A couple of weeks ago I had a really rough cold. And what do we do when we’re at home with a cold? Well, chicken noodle soup and the Price is Right of course! After a few bowls of tasty broth and Drew Carey (fond memories of Bob Barker), I moved on to the Netflix documentary section and proceeded to sneeze and cough my way through several very interesting documentaries, namely on the topic of the North American food system and dieting (Food Inc., Vegucated), Peak Oil (There’s No Tomorrow, Collapse) and future water shortages (Blue Gold, Last Call at the Oasis).
Needless to say that after watching a bunch of documentaries on the apparently dismal future of the planet (well according to experts in white lab coats of course) I curled up into an even smaller ball in my kleenex-covered bed and stressed out real hard. “I’m just one person and there’s so many problems in the world, what am I supposed to do? What if my grand-kids don’t have easy access to clean water? Or never get to ride in an airplane? Why do I have so much stuff and millions of others in the world have nothing? What happens when we run out of oil?… you know the stuff that runs health care, air travel, agriculture, the textile industry…well pretty much everything you can think of one way or another…?”
I suppose we’re just banking on those same scientists inventing some magical solution to remove the pollutants we put in the air, wind and solar energy will pick up the slack of the some bazillion barrels of oil we use every year, and Mother Theresas around the world will solve that stinkin’ hunger issue. Life continues on as normal, no worries here.
Well anyway, there’s my self-crisis of the day. Now I want to talk about one promising idea that has been growing in popularity across the world, one that will most likely play big part in the necessary change to house and feed the estimated 10 billion people that will be here in mere decades: co-housing and transition towns.
Here in North America, we are living more and more in a mini-mansion, fend for yourself suburban environment. The notion of community and knowing your neighbors is becoming less and less the norm. Kids are lonelier with busier working parents as they attempt to replace real-life relationships with computer screen facebook friends and online support. We visited friends in a suburb who’d lived there for quite a while and I asked them if they have nice neighbors, and they replied “umm well, we really don’t know them.”
This brings me to Co-housing and Transition Towns. Co-housing started in Denmark (where studies have concluded it is the happiest country in the world). Essentially it is a mini community where you have your own small house or apartment, but it is attached to maybe 20 to 50 other residences which share common garden, kitchen and living spaces.
Kids have extremely strong support since they essentially have 20 sets of parents who will listen to them and guide them, 20 sets of grandparents and plenty of other children to play and grow with. Kids are expected to help cook and clean together, and groups put on regular classes and activities to help foster strong connections between everyone.
Transition towns, also known as the transition network or transition movement, is ‘a grassroots network of communities that is working to build resilience in response to peak oil, climate destruction, and economic instability’ (thanks Wikipedia, as usual).
They see the future without cheap oil not as dismal or bleak, but as far better, healthier and happier than our present situation. There is a strong focus on sustainability, community, permaculture, local food and businesses, and energy efficiency. These transition towns started in Totnes, England but have since spread to all over the world. I’ve heard there are a few in British Columbia which I hope to visit in the near future.
Both concepts are a huge breath of fresh air (literally) and it is a wonderful thought that we may soon move away from our extremely busy and consumer-driven lifestyles to a simpler, healthier and happier world.
Links to check out: