Transition sweeps down the Oklahoma plains

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Change, Christine Patton, Community, Education, Energy, Environment, Locavore, Oklahoma City, Shauna Lawyer Struby, Sustainability, Transition Movement | Posted on 30-07-2010

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logo with spaceTransition OKC, a project of Sustainable OKC, became the nation’s 27th official Transition initiative in May of 2009. The TOKC coordinating team took several months to lay the foundations of this project by discussing the “Transition Handbook,” hosting a Training for Transition, and setting principles, guidelines and a constitution in place (neatly stored in PVC-free binders, thanks to Shauna Struby). Once the team worked the consensus process and crafted a mission, vision, and goals, a tornado of creativity and energy was unleashed here on the Great Plains. Here’s the scoop! 

Going Locavore
Local food champions are very active here in Oklahoma City, but we don’t often have a chance to get together to discuss strategies, share updates and success stories, and plot ways to expand the local food market. Enter Transition OKC, which is now sponsoring Going Locavore happy hour potlucks so all these fabulous people can get together in the same room and share ideas. After one meeting and some intense brainstorming, the next meeting is slated to focus in on the most promising of the hundreds of ideas and start serving up some local food projects. Several members of the coordinating group are working on this project, but Christine Patton of the TOKC coordinating team has taken on the responsibility of pulling the meetings together for now. photo8

Sustainability Center
The indomitable Susie Shields, another TOKC coordinating team member, was so inspired by the "Hands" portion of Rob Hopkins’ “Transition Handbook,” she vowed to create a Sustainability Demonstration Community Center. She put together a diverse team of architects, sustainability pros, nonprofit, business and government folks to forge a way forward with this dream. Education and programming and site selection subcommittees are already hard at work brainstorming and researching.

Reskilling Videos
TOKC’s coordination team believes reskilling workshops (learning how to do things for ourselves again) are a fantastic way to help people transition. It’s learning valuable skills, education, sharing information on the challenges we face, networking, food and/or beer and wine – all rolled into one. Put all that learning on video and wow – that’s one way to spread reskilling beyond the 10 or 20 people that can make it to a workshop. Luckily Trey Parsons of Enersolve and Christine Patton, TOKC coordinating team members, are ready to take on the challenge of creating a set of short reskilling videos to share information about how to cook with local food, install a rainwater catchment system, weatherize a house, use a sun oven, grow a garden, make pesto and peach jam and sun-dried tomatoes, and more. Lots of excitement about this as it will give these two the chance to run around all over the metro area asking questions of interesting people and maybe learning a few things too.

Movie Night
Several TOKC team members – Vicki Rose, Marcy Roberts, and Susie Shields – are planning quarterly movies night at Oklahoma City University. Since movies raise awareness about environmental problems, economic crisis, our precarious energy situation, and climate change, they’re a great way to start a conversation and brainstorm on how to address the issues.

Permaculture Design Course
Randy Marks of Land+Form and Shauna Struby are in the early stages of working with Permaculture teachers to design a course for Oklahoma. Short courses on Permaculture design (Permaculture is a design system for creating sustainable human settlements) have photo1been held here in Oklahoma, but if people want the full course, they have to go out of state which makes the cost prohibitive for so many. By bringing a full-scale design course here, Randy and Shauna anticipate greater participation and lots more Transitioning. Interestingly enough, Oklahoma’s 45th Infantry just had a team train in Permaculture design before they headed to Afghanistan, and this helps folks here in Oklahoma make a connection to the potential of Permaculture design for our communities.

Wired and Connected
TOKC’s Going Local OKC website has been enhanced with new navigation, a new look and a lot of new content. Shauna, Trey and Christine redesigned it to be more user-friendly, timely and flexible. Plus, it needed to expand to be able to contain all the new info TOKC will be posting on various projects (see above), as well as the handy OKC Resource pages (six at last count). TOKC also ties continuously updated media, such as this collaborative Fresh Greens blog, Sustainable OKC Twitter feed, and the TOKC Facebook page, into the website. A big thank you to Transition OKC and Sustainable OKC volunteers for keeping the content fresh and updated.

Teaching and Listening 
One of the things TOKC often hears when out and about in Oklahoma City is there is a great need for more education and awareness about the challenges we face and possible solutions within the general population. TOKC has given many presentations and conducted workshops over the last few months and plans to not only continue with this work,but the project has made it a goal to increase the number of presentations as they go forward. Shauna, Marcy, Vicki, Adam and Christine are working together to make this happen. If you’d like to have TOKC make a presentation to your neighborhood, civic, church group or school, please email them at info@goinglocalokc.com.

But Wait, There’s More
Susie just created a Buy Fresh Buy Local Farmer’s Market guide and she and Marcy are working on a comprehensive eight-page "Big Book" guide to local food. Plus Transition OKC is planning to redesign printed materials such as brochures and offer a fall and winter gardening workshop.  photo2

So there you go. The whole TOKC coordinating team – Randy, Shauna, Christine, Vicki, Marcy, Susie, Trey, Adam, Jim, Chase and Joseph – have all been working hard. Whether you’re in Oklahoma City or elsewhere, you’re invited to join in the workshops, presentations, friend them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter! They’ll be sharing what they’re doing here, reading all about what everyone else is up to, and sharing that too as they keep on sweeping down the plains.

– Inspired by a post written by Christine Patton, TOKC team member, on her blog at Peak Oil Hausfrau; tweaked and reposted with Christine’s permission on “Fresh Greens” by Shauna Lawyer Struby, TOKC team member

To think or not to think sustainably

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Education, Environment, John Cheek, Nature, Philosophy, Sustainability | Posted on 08-09-2009

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by John Cheek

Starting a graduate degree in philosophy invites a number of blunt questions, some from close family and friends uncertain of the plan’s wisdom, others from relative strangers snatching a bit more familiarity than seems entirely appropriate to my reclusive disposition. While my reasons for taking this path are incomprehensible to some, philosophy does offer some unique approaches to thinking about sustainability (and a host of other topics, of course). Philosophers have spent the last two millennia and change trying to convince the rest of you that we’re useful for something. There’s the tale Aristotle relates of the early philosopher Thales who, goaded for his “head-in-the-clouds” philosophical outlook, managed to corner the market on olive presses in his region and make a killing come harvest.

It’s a witty tale philosophers enjoy telling amongst themselves, (possibly to nurture the faint hope that any of them will ever make any money) but dark humor aside, there is one skill philosophers in general possess to a greater degree than any other profession. We can ask some tough questions. Socrates, perhaps the most famous of philosophers, was known for Socratic method (see, philosophy must be important if they named a method after one) in which he stripped away unsatisfactory explanations for common ideas by relentless asking pointed questions. Now depending on your disposition towards our subject, you may or may not have a very high opinion of the answers philosophers give to their own questions, but I’ll pose a couple of questions here and even risk an answer or two that I’d be quite delighted for you to criticize in the comments.

1. Is nature’s value intrinsic or extrinsic? In sustainably minded communities, we take for granted that our environment has value, but where is that value rooted? Is it intrinsic to the natural world, or is the natural world simply valuable in its usefulness to us? I’m fairly sure I know what trees would say if we could hear them talking, but it’s a good question to ask both of yourself and of others. If you are trying to enlist someone into a sustainable cause who believes the latter, then you’ll have a good idea of what arguments to pose and which statements to avoid.

2. How can we balance the needs of people with care for the natural world? It’s not uncommon to hear pie-in-the-sky statements from environmentalists, (I know, pots and kettles and all that) and that’s a good thing. Our goals should be ambitious as the stakes are quite high, but at the same time, it’s important that we consider the consequences different actions will have on the welfare of people in the short term. I don’t really have a great answer to how we balance these two aims, but perhaps some of you could help me suss one out in the comments.

Those are just two of the important questions that we face as a movement, and admittedly the answers can’t be handled completely in 500 words. So what do you think the answers might be, or am I even asking the right questions? Let us know what you’re thinking, and let me know if you’d like to help pay my tuition by renting an olive press …