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England is blooming

Since my last entry I’ve been rolling along: a nice visit to the Center for Contemporary Art and the Natural World in Exeter with Clive Adams on top of a ridgetop in southern England, after which he graciously drove me down to Totnes, the titular capital of the Transition Town movement. I didn’t do a talk at either stop that day, but met a bunch of great folks. Ben Brangwyn and Cath hosted me in Totnes, and we spent a good part of the evening in different restaurants and pubs in discussion with local TT activists, and a crowd of Irish and Danes who rolled in with a caravan of climate change activists…

View from the ridgetop back towards Exeter.

View from the ridgetop back towards Exeter.

I read a very intelligent critical pamphlet (pdf available)  by Paul Chatterton and Alice Cutler of the Trapese Collective called “The Rocky Road to a Real Transition” in which they advocate for a more contentious and politically edgy approach to transitioning. They advocate especially engaging in solidarity actions with campaigns, communities, and people who are protesting and fighting with oil companies, carbon-producing development projects, etc. Turns out this effort was not well received by some folks around the Totnes scene, who eschew what they call “divisive” politics. I noticed this in passing while I was explaining my critique of wage-labor to Ben. Another guy originally from New Jersey but living over here now, who is recently back from a 18 month organizing/training trip to New Zealand, Australia, Japan, and other locales as a Transition Town organizer, looked immediately rather dismayed, his countenance betraying his discomfort. I spoke with his partner later in the dinner and she explained her work in terms of addiction, and I realized that the basically “hippie” culture that they seemed to be part of was much like what we have in Northern California. An approach that wants to situate political change in terms of individual consumption, moral failure, addiction and greed, all neo-Christian to my mind. My efforts to shift the discussion to production didn’t go too far at that dinner table, but I had a lovely evening with Ben and Cath later, though we didn’t plumb the same conversation.

Beautiful spring skies have been chasing me around the country.

Beautiful spring skies have been chasing me around the country.

Like Paul and Alice, I am critical but still a big fan of Transition Towns as a starting point for an important effort to begin restructuring our relationship to the physical, political, and social environment. After Totnes, I took the train to London, arriving in time to do a Talk at the venerable 56a Infoshop in Southwark. Chris-x is an old friend and hosted me, along with his roomie John, and I had a great time catching up, talking politics, and finding out what he’s been up to since I last saw him some years ago. I also had the pleasure of a short visit on Monday with John Jordan, who was working with several comrades and his 14-year-old son on a whole batch of applications for a permaculture workshop for homeless people that they’re producing soon.. We went out for a greasy spoon lunch where I had a rare big plate of liver! John is quite the dynamo, and was very involved in the Climate Camp G20 protests. I’ve been following the story as it’s slowly leaking out about the 47-year-old guy who died during the demo, a passerby, but one who got clubbed and then violently thrown to the ground, after which he staggered away for half a block and then collapsed and died from a heart attack. Pretty grim, and maybe it will help turn the tide against the police tactics, especially “kettling” where they enclose demonstrators and squeeze them in before mass arrests. Time will tell… Later on Monday night I went up to East London and did a Talk at the Pogo Cafe, so that was a fun new part of London for me. A nice crowd, a common experience that at least a few folks at each Talk get really inspired, so that in turn inspires me!

This Jamaican businessman was across from me at the top of a doubledecker bus, running his office from the front seat, while I was rolling northward for my lunch appointment.

This Jamaican businessman was across from me at the top of a doubledecker bus, running his office from the front seat, while I was rolling northward for my lunch appointment.

I wrote a piece for sf.streetsblog.org about London’s streets which will probably appear next week so keep your eye out for that.

Crossing the Thames.

Crossing the Thames.

After London I took the train to Leeds, a city I’ve never been to before. I liked it! It was blustery and spring-y and beautiful. I met up with Paul Chatterton, the same author I mentioned above. He’s also an editor of Antipode, and Francesca and I have been working on an article based on Nowtopia for it for most of a year now… anyway, Paul had set me up with an informal Masters Seminar to do a Talk for, and we had a good turnout over 30 for the Easter Break… lots of good conversations after, at the pub, the restaurant, and the pub! We even had a very weird psychotic guy come and try to get our full attention for his claims to be Bob Marley’s son, and raised by Mohammed Aided in Mogadishu, Somalia! Talk about strange! Anyway, here’s a few images from Leeds to end this short, keeping-up-to-date blog entry…

Typical Victorian Row houses in Leeds.

Typical Victorian Row houses in Leeds.

This charming plaque was on what's now known as the Wool Design Institute at the University of Leeds.

This charming plaque was on what's now known as the Wool Design Institute at the University of Leeds.

Wish I could have stayed for this Critical Mass in Leeds!

Wish I could have stayed for this Critical Mass in Leeds!

Paul Chatterton at his front door...

Paul Chatterton at his front door...

This graffiti seemed to be the Leeds version of the Yuppie Eradication Project.

This graffiti seemed to be the Leeds version of the Yuppie Eradication Project.

So the title of this entry makes sense! Yay Daffodils!

So the title of this entry makes sense! Yay Daffodils!

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