Transition Cowichan is a volunteer initiative in the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island in the unceded territory of the Quw’utsun people. We are working collaboratively together with others to build local community resilience and ecological regeneration in response to the challenges and destabilizing impacts of the climate crisis, and of inequity, injustice and racism. And we’re committed to building relationships and having fun while we are doing it!
With a focus on building community through a web of neighborhood connections, Transition Cowichan seeks to bring together and work with individuals and existing community groups interested in local resilience and self-sufficiency in food, water, energy, business and other vital aspects of life in response to the climate emergency. Our intention is to make our Cowichan communities even healthier, more equitable and sustainable places to work, play, and raise our children.
We’re also interested in new models for community transformation to reach our goals of community resilience and ecological regeneration. We are shaped by those who participate, in whatever way you can. Before the Covid-19 pandemic we met semi-regularly at Cowichan Green Community and throughout June, July and August at monthly potlucks instead of meetings. In these times we still gather in small groups (with physical distancing) and sometimes online, and are involved in regular hands-on volunteer projects in the community. If you are interested in getting involved, being part of the conversation, or just checking us out, we encourage you to Contact us
The science behind our increasingly destabilizing climate is clear. A rise in global temperature greater than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels will be devastating to human health and the earth’s ecosystems. We’re almost there, so we have no time to waste. Average global temperatures have already increased by more than one degree C since 1900, mostly due to our burning of fossil fuels, and people around the world are suffering as a result. Business-and-resource-consumption-as-usual will add at least another degree C by 2020. The UN confirms that this will put another 240 million people around the world under acute “water stress”. And summer drought and water stress are things we know all too well here at home in the Cowichan.
Vancouver Island, like other parts of the world, is seeing increased rains, storms and floods in winter and increased drought and forest fires in summer, as atmospheric greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations continue to rise. In BC we’ve already lost much of our interior forests to the mountain pine beetle because of warmer winter temperatures. Our warming ocean and rivers are putting the future of our salmon at risk, as are the increasingly frequent low summer water levels in our Cowichan watershed. Ocean acidification is threatening our shellfish. Global atmospheric CO2 concentration is now over 400 parts per million, yet the scientific consensus tells us that to truly stabilize climate at a level that supports human communities CO2 concentrations must be reduced to 350 ppm. There is no Planet B.
An October 2018 IPCC special report said we needed to cut emissions in half by 2030 to keep warming to 1.5°C and reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 or before to have a hope of containing the runaway impacts of the climate crisis . Governments around the world, including ours, did’t act strongly or quickly enough. Because of our delay, the 2019 UNEP Emissions Gap Report now says emissions cuts over this next decade in the developed world need to be at least 55% and probably 65% to have a chance of keeping within the 1.5°C limit.
Governments at all levels, and each and every one of us, need to come together and make a shift. There is much that we can do together on a local level!
Fossil Fuels When conventional reserves of oil and gas began to decline and prices to destabilize the pressure to use dirty fuels like coal and oil from tar sands increased. Extraction techniques like fracking put our water at risk, damaging ecosystems and further destabilizing our climate, and more and more we are waking up to this. Research shows that we need to leave 90% of US and Australian coal and almost all of Canadian tar sands in the ground in order to have a livable climate. While we can continue to use oil to make things that are not burned and released into the atmosphere – aspirin, electric sockets, plastics, computers etc. – Richard Heinberg says, “Our central survival task for the decades ahead, as individuals and as a species, is to make a transition away from the use of fossil fuels – and to do this as peacefully, equitably, and intelligently as possible”. As a community we are working together to create and use alternatives.
As the world bumps up against the limits of a finite planet at the same time as the 1% own and control so much of the world’s resources, Inequity and Economic Instability must be addresses alongside climate impacts. As we shift from resource extraction industries like forestry to a sustainable, renewable and equitable local economy it is important for us to cooperate together so no one is left behind. To learn more about why we need to let go of the “economic growth” paradigm and focus on building local resilience to address the climate crisis, as well as on reducing the gap between the those who have unlimited access to resources and those who don’t have enough to get by, check out Asher Miller and Rob Hopkins’ very readable paper, Climate After Growth.
Our approach to Transition, and the model used by the many Transition Initiatives emerging around the world, is described in Rob Hopkins’ books: The Transition Handbook, The Transition Companion and his more recent books, The Power of Just Doing Stuff and From What is to What If Addressing the challenges we face, we ask, “How might our response to climate change look more like a party than a protest march?” Along with the many active Transition communities around the world, we’re finding ways to create a richer, more vibrant and connected community through the re-localization of the services and resources we need to survive and thrive in a world increasingly challenged by climate change.
We encourage you to shop through your local independent book seller.
What is the Transition Movement?
The Transition movement is made up of people and communities engaged in responding to the effects of climate change, inequality and the economic instability they create. We are about ordinary people taking back our lives and our communities so that we can reconnect and act together on the challenges facing us. By working with people and community groups in the Cowichan region we are creating a deeper and richer vision of the sustainable, stable local communities that meets our needs and, looking back from that vision of the future, we will plan and work to get there.
So what do we do?
Building community resilience involves “re-localization” – producing what we need (food, shelter, health care, transportation) using local resources – and “re-skilling” – teaching and re-learning the basic practical skills needed to sustain life, such as growing and preserving food, repairing bicycles, etc., leading us to a life that is not only more resilient, but more fulfilling, more socially connected and more equitable. Cycle Cowichan and our local Bio-diesel Cooperative are great example of re-localizing our transportation system. Our local Cow-Op links producers and consumers of local food.
Some of the practical projects Transition Cowichan has initiated include: Planting over 100 fruit and nut trees in 12 parks and public spaces throughout the Cowichan regions with an amazing team of volunteers as a part of 350.org’s Global Work Party in October 2010; Removing invasive species and planting pollinator-friendly gardens in public spaces like the slope by the Cowichan District Hospital and along creeks and streams throughout the Cowichan; Holding an Annual 24-hour Eat Local Food Challenge in partnership with Cowichan Green Community (CGC) and Cittaslow Cowichan Bay annually from 2012 through 2016; Offering film-showings and discussions in partnership with CGC, One Cowichan, the Council of Canadians, the Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre, local Farmers’ Institutes, churches and other groups; Helping neighborhood groups save money through household energy efficiency through our Transition Streets program similar to programs in Totnes, England and Victoria, BC; Engaging people in re-skilling experiences (e.g. solar cooking, bicycle repair, hand and foot-powered sewing, making veggie seed balls) at community events; and celebrating community with potlucks, music and fun. In 2014 we partnered with North Cowichan’s Climate Action Task Force to mentor five families as they participated in the Community for Climate Household Challenge and we are taking a leadership role is the Cowichan Climate Change Collaboration that is working together with local social benefit and environmental non-profits to address local climate impacts & build social cohesion so no one is left behind. Information about Collaboration projects is hosted here.
In order to reduce the impacts of global warming, creating a community “Energy Descent Action Plan” is also one of the goals of each Transition initiative. The emphasis, however, is as much on the community’s process toward reaching that goal – including awareness-raising, building understanding of resilience, making connections with existing groups, and engaging the community by forming re-skilling and work groups in areas such as food, water, transportation, energy, health, the local economy, ensuring a healthy physical environment, etc. Some Transition Cowichan members are involved in climate action planning processes with local government. As a part of the Cowichan Climate Change Collaboration, Transition Cowichan partnered with local government, Cowichan Green Community, Social Planning Cowichan, Cowichan Tribes, and other groups like Volunteer Cowichan using processes like Collective Impact to better coordinate local efforts to build community resilience in response to the increasing challenges of climate disruption.
Transition Initiatives’ have their roots in community sustainability based upon permaculture, which looks at designing human settlements and agricultural systems that mimic the relationships found in nature. A number of our members have taken permaculture design training and regularly lend a hand at local permaculture projects.
So Where did it all start?
Starting with initiatives in Ireland (Kinsale 2005) and England (Totnes 2006), there are now 1,130 officially designated Transition initiatives and 635 Muller initiatives in 44 countries, with more and more emerging in communities around the world. For more information see: List of Transition Towns and the Transition United States website.
The Transition model is based on a loose set of real world principles and practices established through experimentation and observation of communities working to reduce carbon emissions and to build community resilience.
Underpinning the model is a recognition of the following:
- Human-induced climate change is real and requires urgent action;
- Re-localization and building community resilience are necessary responses to this challenges;
- Life with dramatically lower energy consumption is both inevitable and desirable;
- We have reached the end of economic growth as we know it;
- It is better to plan and be prepared, than be taken by surprise;
- Human settlements within industrial society have lost the resilience needed to cope with the shocks that accompany global warming and peak oil;
- We need to act together and we need to act now;
- This will require all of our skill, ingenuity and intelligence;
- Solutions are possible and must creatively engage the head, the heart and the hands; and
- By unleashing the collective genius within our local communities, we can build ways of living that are more connected, healthy and enriching, and that also recognize the biological limits of our place and our planet.
Transition Cowichan invites community members to get involved in this initiative, to offer your own ideas and insights, and pitch in and help create a viable and sustainable future for ourselves, our children, and our children’s children, getting connected to the community and having fun along the way.
In January 2010 nine of us formed an Initiating Group and in February Transition Cowichan became an officially designated Transition Initiative. Some have moved on and others have joined us as we move forward in this exciting work. Initially six of us took the two-day Transition Training (the Transition Network requires that at least two members of each Initiating Group take this training) and found this a great way to get introduced to and involved in the movement. In June 2010 we offered a two-day Transition Training in Duncan which was attended by 19 people, mostly from the Cowichan region, but also including participants from Victoria, Sannich and Nanaimo. If we get a critical mass of interest, we are happy to offer a training again!
Transition Cowichan endorses the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and the Earth Charter. We honour and respect the Quw’utsun people in whose unceded territory we are privileged to live and their multi-generational care for these lands and waters. Locally we have signed the Cowichan Food Charter, and support the Cowichan Watershed Board and One Cowichan‘s campaigns for local control of our watersheds and increased local government climate action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address the climate emergency.
And.. we spend more of our time doing stuff rather than endorsing things. We regularly are part of events to engage the broader community in discussions about global warming and practical ways our community can build resilience and prepare for a transition away from fossil fuel dependence in the face of climate change. We have shown films to generate discussion about transition throughout the region including in Duncan, Chemainus, Cowichan Bay, Cobble Hill and Lake Cowichan, including the film, In Transition 2.0, with its inspiring stories of Transition initiatives around the world that can be translated into practical action here in the Cowichan. We are happy to show this film and support local neighborhood groups around the Cowichan in discussing it. We look forward to engaging the community in more “world cafe” and “open space” style discussions as we work toward increasing community engagement, and we may be cooking up plans for a Repair Cafe.
We believe that, with a positive vision, community dedication and commitment, the serious challenges facing our society can be met and overcome.
Together we can build a strong, resilient, environmentally regenerative community that is more connected and vibrant than our current oil-dependent society.
We invite you to get informed and involved in the Transition discussion. Bring your talents, your skills and your vision to help us build a better future for ourselves, and our children.
Together we can make a difference. Contact us to find out more.