Book Review

The Transition Timeline

For a local, resilient future

Shaun Chamberlin - Green Books, 2009

This is a follow-on to Rob Hopkins’ Transition Handbook, and Rob contributes the Foreword and a chapter of it.

It also supplements and refers to David Holmgren’s Future Scenarios, which chanced to be written over the same period, and is reviewed elsewhere in this issue. All three authors are practitioners of Permaculture, and this is basic to their message.

Though aimed primarily to advise, inform and encourage the Transition Town movement and local action, it makes abundantly clear that action is urgently needed at all levels: individually, at local community level, nationally and globally.

The book is well researched and well organized as both a very readable developing theme and a help/reference work, with a wealth of facts, quotes and references. It starts by reviewing the latest research findings on climate change and ‘peak oil’, noting that each new report finds that things are proving worse, and change is happening faster, than was earlier predicted.

Next is a ‘looking back’ over the years to today from the year 2027, assuming four different possible futures: ‘Denial’ – Business-as-Usual (BAU) coupled with Ignoring evidence; ‘Hitting the Wall’ – BAU but Acknowledging challenges; The Impossible Dream – Cultural shift (CS) but Ignoring evidence; and The Transition Vision – CS coupled with Acknowledging challenges.

It will be interesting to see which of these scenarios most nearly predicts the actual future as it unfolds over the next few years!

Part Two takes a more detailed look at the present situation and future prospects for a number of issues: population, food and water, electricity and energy, travel and transport, health and medicine, each time ‘looking back from 2027’.

Part Three concerns ‘Energy Descent Plans’, or EDAPs, and Part Four goes into much more detail on climate change and fuel depletion, their combined effects and the possibilities of reversing or coping with them. All policy makers should carefully read Part Four, as it sets out the implications of the clear latest evidence on climate change. Now – or perhaps 2-3 decades ago – is when a supreme global effort is required to cease using fossil fuels. It may already be too late to avoid run-away global warming!

The final Part, Five, discusses the UK position before offering closing thoughts and inviting comments and feedback, to inform or influence the next book on the subject.

– Brian Leslie