Bronwyn Slater finds out what the Transition Kinsale group have been up to.
The Transition movement began in Kinsale, Co. Cork in 2005 when Rob Hopkins, a teacher at Kinsale College of Further Education, wrote the ‘Kinsale Energy Descent Action Plan’ – an exploration of the ways in which the community in Kinsale could prepare for the challenges of peak oil. Hopkins later travelled to the UK and formed Transition Totnes, and from there numerous transition groups sprang up around the world.
The Transition Town Kinsale group was started by Louise Rooney who took the Energy Descent Action Plan and developed it as a community project. She persuaded the local council to adopt the plan, and with their help a community garden was established and funding was made available for advertising which helped spread the word about this new movement. The group is focused on the following 5 main areas: Food, Energy, Education, Transport and Health.
“Our food projects have been the most successful“, says Klaus Harvey, the current co-ordinator of the group. I caught up with Klaus in Kinsale recently for a cup of tea and a chat in this most picturesque and charming of Irish towns. The group runs a community garden and they hold workshops and open days where people are shown how to grow their own produce such as fruit trees and vegetables. They also plant edible walkways where herbs and fruits are available for people to pick and eat as they please, and they operate a ‘roving gardens’ initiative whereby volunteers go directly to people’s homes and help them plant a garden to grow their own produce.
In 2007 the group launched a ‘50 mile meal’ award. Meals must be composed entirely of produce grown within a 50 mile radius of the town, and restaurants and other food outlets can take part in the scheme and there is an award for the winner.
They are also involved in a community supported agriculture (CSA) scheme where they link with local farmers who supply their produce directly. Consumers pay a portion of their yearly vegetable cost up front. This money goes directly towards buying seeds and equipment and is aimed at creating sustainable livelihoods for local producers. This system of direct marketing means the members of the scheme receive their food at a very reasonable and fair price as the supermarkets and shops (ie. the middle-men) are removed.
Their energy projects have also been successful, and each year they mark Earth Hour with a candlelit parade through the town. Their Energy Awareness Program encourages people to reduce the amount of electricity and heating they use. People are encouraged to insulate their homes, turn off appliances and install solar panels. These measures help save money on bills and are also good for the environment and sustainability.
Volunteers from the group also operate an Education for Sustainability project. They go into schools and teach the children how to grow their own fruit and vegetables. “The kids love it and the schools themselves are very welcoming of the initiative”, says Klaus.
In an attempt to reduce the use of cars and promote cycling the group has installed cycle paths and created pedestrian streets in the town.
They also run a Spring Fair and an Autumn Food Fest – both of which include workshops, talks, a local food cafe and information on growing your own fruit and vegetables. People bring their own homemade preserves and chutneys as well as juices made from locally grown fruit. There is a great feeling of community at these events. The group also conducts talks, nature walks, foraging and workshops on making your own homemade shampoos and toothpastes, etc.
Klaus’s advice for anyone wishing to start a transition group in their own locality is to put up signs in places like health shops, and to do some awareness-raising events such as film screenings and talks. “You really need a committed core group of people when you start off”, he says. It is important to try to spread the work of organising among a number of people so that one person is not doing all the work.
Klaus also points out that not enough people in Ireland seem to be aware of the dangers posed by peak oil and of the need to build community, sustainability and local resilience. “Other EU countries like Germany and Denmark are way ahead of us in this regard and the governments in these countries are giving their backing to local movements toward self-sufficiency”, he says.
“The feeling of self-sufficiency is a powerful one”, says Klaus, as he describes the first time he ate some porridge made from oats that were locally grown and hulled. He is more than happy to give advice to anyone interested in starting their own transition group. You can contact him via the website: www.transitiontownkinsale.org
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