Update: Transition Sonoma Valley

Posted on January 21, 2013 by Sonoma Valley Sun

(Ed Clay | For The Sonoma Valley Sun). Transition Sonoma Valley (TSV) is building a responsive network of local citizens, groups and businesses to create a resilient, self-reliant community in response to the challenges of climate change, peak oil, and economic instability. We have been active in the Valley for nearly three years, working to ease our transition to a post-carbon economy.

This inevitable change in the structure of the world economy has begun already, as evidenced by the increasingly severe environmental costs and decreasing return-on-investment of petroleum extraction. The planetary atmospheric concentration of CO2, driven by the burning of fossil fuels, has increased well above the safe upper limit recommended by leading climate scientists. This increased concentration of CO2 is the cause of the greenhouse effect referred to as global warming.

The grand question is whether the human species can act in its own enlightened self-interest to avert the catastrophic consequences of our collective behavior. The premise of the transition model is that we can, and that the most effective way to do so is at the local community level. What brings us together is the belief that: if we wait for the governments, it’ll be too little, too late; if we act as individuals, it’ll be too little, but if we act as communities, it might just be enough, just in time.

TSV is one of more than 1,000 communities in over 34 countries with “Transition Town” initiatives. The core goals of the Transition Model are to foster resilient, self-reliant communities. Resilient communities are more prepared and able to respond to the radical changes that a scarcity of fossil fuel will cause. Self-reliant communities will depend on sourcing a greater share of life’s necessities (food, energy, water, hard goods) regionally rather than internationally. Simply put, we will be unable to afford to import apples from New Zealand and clothing from China.

The urgency of these challenges presents a great opportunity. What if, for instance, neighbors, block by block, got together to implement ways to reduce their own carbon footprint? Or found ways to share and exchange their gardens’ bounty?

Our efforts to date have focused largely on coalition building, outreach, and education. Our major public presence has been our Third Thursday series of monthly films and discussions. Since our first film, “Transition 1.0,” in October of 2010, we have presented over 40 programs to more than 2,300 people. With one exception, these events were all offered free of charge.

In February 2011, Richard Heinberg, of the Post Carbon Institute introduced his just-published book, “The End of Growth” at Burlingame Hall. In September, 2011, we hosted the “Low Carbon Diet Workshop (how to lose 5,000 lbs. in four weeks),” a personal climate action plan. The powerful film “HOME” drew over 900 to the Sebastiani Theatre over three showings in December and January.

Two programs stand out from 2012. In September, Marc Armstrong, of the Public Banking Institute, made a strong case for the benefits of public banking. In November, Ray Gallian and Jerome Chambless of the Sonoma Biochar Initiative led a fascinating discussion explaining biochar, carbon sequestration, and soil biology. And finally, we closed the year with a “Meet the Farmers,” solstice potluck at which we honored Paul Wirtz of Paul’s Produce for his 25 years of farming in Sonoma Valley. Our next public event will be on February 25 at the Sebastiani Theater where we’ll screen the compelling documentary “Chasing Ice.”

With the fiscal support of the Sonoma Ecology Center, under whose 501(c)(3) we qualify as a non-profit, we’re applying for grants to allow us to expand our activities in 2013. This year we plan to take on more specific projects that will directly help reduce the carbon footprint of Sonoma Valley. We hope to expand the nascent but very promising Operation Bicycle – Repair To Ride program begun at the Sonoma Valley Teen Center. This program teaches young people how to repair donated and discarded bicycles and participants can earn bicycle ownership through their labor.

Because good food is so important here in Sonoma Valley, the resilience of our agricultural economy is a top concern. We have learned from local farmers that having a shared central location to sell their produce to the public everyday of the week would be key to their continued viability. We look forward to working with them to create such a venue. The list of possible projects, small and large, is long.

We continue to be inspired and rewarded working with a growing, hard-working, fun-loving, visionary, diverse, and thriving community and all the dedicated organizations with whom we have partnered. The Sonoma Ecology Center, the Grange, the Community Center, Green Drinks, Wild Willow Design, the City of Sonoma and more. If you would like to join and support us in this urgent and exciting endeavor, visit or Facebook page.

Ed Clay is the chair of Transition Sonoma Valley.

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