Aberystwyth Transitions Reading Group Blog


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Transitions…

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I’ve been thinking a lot about transitions lately, what sparks them, and over what kind of duration they take place… Sometimes a change ushers in transition, like moving to a new place. For a while life is about finding your feet, forming new networks, figuring out how to do things… Then there is might be a period in which things are relatively stable. Yet, both states, the transition period brought on by change, and the relatively stable periods in between can contain the possibility of further transitions, brought about by intention, provoked perhaps by an idea, or inspired by another person, or a film/book/performance/something else.

As an example, over the past 6 months or so, I have been exploring a transitional state towards veganism. This was prompted by a number of discussions and reading about the impact of industrial agriculture on the environment (water pollution, biodiversity loss, soil compaction and erosion…), as well as animal welfare and other reasons. I could perhaps pinpoint the tipping point to meeting a very avid vegan, who was willing and able to engage in patient and respectful discussions about the ethics, pros and cons, different patterns of consumption, and to share information in response to my questions. But to say this was a tipping point is inaccurate on a number of levels. There are have been many points, such as meeting other (perfectly healthy I might add) vegans in the past, living in a pescetarian house in which food is largely vegetarian in any case, and nice vegan food made by friends or had at restaurants. The accumulation of all these things, and the continued availability nice food, nice ingredients, and the time to cook, mean that this is a feasible transition at this stage in my life.

Talking about transitioning to veganism makes it sound as though that is an isolated thing, but it’s actually a part of all kinds of personal transitions. On the environmental front, transitioning out of using disposable items like cups, plastic bags, plastic cutlery and straws is another. In neither case do I feel that I am anywhere near an endpoint where I can feel that I am now doing my level best on these scores. Sometimes a personal transition needs to be supported much more strongly by adjusted ‘choice architectures’ as the Nudge folk would say. I’ve had awkward conversations when buying a coffee at the train station and handing over my thermos mug. On more than one occasion the barista has made the coffee in a disposable cup and poured in into my mug, thereby defeating the purpose of the reusable mug. Even at places with a discount for bringing your own mug, most of the time baristas seem unaware of this and do not apply the discount. This is changing somewhat, a transition in the choice architectures… (The ethics of buying and drinking coffee is another thing, but I haven’t quite gone there yet).

The conclusion of all this is that transitions never happen in isolation, not in terms of the transition itself – which is supported by other personal circumstances, histories, and possibilities – nor in terms of being a personal, individual transition. Transitions take place over time, in a mesh of people (and in the broader structural conditions of economy and politics) and the rich contextual environments that we find ourselves in. Because of this, and in spite of the fact that the Aberystwyth Transitions Group is now dispersed and changed from the form it once had, it seems worth recognising that we are part of a mesh of support, thought, exploration and discovery, that can enable different transitions from the personal to all kinds of other scales…

With that in mind, it seemed a good time to think about resurrecting the Transitions blog, even though the reading group no longer meets. In discussion with Kelvin what we thought would be good is to use this space as an accumulation of things that we are posting elsewhere, on our personal or other project blogs. Interested parties can blog either directly on here, or copy and paste their writing from elsewhere to share, with a link back to where they originally posted it. In this way, we can continue having conversations about the things that matter to us, and support each other through all the transitions we’d like to experience.