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Seeds of Change – Transition Towns by Patty LaTaille

Is the Greater Arkansas Valley ready to join forces with a multitude of towns, cities, and counties who have signed on to become leaders in the growing global task force to address peak oil, climate change and economic stability?

Considering the number of concerned citizens who are connecting in Salida, Buena Vista and surrounding areas to adopt the “Transition Model” ( – all with the intention of engaging a significant proportion of the people in their community to kick off a “Transition Initiative” – it appears that the local community is ready to commit to change.

In the global Transition scenario, community change requires a small collection of motivated individuals coming together with a shared concern: How can our community respond to the challenges, and opportunities, of peak oil, climate change and economic instability?

In Salida, citizens Denise Ackert and Merry Cox, along with David Bowers, started the local Transition Initiative as a book group reading The Transition Handbook by Rob Hopkins. Forty people showed up for the first meeting, all expressing their interest in a more locally-based and sustainable energy and food system for their community.

Merry Cox, David Bowers and Denise Ackert in the garden. Photo by Mike Rosso
Merry Cox, David Bowers and Denise Ackert in the garden. Photo by Mike Rosso

The group has completed the Handbook and has met numerous times, including the screening of two films; Farms of the Future and The End of Suburbia. The Transition group has also hosted two tours; the Tour de Coop (about chicken coops and raising chickens) and the Tour de Jardin (a look at local organic gardens and food forests). Their next two events will be a sheet mulching workshop and the Tour de Soleil, a tour of local solar homes, which will include information about adding solar to your home, costs, and rebates.

On the official Transition Towns website, a Transition Initiative is defined as “a community working together to look peak oil, climate change and economic instability squarely in the eye and address this BIG question:

“For all those aspects of life that this community needs in order to sustain itself and thrive, how do we significantly increase resilience (to mitigate the effects of Peak Oil) and drastically reduce carbon emissions (to mitigate the effects of Climate Change)?”

Coordinated community efforts involve a comprehensive and creative process which includes raising the community awareness of the issues, forming groups to look at key areas of life and ultimately designing and implementing an “Energy Descent Action Plan.” The end result is a coordinated range of projects across all these areas of life that strive to rebuild the resilience individuals and communities have lost as a result of cheap oil, as well as drastically reducing the community’s carbon emissions.

In addition, the Transition movement addresses economic instability and focuses on creating local sustainable communities. Keeping local economies more stable and desirable is key to the movement’s goals.

Transition town/city/village communities also recognize two crucial points:

• That humans used immense amounts of creativity, ingenuity and adaptability on the way up the energy up slope – and there’s no reason for us not to do the same on the down slope.

• If humans collectively plan and act early enough, there’s every likelihood that we can create a way of living that’s significantly more connected, more vibrant and more in touch with our environment than the oil-addicted treadmill that we find ourselves on today.

Local activist Ackert explains, “The Arkansas Valley has the potential of becoming a role model for other communities. We have lots of arable land, water, sun, and very walkable/rideable towns.”

Ackert adds, “What we need to work toward is a coordinated community effort to reduce our dependence on energy sources that are hard on the environment and that emit large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. To achieve that, we must commit to a more locally-based food and energy system that has sustainability as its foundation.”

In adopting the Transition Towns model for our community, the criteria for becoming an “official” Transition Initiative team involves an honest appraisal of where the community stands on these three main tenets:

• Climate change makes carbon reduction transition essential

• Peak oil makes it inevitable

• Transition initiatives to make it feasible, viable and attractive

The Transition Towns organizers also have a “cheerful disclaimer” posted on their official website:

“Just in case you were under the impression that Transition is a process defined by people who have all the answers, you need to be aware of a key fact.

We truly don’t know if this will work. Transition is a social experiment on a massive scale.

What we are convinced of is this:

• 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.

Everything that you read on this site is the result of real work undertaken in the real world with community engagement at its heart. There’s not an ivory tower in sight, no professors in musty oak-paneled studies churning out erudite papers, no slavish adherence to a model carved in stone.

This site, just like the transition model, is brought to you by people who are actively engaged in transition in a community. People who are learning by doing – and learning all the time. People who understand that we can’t sit back and wait for someone else to do the work. People like you, perhaps…”

This holds true for people of the Arkansas Valley who believe in thinking and acting together and designing systems based on localized food production, sustainable energy sources and resilient local economies. People engaged – with an enlivened sense of community well-being – will make the upcoming transition to a more resilient way of life into reality.

Find out more by accessing the Transition Towns website at: or by checking out the Transition Salida blogspot at

Local contacts: Denise Ackert at or (719) 539-2906 or Merry Cox at or (719) 539-1198.

Patty LaTaille is loving the summer in her solar hot water and electric papercrete palace on the prairie near Villa “Groovy.”