On Saturday, we met with Stephen Hinton from Transition Towns. A Transition Town – or a village /city /forest /island – responds to challenges of peak oil and climate change. It stresses the need to undertake a community led process to rebuild resilience and reduce carbon omissions, and it underscores the value of people’s own initiatives and special knowledge. The aim is also to connect existing groups in the community, build bridges to local government and form new groups focused on key areas of life such as food, energy, transport and social welfare.

The Transition Town, Stephen explained, always starts on the grassroots level. It happens when a group of individuals sharing the same concern within a community come together. “We must be prepared to change the way we are living,” Stephen said, “it is all about designing how we want to live, regarding physical structures as well as making a place resilient concerning food provision.” Being one of the founders of the Swedish version of this global initiative, his network already has 1 600 members in the country, since starting in February 2009. In Sweden, the two main centers have so far been Sigtuna and Gothenburg, the latter with the initiative Stadsodling. In all, Transition Towns has now over 50 active places in Sweden.

When hearing about the strategies of Connecting-Stockholm, Stephen told us that his main goal for many years has been to make Stockholm a better city for walking. He has created three walking maps of the city, and has been working close with the municipality of Huddinge. He explained that most people neither know how long they can walk, nor how fast they are as pedestrians. Even if people have lived in a place for a long time, they still aren’t always familiar with the surrounding walking routes and how close things actually are just by foot. “Walking for 20 minutes is nothing, but you have to know what it means in terms of where you will get at a certain walking speed,“ he explained.

Stephen agreed with the need to grow food locally. Sweden does not have to buy garlic from China nor to buy onions from New Zealand. “We need to do a simulation on what would happen if the oil prices rise,” he said, adding that a family needs one hectare of land to be fed. He told us that we, being in a cold country like Sweden, could learn from methods from as far back as the 1700th century, when people where more skilled at preserving food.

The initiative Transition Towns initially started in 2006 in England, and has now spread to countries such as Australia, Canada, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Scotland, South Africa, Spain, the US. “Sweden is in denial if you ask me, and we need to figure out how we can live in the transition,” Stephen said. “A transition phase is very painful. Having different eyes is painful.”

Text: Rebecka Gordan Photos: David Relan