Catherine Dunne, Transition Design (transcript)

MediaCatherine Dunne, Transition Design

David Room: This is David Room, for Global Public Media. Interviewing Catherine Dunne, of Transition Design, on October 25, 2005. Hi, Catherine.

Catherine Dunne: Hi.

David Room: I understand something is brewing in Kinsale.

Catherine Dunne: Well, we hope so. Basically, I've been working on the last while, on energy descent. And, bringing that to Ireland. My contact with Kinsale, started two years ago; when I did the permaculture course at the Kinsale College for Further Education with Rob Hopkins, who created that course. He made contact with Colin Campbell, who got him involved and interested in the whole area of peak oil. And as a result of that; Rob did an Energy Descent Action Plan with his second year students in Kinsale. And that was - as far as we were aware; one of the very first models of it's type. It was experimental. It was conducted by students. And, it aimed to make Kinsale, independent of fossil fuel by 2021; in terms of meeting it's energy needs. And, all that affected that.

So, out of that; we then ran a conference called Fueling The Future. Which we ran just this past June. We were very blessed and had an array of fantastic speakers from around the world. They included Colin Campbell, David Holmgren, Richard Heinberg, Richard Douthwaite. Rob Hopkins, himself. And, some local representatives. We had a member from our local Green Party, named Quentin Gargen; who is living off the grid and running his own small farming business, here in West Clark.

So, that was a huge success. And, out of the response, to the Energy Descent Action Plan. And, the response to Fueling the Future; myself, Louise Rooney, Graham Strauss, and Rob, are looking at creating an organization that we are calling Transition Design. And, we're hoping that Transition Design will be an educational and facilitative, non-profit organization. To help, basically - any community and town, that's interested in starting the process of energy descent.

David Room: You mentioned, that the conference had a great response. And, I'd like to hear a little bit more about that.

Catherine Dunne: Sure, It was attended by 150 to 175 people. Who came from everywhere. We had city council representatives. Town council representatives. We had people who had been following peak oil, who came from the UK. Who had come from Croatia, on the heels of the permaculture conference that had been there. And, had heard about it. And, we had local people from Kinsale; whom all of this was new. So, it was a very broad range of people. We met - we started on a Friday evening, with the screening of "The End Of Suburbia". And then, we met all day Saturday. And, all day Sunday. Had speakers, and then had break out groups. And then, the response was amazing. We ended the conference on the Sunday, with a feedback session; which was really an extraordinary experience. People were so moved in themselves, that they were - it was actually a highly emotive experience, listening to people. We asked people to share, what one thing that they were taking away, that they didn't have when they came to the conference. And, people started sharing and making commitments to what they were going home to do. We had - in the first week, I was contacted by people I knew; for whom, all of this was very new. And, who came to the conference, simply because I had been talking about peak oil. And, they had a brand new '05 sports car, that they had returned to the shop. On the heels of their experience. And, we've been getting feedback like that consistently, ever since. And, getting lots of people looking for support, information, and direction; in terms of, so what next? And, we're hoping that Transition Design, will start to meet some of that need.

David Room: How did you get the City and Town Councilors?

Catherine Dunne: We got access to the list of the Counselors throughout the country. And, we sent each of them, one of our flyers. And, a cover letter, explaining what we were doing. And, why we felt it was an important event. And, we got fourteen from around the country.

David Room: And, have you had any follow-up conservations with them? Or, intend to?

Catherine Dunne: We have - certainly in Kinsale we have. More so, with our local representatives; rather than alot from people who went back to different areas in the country. We did have quite alot of feedback from them in particular, on the day, at the end of the conference. They were significantly representative of the people who stood up and made commitments to what they were going home to do. To take the information to the council. And, to start taking Energy Descent more seriously. But, we are working - continue to work with the council in Kinsale. Which we hope will be our first town to be working with, as a model.

Part of what Transition Design hopes to do, is to - we have a model existing here in Ireland, For many years, if you say to anybody here in Ireland; that a town is named a tidy town, they know what you're talking about. There's a competition annually, for Ireland's Tidiest Town. And, what we would like to do, is take this concept that people are familiar with; as a town gaining an award or gaining a label. And, apply it to towns becoming Transition Towns. Where we would go, for towns that are interested in it can contact us. And, we would facilitate them, in putting together a steering group. And, from the steering group; go to the Town Council, to get a commitment from the council to adopt 100 opinions to say the oil Depletion Protocol or the Rimini Protocol. So, that they make a commitment to certain basic aims, in terms of reducing their dependency on fossil fuel.

And then, they would get the label - Transition Town. And, we would then work with them, on an annual basis; to review and build on the initial criteria. And, link them in with the existing structures. Like schools and community groups.

David Room: So, you're essentially talking about local adoption of the Oil Depletion Protocol. In a way, charting the course?

Catherine Dunne: Exactly. You know, we had the Energy Depletion Action Plan out of Kinsale. That was are first model here. And, we would be working towards some sort of refining, as everyone is. I suppose refining those criteria’s to what is applicable, we would hope to do. And, Energy Audit, as part of that. So, that the Energy Audit, would inform the aims of each particular town. And the, to facilitate them with reducing their dependency on fossil fuel.

David Room: And, with the Energy Descent Plan that has already been done; do you see this, as being a strong template for moving forward with meeting the requirements of the Oil Depletion Protocol?

Catherine Dunne: Absolutely. I mean, at the very least in the structure of the Energy Descent Plan, that we've done in Kinsale; they really laid out aims for it in all the different areas it looked at. For the present situation, the vision that people had. And then, the practical steps broken down in a timeline. As, to how they would need to go from where they are, to where they want to be in 2021. An initial assessment was taken on a really broad range of issues. In food, youth, and community, education, housing, economy, livelihood, health, tourism, transport, waste, energy. And, marine resources, as Kinsale is a coastal. town. So, those were the initial categories that were examined. And, it was also the first experience as an open forum. There was an open forum done in the February of that year, that started with again, a screening of "The End of Suburbia" . Invitaitons were sent out, to people from all over in the town. And, people came and spent a whole day. Working in groups and giving feedback. And, that was the sort of core or contact with the community. So certainly, those experiences and those initial attempts at creating those forums, were very valuable. In terms of the learning.

David Room: So, what are some of the next steps for Transition Design?

Catherine Dunne: Well, we are hoping to next year run - we would be the promoting body for Fueling The Future 2. Which we hope to base on Energy Descent Action Plans from around the world. Really bringing those models together. And, focusing looking at them. And, creating a dialogue about what they have to offer one another. And, a sharing of the learning that's happening, in the different parts of the world around this. So, that's one project, that we are committed to. And then, we're really trying to organize ourselves, in relation with the college in Kinsale. Because, obviously, so much of the work is connected. The Energy Descent Action Plan, will be redone this year. To take it to the next level. And, to refine it to the next level. And, we would hope to help launch that at the conference. And then, to get going on our Transition Town Project. To really start refining that as a model. And, get that out there.

David Room: How will people be able to find out more information about Transition Design?

Catherine Dunne: Well, Transition Design will have it's own website. In the meantime, probably the best way to contact us is through the Fueling The Future website. Which is the website that we originally organized for the conference in June. But, through there, people can get some information on Kinsale. Actually, there are some audio files from the actual conference are available there. And, if you were to email through, you'll be able to contact us at Transition Design; until we're up and running under our own website.

David Room: Great. I really appreciate your time.

End Of Interview

MediaCatherine Dunne, Transition Design