Group pushes for 'transition town' status

A group of Ashlanders will apply in the coming month to make Ashland a Transition Town, a step that will provide the framework for citizens to form groups to strategize for sustainability in energy, food, water, finance and other areas.

At the same time, Ashland has just gotten its first trainer — one of only 22 in the nation — to educate participants in sustainability initiatives, meaning a community actively working toward energy and resource sustainability and "resiliency" in the face of upcoming challenges from climate change, declining oil supply and a contracting economy.

Monthly meetings of the "Sustainability Leaders Dialog" at Peace House have been drawing over 50 people who want to certify Ashland, then move onto creating teams that work on different areas, such as food, water, housing and energy, said Shaktari Belew, who just finished the one-week training with Transitions USA in San Francisco and has developed a one-hour PowerPoint presentation for local groups and towns.

The large number of Ashlanders are already conversant with sustainability and ready to move forward in volunteer teams indicate the pathway is open for certification of as a Transition Town, she noted.

In addition, said Belew, the city council and city leaders are already implementing many solar, recycling and other sustainability programs and welcome citizen groups that are engaged, doing research and making recommendations for policy.

The Transition Town movement here is supported by an informal coalition of groups, including the Ashland Wellness Guide, Gaia University, the Thriveability Institute (founded by Belew), and Peace House.

It was founded by perma-culturist Rob Hopkins in the UK and is being used as a model in 600 towns globally, with more than 100 applying now in the U.S., said Belew.

Community gardens will be important, she said — and such projects may require more flexibility in zoning — and she's working on an alternative paper currency for Ashland called Will's (meaning Shakespeare) Bills, which tourists and locals can purchase at face value and spend (or keep as souvenirs), with proceeds from unspent money going to sustainable projects, she says.

As the Southern Oregon climate heats up by 15 degrees in this century, (predicted by regional studies), communities will have to come together to develop new crops suited to the climate, she added.

"We've all wanted to do this but we've never known how," said Lance Bisaccia, a participant in the movement. "It's like the sun came out. It's about re-localizing essential services. A lot of people here are smart, focused and experienced, but no one has known how to put it together. The Transition Town looks like the process we need."

"The Transition Town initiative catalyzes the development of local sustainability by inviting and assisting citizens, businesses, and organizations to work together to build community-based resilience," said Lisa Pavati, editor of Ashland Wellness Guide.

"We need to move deeper into dialogue and cooperative action. Ashland is extremely well situated to become an innovative, effective example of urban sustainability," said Pavati.

Belew, who has already given her Transition Town PowerPoint talk to groups in Ashland and Talent, said it "takes people into their pioneer spirit, even though we're just beginning and it's little steps now."

She said Ashland should be declared a Transition Town within 30 days.

The Transition Team Web site explains it as a process that "empowers communities to squarely face the challenges of peak oil and climate change, and to unleash the collective genius of their own people to find the answers to this momentous question "¦ to sustain itself and thrive, how are we going to drastically reduce carbon emissions in response to climate change, significantly rebuild resilience in response to peak oil and greatly strengthen our local economy is response to economic instability?"

The Transition Town meetings are at Peace House, 543 S. Mountain Ave. at 7 p.m. on the first Thursday of each month, except it will be the second Thursday in January — on Jan. 8.

For information contact Shaktari Belew, or 488-2518 or

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