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28 red pepperoct/nov2007

Freed ofcars, streets could become places ofleisureproviding forthe positiveenjoyments ofambling, loitering , gossiping and passing thetimeofday

huge expansion of labour-saving equipment in the home is that standards of cleanliness have become more clinical and much more time is also now devoted to the cleaning and maintenance of privately-owned household machinery. Under the rubric of ‘going without’ we may also include all those modes of acquisition and consumption that by-pass the market or allow people to satisfy their requirements for goods and services without purchasing new commodities or using commercial suppliers. These include the Local Exchange Trading Scheme (LETS), jumble sales, charity and secondhand shops, dress marts and all the other resources for the recycling of articles – for which there are now a growing number of internet websites. Apart from the pleasures of personal reciprocity, such exchanges and bartering activities save money and allow people to make use of specific talents for which they may otherwise have little outlet. People, of course, are also placed in a position to make

use of non-standardised services and to acquire all sorts of unusual items they would never have found on sale in retail stores. There is also another sense altogether in which going without might be considered a potential source of alternative hedonism, and this relates to the loss of sensory experience encouraged by consumer culture. Central heating and airconditioning, for example, ensure that we are continuously in the ‘comfort’ zone wherever we go. But it has also made interior space more boringly homogeneous and reduced sensitivity to seasonal changes. Constant ‘grazing’ and ‘comfort’ eating, meanwhile, cuts out the enjoyment of a sharpened hunger and thirst. To defend acute sensation against its muting is not to deny the complexity and subjective dimension of pleasure. Pleasure, after all, is much more than a matter of intensified physical appetite. What should also be promoted are the potential rewards of adopting a less materialistic approach to the satisfaction of human needs and desires more generally. We need to break with the presumption that the ever increasing plethora of material commodities will always serve to compensate for the failure to provide for less tangible goods or more ‘spiritual’ forms of need. In the first instance, this means developing a heightened sense of what we have already lost in the promotion of a hyper-consumerist culture, and of what, in that sense, we are already now ‘going without’.

Willing Slaves: How the OverworkCulture is Ruling OurLives , byMadeleineBunting, is published byHarperCollins

Wild mushroom, sage and rocket brioche with truffled poached egg serves four

4 plain briochebuns

250g wild mushrooms (chop small)

50g rocket

50g cremefraiche

2diced garliccloves

1tablespoon oliveoil (OliveCo-op cold pressed extra virgin)

2medium fresh sageleaf(chiffonade)

4 freerangeorganiceggs

Freshlyground blackpepper

2tsp whitetruffleoil

Heatoliveoil in a heavypan, add thediced garlicand sautééforone minute Add sageand mushrooms, sautéégentlyforfiveminutes Stirin thecremefraicheand simmeruntil saucethickens Finallyadd therocketand wiltfortwo minutes Rub thetruffleoil around the poachercup, add theegg Poach until thewhiteis firm and yolk begins to harden around theedges Cutthetop offofthebriocheand hollowoutcentre. Toastin theoven gas marksix400oF(200oC) forfive minutes Fill thebriochewith themushroom blend and top with the poached egg, add a fewtwists ofblackpepper Enjoy

IllustrationsbyPeterWilson.PhotographybyTomLynton oct/nov2007 red pepper



Voices ofdescent

Under the catchy title of Transition Town Totnes, the south Devon town is the first in the UK to explore what it means to undergo the transition to a carbon-constrained, energy-lean world at a local level. By consciously planning and designing for changes on the horizon, rather than reacting to resource shortages as they are thrust upon them, the participants hope that their town will become ‘more resilient, more abundant and more pleasurable than the present’. The seeds of the transition town idea lie in the small Irish town of Kinsale, where in 2005 a group of students at the local further education college developed a process for residents to draw up an ‘energy descent action plan’ – a tool to design a positive timetabled way through the huge changes that will occur as world oil production peaks. The action plan covers a number of areas of life in Kinsale, including food, energy, tourism, education and health. For example, for food, the plan envisions that by 2021 the town will have made the transition from dependency to selfreliance, where ‘all landscaping in the town comprises of edible plants, fruit trees line the streets, all parks and greens have become food forests and community gardens’. As a practical step towards this, the plan recommends the immediate appointment of a local food officer. For housing, the plan envisions that by 2021 ‘all new buildings in Kinsale will include such things as a high level of energy efficiency together with a high portion of local sustainable materials’. A suggested immediate practical step towards this is a review of current building practices and future development plans. The energy descent action plan approach landed in the UK when a Kinsale college tutor, Rob Hopkins, moved to Totnes and held a number of talks and film screenings to introduce the idea. In September 2006 Transition Town Totnes was launched, seeking ‘to

changes. These are based in how the world actually is, rather than how we would like it to be if only

Addressing climatechangecan seem a colossal task. MELANIEJARMAN reports on theemerging ‘transition town’ movement, which is encouraging citizens’ participation in long-term planning to changeenergyuseata local level

engage all sectors of the community in addressing this, the great transition of our time’ and seeking to put ‘Totnes on the international map as a community that engaged its creativity and collective genius with this timely and pressing issue’. The initiative has spread beyond Totnes – just one year on, towns and villages around the UK have started developing a transition town approach for themselves (see box). One reason why the initiative has caught people’s imaginations is that, at its core, is a hopeful message. Many ‘transitioners’ are motivated to change energy use patterns not just because of energy shortages in the future but because of self-imposed energy rationing now – because cutting fossil fuel use is essential if climate change is to be lessened. The transition movement shakes off the usual gloom and limitation around this message by calling for positive and pro-active

someone, somewhere, would come up with that miraculous solution that will allow us to expand infinitely and indefinitely, all within a finite world. Rather than a vision of deferred promise and baseless hope it offers community-wide participation to find realistic and workable answers. Whether the transition town approach can work at a citywide level, or whether its call for reduced consumption will have a wider impact on, for example, international trading systems and their inherently heavy use of fossil fuels, remains to be seen. In Totnes, at least, the creation of new businesses and land use initiatives suggests that the transitioners are in it for the long haul. (See ‘It’s a pleasure’, page 24).

Transition towns Totnes, Devon Ivybridge, Devon Falmouth, Cornwall Moretonhampstead, Devon Lewes, EastSussex OtteryStMary, Devon Stroud, Gloucestershire Mayfield, EastSussex Glastonbury, Somerset Wrington, Somerset Dunster, Somerset Maidenhead, Berkshire Brampton, Cumbria

Cities Bristol Exeter Nottingham

In London Brixton

Villages ForestRow, EastSussex