Chris Bettles, 25, was is in Maple Ridge recently on a five-stop North American tour to spread awareness of the Transition Initiative, a planned movement to effect social-economic change that started in a small English town in 2004.
The Transition Movement numbers over 400 independent affiliates world-wide, including the Golden Ears Transition, founded by Gerry Pinel.
GETI, with 18 member groups, supports any community activity aimed at reducing dependence on oil, improving the quality of life, sustainability, and combating climate change.
Once a month, members meet to review activities and plan events like GETIfest, held in September.
Bettles and co-producer Zoe Moyden – active in transition in England – came to promote initiatives in B.C., Washington, Oregon, and California before returning home in August. Interviews with key individuals, and talks at round table meetings will be posted online next January in six 15-minute documentaries linked under the title The Secret of Change.
The project is funded by paychecks Bettles and Moyden saved.
“We wanted to learn how the movement was progressing over here,” says Bettles, “to hear your stories, what’s going well for you, what it’s done for your community, your successes, setbacks, how it’s evolved. The videos are one way to move awareness forward, to reach out to as many people as possible and broaden the movement.”
Any tape not included, explains Moyden, “interviews, conversations and unused parts of the CEED meeting, will be archived and available without cost to local groups for historical reference, lessons, workshops.
One of the key principles of transition is a commitment to social inclusiveness – the idea that everyone in society should be encouraged to develop and contribute their unique skills. It’s an idea embraced by the CEED Centre and once by public education in B.C., until government decided not to fund it.
In transition, inclusiveness has resurfaced.
“It’s better to reintegrate some people back into the community,” says Pinel, “than to throw them out to the wolves.”
Bettles, who was impressed with Village Vancouver’s focus on housing the homeless, agrees.
“Transition’s not a club, but a set of tools that can be used by everyone.”
In attendance at today’s typical Wednesday round table meeting – open to anyone at the CEED Centre are its manager, a local councilor, an artist in residence, three community volunteers, and Peter Tam, here to announce his candidacy for the Green Party.
Over the next two hours we’ll debate the widening gap between justice and the law, the lack of public empathy for the homeless on Cliff Avenue, and private versus public ownership of water in a time of unprecedented drought.
This is exactly what the film-makers are looking for – people from the ground up, debating community and global problems, brainstorming solutions to the rising cost of making and transporting goods, and putting minds and energy into efforts to create a new system that makes the old one obsolete.
At one point, Bettles is asked if the transition movement offers hope to Greece, as it debates whether to remain in the European Union.
“In time, you realize you need others. But, Cuba became one of the most self-reliant countries in the world when it was isolated by the U.S. Greece? Transition will soften that blow. It can be a huge benefit. You have to look at the long term.”
GETIfest this year takes place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sept. 19 in Memorial Peace Park.
“It’s a great idea to promote the aims of transition that I haven’t seen anywhere else,” says Bettles. “It’s about asking people what this community is really about.”
– Jack Emberly is a retired teacher, local author and environmentalist.