in Kinsale. Rob Hopkins has now moved to Totnes in Devon and introduced the plan there. Subsequently, last year, both Falmouth and Penwith have started to put their plans into operation.
In the latter areas they have started by holding public meetings with speakers, for example, Richard Heinberg – a peak oil expert, or with film showings for example ’The Power of Community’ – an inspiring film about how Cuba not only survived the end of cheap Soviet oil supplies, but has now significantly improved living and health standards. These events have been very well attended and included brainstorming sessions about how, for example, Cuba’s experience could help Penwith’s energy descent plan.
Truro has many similarities with Kinsale – it enjoys relative prosperity and it is growing steadily, being a popular place to which to move. It is however, bigger than Kinsale and, whereas Kinsale is consider a ‘satellite‘ town to Cork, Truro is an employment hub. As at Kinsale, development has been happening with insufficient regard for sustainability.
We believe Truro to be an ideal location to formulate and adopt a plan:-
- it is a market town with a distinct identity, which many are keen for it to retain in an age when homogeny is becoming the norm;
- it has been earmarked for huge expansion which presents great challenges but could be an opportunity to ensure that all new homes are built to eco-home standard (or a similar stringent code) which encompasses not only energy use but, also, waste, ecology, transport, local employment/business etc;
- it is set in a beautiful area of great biodiversity which needs to be protected from unsympathetic development;
- to an extent, it lacks community spirit, having become the economic capital of Cornwall, with more people coming into the city to work, shop or do business daily than actually live here. Local, traditional meeting places are disappearing, pubs are being ‘trendified’ and there is no Community Centre in the city itself.
Truro does, however,
- support three local produce markets a week, supported by the City Council;
- have frequent local craft and produce fairs;
- retains many small local retailers, including two covered markets;
- has proved that a partnership is possible between the local council and other groups and individuals to achieve goals – for example, Fairtrade Truro;
- has a low crime rate and has visible, but non-threatening community police presence;
- is part of various initiatives for local Cornish products, for example, ‘Made in Cornwall’;
- has a annual summer carnival and a winter festival, including the ‘City of Lights’;
- on the larger estates on the city edge there are many initiatives backed by Carrick DC.
In order to start the process it will be necessary to have a core of committed people. Hopefully, over time with publicity and public meetings with speakers experienced on the subject, this group will increase. Citizen participation is at the heart of this project. Clearly it is essential to have the decision makers on board and this will involve many statutory agencies – local government, housing, health, education to name but a few. Given the multi-faceted nature of the project, sub-groups could be formed to deal with various aspects, for example a food group. These groups may already exist in some form and their expertise could be built upon for the project. Networking with existing organisations is a fundamental part of the process. Community Energy Plus fully support transition and climate friendly communities, and may be able to allocate a few hours of administrative/clerical time per week to each project.
This initiative fits in well with the Local Government White Paper, which aims to give local people and communities more influence and looks at a broad range of interlinking issues. It could be part of a Sustainable Community Strategy and a Local Area Agreement. It also dovetails extremely well with Parish Plans. It is a means of tackling social exclusion. The Truro and Threemilestone Action Plan makes many specific references to sustainability and energy efficiency. Incorporating the transition culture would help to make these a reality. Experience in other areas suggests that there may be spin offs, for example eco-schools, food co-ops and sustainable tourism.
For further information on transition towns go to:
www.stendellion.com – Cornwall’s first climate friendly village and one of the first in the UK
www.randallsimmonds.co.uk/ecohomes.htm – a company with a Truro office which operates a comprehensive eco-homes standard and assessment
If you are interested in joining us please phone 01872 241865 or email firstname.lastname@example.org