Please Read This: On Coal and Transitioning

This whole issue with the proposed coal mine has been a challenge. It has challenged me personally. And it has challenged our group as it tries to find a way to express itself on the issue.

I want to put something forward to members on the list and website.

I often find myself visualizing problems or issues in the form of political cartoons. Funny really, since I can’t draw… but in our minds, or mine at least, I guess we are all amazing cartoonists.

Here is my thought.

One of the tenets of Transition Towns… the “Hearts and Minds” aspect, is that not everyone in any community will be ready to accept the reality that we face. Not only that, they will be downright resistant.

The Transition Towns Handbook, has this wonderful graphic in it… it’s a series of concentric circles, and it places us all in various positions near or far from the center of that circle according to our awareness and acceptance of Peak Oil and Climate Change. At the centre are those who are most acutely aware and prepared to act. Towards the periphery, or outside of the circle completely, are those who either are willing to listen, or perhaps not willing to listen at all and downright hostile.

The reason for this graphic was to show that in order for the Transition Towns model to be successful we must work to talk to, address, support, and engage people no matter what state of mind they might be in. We must respect their state of mind, and work with it before we can change it. We must also recognize that some might come closer, and then relapse back. No one can simply jump from complete denial to acceptance in one shot. It can be a slow progression, so we at Transition Towns are there to make that progression easier, to help it along.

So where does this coal issue fit in and what position does Transition Towns take?

We take on *all* positions.

We need to be the ones talking to every one of the stakeholders and pushing them all towards the centre of the circle. If that means convincing the City to demand a full panel review so that the Cities citizens can have a proper say then we do that. If that means convincing the Chamber that the Horne Lake Connector should not be an option, but rail could be, then we do that. If that means helping coalwatch to put on meetings in town to get as much information out there as possible then we do that. If that means helping the AEC to put on events, and yes it may even have No Coal petitions at them, then we do that. If that means talking directly to Mr. Tapics or the EAO about the best ways that his project should happen, then we do that.

Transition Towns is supposed to have representation, the ear, of every community group and power group in a town, that is one of the basic premises. We are there to influence their decisions no matter what their starting position. We need to let the town know that this is what Transition Towns does, it is not a conflict, it is an asset, we are not taking many positions, we are pushing all positions in the same direction.

Here is what I propose.

We make it known to Port Alberni that Alberni Valley Transition Towns is going to be fanning out. Individuals, or small groups/commmittees from AVTTS will be tasked with addressing one key stakeholder on the issue, finding out that stakeholders position, and then determining a way of pushing that position in a more sustainable direction.

We would need to sit down and decide who those stakeholders are, City, Chamber, FN, Port, Company, etc., and who takes who.

The result will be different according to each stakeholder. Recognizing that we all start our awareness at different stages, our goal cannot be to demand that everyone stake the same position against coal outright even if that is the obvious answer in terms of Peak Oil and Climate Change. Everyone simply is not ready for that and doing so will only push the people who most need our help away.

Our goal is in our name. Transition. That must mean different things to different people. So we as a group need to start approaching people and helping them move from wherever they are to a better place. In the political cartoon in my head, we’d be the person with the big AVTTS hat with 8 arms and 8 hands all pushing on the backs of every group in this town towards a common center. Yep, on the outside of that image is a big coal pile, some are closer to the coal than the centre and even digging their feet in, but we’re still pushing all of them, in their own way, towards the same place.

We can’t expect to change the town overnight, but every step in the right direction should be considered a victory.

I hope this ramble makes sense and I hope you all share your thoughts, your approval or disapproval, or any opinions on it.

Sincerely,

Chris

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