Twilit towns: A review of Transition Town Movement

Transition Town Movement India

Crises

One can identify the present time as The Age of Crises. “The world system is riddled with crisis.”1 Crises in the areas of finance and banking, and environment-ecology have brought the issue of crisis starkly into public perception. “In the capitalist world-economy of the modern world system, accumulation on a world scale can no longer proceed as it did in the postwar era of expansion until and unless unequal development and dependent accumulation are put on a new footing.”2 However, a section of theoreticians try to disregard analysis of this time of crisis. Disregarding the analyses of crises in the capitalist world system is part of their effort to show “invincibility” and “eternity” of the world capitalist system. But, crises in the capitalist system persists. “Crisis does not mean the end. On the contrary, ‘crisis’ refers to the critical time during which the end will be avoided through new adaptations if possible; only failing these, the end becomes unavoidable.”3 “[C]yclical crises have characterized the history of capitalism for at least a hundred and fifty years, and most of them have not left any lasting effect. [….] [M]ost of them have had a beneficial effect in that they have been the means whereby accumulated distortions and disequilibria have been corrected and the system has prepared itself for a new advance.”4

Whatever escapes way the capitalist system prepares, all the time the system puts burden of preparing the escape ways on the people, and benefits itself.

Which crisis isn’t hurting people in countries? It’s not possible to name. Capitalism in its life spanning centuries has never before created so many crises simultaneously. There’re crises in all aspects of life, nature, environment and ecology, not only in human life or in a particular branch of flora and fauna. There’re crises in all aspects of economy, not only in the area of production relations or mode of production or in the mechanism and arrangements for production and distribution, not only in the area of employment. There’re crises in capitalism’s highest form – imperialism, in imperialism’s diplomatic and military power, in imposing its hegemony, within its political system, in election, legislative, juridical and its so-called separation of power arrangement, with its credibility, acceptability and media.

Reality of decadence

Today’s towns and cities are burning examples of capitalism’s failure to create livable abode for human beings. It’s the system’s crisis with living space, which is related to labor and reproduction. These are, especially the parts of cities and towns lived by the poor, low-income group of population, the exploited are burning furnaces. Human beings can’t live in these areas. Despite this bitter fact, millions of human beings live in these furnaces, dungeons of decay. In the Third and Fourth Worlds, the urban scene is more inhuman, more brutal, more unlivable, more stuffed with inconsideration and illogic. In the last century, it was said:

  • “Few city governments in the developing world have the power, resources, and trained staff to provide their rapidly growing populations with the land, services, and facilities needed for an adequate human life: clean water, sanitation, schools, and transport. The result is mushrooming illegal settlements with primitive facilities, increased overcrowding, and rampant disease linked to an unhealthy environment.”5
  • “In most Third World cities, the enormous pressure for shelter and services has frayed the urban fabric. Much of the housing used by the poor is decrepit. [….] So too is the essential infrastructure of the city; public transport is overcrowded and overused, […] Water supply systems leak, […] A large proportion of the city’s population often has no piped water […].

“A growing number of the urban poor suffer from a high incidence of diseases; most are environmentally based and could be prevented or dramatically reduced through small investments.”6

  • “Nor is the emphasis on Third World cities meant to imply that problems within the cities of industrialized countries are not serious. They are. Many face problems of deteriorating infrastructure, environmental degradation, inner-city decay, and neighbourhood collapse. The unemployed, the elderly, and racial and ethnic minorities can remain trapped in a downward spiral degradation and poverty, […] City or municipal governments often leave a legacy of poorly designed and maintained public housing estates, mounting costs, and declining tax bases.”7

Today, decades after the findings by the Brundtland Commission, mentioned above, the urban picture hasn’t changed much. Rather, it has deteriorated further. Press and study reports from countries and international organizations tell many tales of this disheartening and painful reality.8 It’s like towns in twilight – urban living condition in decline. Findings from one such United Nations report include:

  • “Cities are consuming land faster than they grow in population: Urban sprawl is an increasingly common phenomenon. Once associated with the land-rich developed countries of North America and Australia, it is now occurring in cities all over the world. Whether horizontal spreading, dispersed urbanization or peri-urbanization, the physical extent of urban areas is growing much faster than their population, thereby consuming more land for urban development. The unbridled expansion of urban areas has profound implications for energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, climate change and environmental degradation. Findings from a global sample of cities show that between 1990 and 2015, cities in developed countries increased their urban land area by 1.8-fold while the urban population increased by 1.2-fold; thus, implying that the expansion of urban areas in relation to urban population growth increased by a ratio of 1.5.”
  • “Inequality remains a persistent trend in urban areas: Growing levels of inequality and exclusion are becoming persistent trends in urban areas. For more than two-thirds of the world’s urban population, income inequality has increased since 1980. This widening gap means that about 2.9 billion people are living in cities where income inequalities are currently more pronounced than they were a generation ago. In a rapidly urbanizing world, the nature of inequality will largely depend on what happens in cities. Today, many US, UK, Latin American, Caribbean and African cities have levels of inequality higher than their respective countries. Inequality can fuel social unrest, as witnessed in Chile in 2019.”
  • “Affordable housing remains elusive: Housing affordability is not confined to a handful of expensive cities; it is a global challenge that affects virtually all households. Globally, prospective homeowners are compelled to save more than five times their annual income to afford the price of a standard house. Renter households often spend more than 25 per cent of their monthly income on rent. High levels of unaffordability mean that inadequate housing and slums remain the only housing choice for low-income households. Currently, 1.6 billion people or 20 per cent of the world’s population live in inadequate housing, of which one billion reside in slums and informal settlements. In developed countries, unsheltered or homeless populations are a small but significant feature of the urban landscape.”
  • “Urban areas bore the initial brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic: Even as coronavirus has now hit rural areas, the pandemic was initially an urban phenomenon as epicentres flared in Wuhan, Milan, Madrid, New York City, Guayaquil and Manaus among other cities. As the world slips into a severe recession, urban areas, which account for more than 80 per cent of global GDP, will be affected in several ways.”9

Two years later, another UN report found:

  • “Globally, 1.6 billion people or 20 per cent of the world’s population live in inadequate housing, of which one billion reside in slums and informal settlements. Under these conditions, the goal of eradicating poverty in all its forms by 2030 and leave no one behind will not be achieved.”
  • “While the city population share doubled from 25 per cent in 1950 to about 50 per cent in 2020, it is projected to slowly increase to 58 per cent over the next 50 years. The share of other settlements in the urban-rural continuum (towns and semi-dense areas as well as rural areas) is expected to decrease; towns and semi-dense areas are expected to drop to 24 per cent (from 29 per cent in 2020) and that of rural areas to 18 per cent (from 22 per cent).”
  • “Low-income countries have much higher absolute and relative city population growth than higher income countries. From 1975 to 2020, their city population grew fourfold to about 300 million.”
  • “Most expansion of city land area will occur in low-income countries — without effective planning, urban sprawl might become a low-income country phenomenon: The new data show that changes over the next five decades — in terms of growth of city land area from 2020 levels — will mostly take place in low-income countries (141 per cent), lower-middle-income (44 per cent) and high-income countries (34 per cent).”
  • “Small cities and towns remain critical to achieving sustainable urban futures in low-income countries: Small cities (less than 250,000 inhabitants) cover almost half of city land (about 45 per cent) in low-income countries, a trend that will persist over the coming decades.”
  • “Urban poverty and inequality remain one of the most intractable challenges confronting cities: Urban poverty and inequality are highly complex and multidimensional challenges whose manifestation go beyond lack of income. Urban poverty and inequality are intertwined; they reinforce each other to create conditions of disadvantage that constrain the poor from enjoying the benefits of sustainable urbanization.”
  • “Without concerted action at all levels, poverty and inequality could become the face of the future of cities: Poverty and inequality are increasingly becoming pervasive in our cities. In developing countries, slums and informal settlements are the most enduring spatial manifestation of poverty and inequality. For the millions living in slums, access to essential services remains elusive; thus, preventing the realization of a better urban future. In cities of developed countries, pockets of poverty and destitution have become entrenched, where minority groups endure marginalization and stigmatization coupled with underinvestment in urban infrastructure. If decisive actions are not taken, urban poverty and inequality will become endemic.”
  • “The twin crises of climate change and the loss of global biodiversity threaten the futures of cities: Climate impacts and other environmental crises interact with drivers of urban inequality, affecting people’s capacity to anticipate the impact, then respond and recover from them. Dealing with future risks — including environmental risks — has become one of the main concerns for local governments and other urban-based actors, eliciting diverse responses.”10           

The reality that emerges is of decadence.

“Today, some 56% of the world’s population – 4.4 billion inhabitants – live in cities. This trend is expected to continue, with the urban population more than doubling its current size by 2050, at which point nearly 7 of 10 people will live in cities. [….] The expansion of urban land consumption outpaces population growth by as much as 50%, which is expected to add 1.2 million km² of new urban built-up area to the world by 2030. Such sprawl puts pressure on land and natural resources, resulting in undesirable outcomes; cities represent two-thirds of global energy consumption and account for more than 70% of greenhouse gas emissions.”11 “In much of the world, the growth and developmental advantages of living in cities have diminished in the twenty-first century […]”12

The existing reality shows: The system, no doubt, is failing to sail smoothly. Its core components are shaking and tearing apart the system. Never before the world system imperialism has built up and commands has faced so much questions and challenges that put at stake its legitimacy in so many areas of the globe.

The recently-gone pandemic starkly and powerfully pressed the capitalist system to a precarious position, which was unprecedented: Entire livelihood and health care systems capitalism operates in countries stood sterile; global governing system in commodity production and distribution went ineffective hurting not only peoples in countries, but also the system itself. It came out the system can’t operate in certain situations.

First of all, these crises fatally hurt people, as capitalism transfers the crises into people’s life within shortest possible time; followed by the system creating the crises: capitalist economy and politics.

How to survive?

The question is:

1] How can people survive in these overwhelming crises? The answer, in brief, is radically changing the system that produces so many crises. It’s a long task.

2] Should people sit idly for a long period of time, turn into helpless witness to all the catastrophic “games” capitalism plays with and engages in misadventures for transferring burdens of crisis from its shoulder to people’s life while reaping profit?

3] Should inaction dominate people’s life being battered by crises of an alien system?

If, “no” and “not at all” are the answers to the 2nd and 3rd questions above, then, what initiatives can people take within the interim period – a period for transition from capitalism?

It’s, people initiating steps within the interim period, a huge task. With this perspective, T Vijayendra writes in “Preface” of Transition Town Movement, Local Action in the Wake of Global Emergency and Collapse:                                      

“The Pandemic has taught us many things. It has shown the inability of the state to help people during deep crises. Most importantly it has shown us that people and life find ways of taking care of themselves without assistance from the state. Now I no longer fear the collapse of capitalism. The sooner the better!”

The states’ inabilities that T Vijayendra is pointing out are relative, and all states haven’t rescinded its responsibilities towards their citizens during the pandemic. At initial stage, many states just left away or brushed out souls they governed; the poor, the working classes, the most vulnerable. Economically, socially and organizationally the weakest section of societies were left to the consideration of “fate”, and “fate”’s consideration was nothing, but brutal death, and in cases having no-death, that was unemployment/loss of earning, destitution, hunger. In cases of hundreds of thousands, as media reports showed, the first phase was walking away of hundreds of miles. In cases, scores, in total hundreds, of working persons huddling in small, narrow living quarters, while the pandemic demanded keeping safe distance from one another. Many, hundreds, of the huddled souls died. Those were like running away or living in of scared beasts of prey. This section – the weakest, the most silent, the most disorganized – had least access, and in many/most cases, at all no access to essentials for survival. Later, state machines extended survival services to the haunted; and that was for the interests the state machines were assigned to protect. That was for capital’s regeneration. Without labor power, capitals fail to regenerate, fail to make profit, as labor power is the “magic” that creates profit, and capitals can’t survive without making profit. So, T Vijayendra’s assertion – states don’t help people during deep crisis – stands valid. His finding – people find ways of taking care of themselves – is also valid. He cites the last pandemic to substantiate his claim. It was found not only during the last pandemic, but also at other times, in many areas. One example was found in Greece during its recent period of turmoil – the period of austerity measures imposed by seemingly all powerful Troika. A number of citizens moved to villages from urban areas in Greece, and organized community living, beginning with collectively preparing food. These are people’s rejections of the state machine. But, the main message of these developments is capitalist state machine’s failure. Assault by so-called neo-liberalism, so-called because it’s fundamentally capitalism, and there’s nothing new other than a few neo-words, terms and sentences, a few measures intensified and made brutal and ferocious, is another evidence of capitalist state machine’s failure to attend to the citizens the machine rules.                 

Edited by Bhashwati and Karnika Palwa the five-chapter Transition … book’s other authors are Usha Rao and Shreekumar.

Anarchism, etc.

After a brief discussion on resource depletion, global warming, ecological degradation and growing inequality and social unrest, in the chapter “Transition town movement”, T Vijayendra defines transition:

“Transition is a state that denotes the movement from one situation to another. Here we use it to the movement from the present capitalist/industrial stage of society to an alternative stage.”

Refraining from making any definite approach to transition, T Vijayendra takes into consideration a number of factors:

“We do not yet know what the alternative would be. It will be determined by the history and other conditions of specific regions. It can be any of the alternatives that have been attempted earlier or their modified forms. For example it can be socialism, eco socialism, anarchism, and a variation of a parliamentary democracy. Transition Town Movement is one proposed alternative. It belongs to the TRADITION of ANARCHISM in general and to PERMACULTURE in particular.”

While open to approaches to be followed, T Vijayendra steps into a confusing ground, as he puts a lot, “socialism, ecosocialism, anarchism, a variation of a parliamentary democracy”, into a bundle or inside a blanket. The proposal-maker has to differentiate socialism and ecosocialism, he has to state clearly that ecosocialism is fundamentally, and in terms of mode of production/production and distribution relations, and class dominance is different from socialism, explain anarchism’s role in a transition phase, where capitalist state is failing. The proposal-maker has also to take away confusion that “a variation of a parliamentary democracy” equates, in a different historical perspective, socialism or ecosocialism or anarchism. There’s nothing like “parliamentary democracy”, although the term is very widely/commonly/overwhelmingly used. It’s bourgeois democracy that uses either approach of so-called parliamentary form of government or so-called presidential form of government. Neither of the approaches is equitable to socialism or ecosocialism, if the latter is fundamentally different from the preceding term, or anarchism. The same goes with socialism and anarchism. Anarchism is fundamentally different from socialism. Although T Vijayendra claims that they “do not yet know what the alternative would be”, and “[i]t can be any of the alternatives that have been attempted earlier or their modified forms”, but, proclaims, in the same paragraph, that the Transition Town Movement “belongs to the TRADITION of ANARCHISM in general and to PERMACULTURE in particular.”

It’s highly confusing. Anarchism should be identified without all ambiguity, as this philosophy, approach or modus operandi brings a lot of harm in the working people’s political struggle, and hinders the struggle. A lot of literature on anarchism is available. The political forces struggling for a society free from exploitation, for an equitable approach to life and nature, which began under the leadership of Marx and Engels, don’t consider that anarchism is related to people’s interest. Lenin writes:

“[T]he anarchists […] do not recognize the political struggle as a means for the achievement of their ideals; […]

 “A wide gulf separates socialism from anarchism, and it is in vain that the agents-provocateurs of the secret police and the news paper lackeys of reactionary governments pretend that this gulf does not exist. The philosophy of the anarchists is bourgeois philosophy turned inside out. Their individualistic theories and their individualistic ideal are the very opposite of socialism. Their views express, not the future of bourgeois society, which is striding with irresistible force towards the socialisation of labour, but the present and even the past of that society, the domination of blind chance over the scattered and isolated small, producer. Their tactics, which amount to a repudiation of the political struggle, disunite the proletarians and convert them in fact into passive participators in one bourgeois policy or another, since it is impossible and unrealisable for the workers really to dissociate themselves from politics.13

To Lenin, anarchism is to be examined “from the point of view both of principle and practical politics.”14 The questions of “principle” and “practical” are to be considered fundamentally, without any concession or deviation, as these are the questions related to life, to people’s way of life and people’s methods of moves or actions; and, the question of environment and ecology are the burning issues related to people’s life. So, there’s no space for confusion, ambiguity, casualness.

Lenin argues:

“Anarchism, in the course of the 35 to 40 years (Bakunin and the International, 1866 –) of its existence (and with Stirner included, in the course of many more years) has produced nothing but general platitudes against exploitation.

“These phrases have been current for more than 2,000 years. What is missing is (alpha) an understanding of the causes of exploitation; (beta) an understanding of the development of society, which leads to socialism; (gamma) an understanding of the class struggle as the creative force for the realisation of socialism.”

“[….] Anarchism is bourgeois individualism in reverse. Individualism as the basis of the entire anarchist world outlook.”

“Failure to understand the development of society – the role of large-scale production – the development of capitalism into socialism.”

“Failure to understand the class struggle of the proletariat.

“Absurd negation of politics in bourgeois society.

“Failure to understand the role of the organisation and the education of the workers.

“Panaceas consisting of one-sided, disconnected means.

“What has anarchism, at one time dominant in the Romance countries, contributed in recent European history?

– No doctrine, revolutionary teaching, or theory.

– Fragmentation of the working-class movement.

– Complete fiasco in the experiments of the revolutionary movement (Proudhonism, 1871; Bakuninism, 1873).

– Subordination of the working class to bourgeois politics in the guise of negation of politics.”15

One of Lenin’s major political struggles was against anarchism, and he analyzed the issue from the point of view of the proletariat’s political struggle. The proletariat’s political struggle is not any childish talk and amateurish adventure. Lenin finds anarchism defends “petty property and petty economy on the land”, and, it follows the approach of “Keine Majoritat”, no majority.16 No majority means denial of majority’s, the working classes, the exploited, right, political power, interest, as any minority class can claim all rights to property, all political power, all system and arrangement of distribution favoring the minority class. Shall anyone standing for the exploited go for such an approach that denies the majority? According to Lenin, anarchism negates “the unifying and organising power of the authority”; and “Anarchism is a product of despair. The psychology of the unsettled intellectual or the vagabond and not of the proletarian.”17

Now, T Vijayendra and the movement he’s with have all the liberty to negate Lenin’s arguments/stand on the issue, or reexamine anarchism, and question whether or not a movement having participation of people, having a wider approach can anchor on the base of anarchism. The movement is related to life, environment and ecology, which is environment and ecology for life, not for profit of a minority class(es) owning/controlling the mode of production, owning/controlling capitals that exploit labor and nature, environment and ecology; and that can’t survive without this exploitation. This/these capital(s) impose dictatorial rule on all that it exploits, as without this dictatorial rule it can’t appropriate/expropriate all that produce profit although this dictatorial rule is ignored by the mainstream scholars, mainstream proponents of environment. This camp applies the term dictatorial rule only in the area of governance, and that very term is reserved exclusively for the proletariat’s political power. Thus, the mainstream’s narrowly defined term misses the fundamental, and the question of capital’s dictatorship is camouflaged. Another fundamental aspect related to environment and ecology is democracy, as democracy tolerates, democracy gives space, democracy allows flourishing, democracy keeps balance, democracy doesn’t arbitrarily decide. In nature, in environment and ecology, none dictates, none takes away all spaces for flourishing of self until there’s any sort of external intervention. If the said movement “belongs to the TRADITION of ANARCHISM in general”, how shall it give space to all related to living and flourishing of all required for a living environment?

Despite this limitation or clumsiness in defining the movement, there’s still promise of development as the movement has adopted a flexible, open-ended approach, instead of a rigid one, as T Vijayendra writes: “We do not yet know what the alternative would be. It will be determined by the history and other conditions of specific regions. It can be any of the alternatives that have been attempted earlier or their modified forms.” That’s the brighter part of the movement. It may happen that the movement, gradually, with gaining experience with the passing of time, will reformulate its theoretical basis, throw away clumsiness within definition while moving forward with specific steps. If that’s the approach, is there any justification to go back to the rigid position of “belongs to the TRADITION of ANARCHISM in general”?

Clash of interests

In part II of “Transition town movement” Vijayendra nicely presents a brief way the concept of Permaculture, or Permanent Agriculture or Permanent Culture, as he writes:

“It was initially conceived as framework for a more permanent basis for agriculture rather than mere annual cropping. The idea was to have a mutually beneficial assembly of multi-crop elements of perennial trees, shrubs, annuals (food crops), herbs, vegetables, useful weeds, fungi, and tuber crops with integration of animals, aimed towards household and community self-reliance for food sufficiency. Over time, Permaculture has come to mean much more than food sufficiency at the household level. It has become clear that self-sufficiency in food becomes meaningless unless people have access to land, information and financial resources. Permaculture today signifies a whole life system encompassing various strategies for people to acquire all those resources, including access to land. This is essential to enable self-financing and self-managed systems that can provide for material and nonmaterial needs of any community, without depleting, polluting and destroying the natural resources of the biosphere.”

It sounds nice. But, a few relevant questions remain there. Two of such questions: How a big landholder’s thirst for gaining more, that’s, thirst for profit and higher profit by the capital engaged in agriculture be reconciled with interest of a landless, agriculture laborer? Or, how shall a clash of interests between a corporation bent on grabbing land and a group of the landless or semi-landless be handled? There’re other fundamental questions related to land ownership including rent.

15-minutes city

“Transition Town, Transition Initiative and Transition Model”, writes T Vijayendra, “form elements of an initiative or model that have evolved as grassroots community projects. Their aim is to bolster self-sufficiency and reduce the impact of peak oil, climate destruction, and economic instability.” He gives history of Transition Town initiative beginning from a small town in Ireland in 2004 to 1,130 initiatives in 43 countries up to 2013. He mentions the 15-minutes Cities Movement, which, according to T Vijayendra, “was first proposed by Carlos Moreno, a professor at Sorbonne University, in 2016.” He should once again check the info – “first, Mr. Moreno, 2016”, etc., as long before 2016, similar towns/cities were not only designed in the Soviet Union, but was build up also in the Soviet land. It can be claimed that the “15-minute City” is a Soviet concept. John Bellamy Foster in the famous 1994-book The Vulnerable Planet, A Short Economic History of Environment18discusses “the urban jungle” – the cities. This part of the book by the Monthly Review Press discusses Edward Bellamy’s 1888-novel Looking Backward, which sold millions of copies in the US. This utopian socialist novel drew two pictures of Boston – one of the nineteenth-century capitalist city, and, the other, of a utopian socialist Boston of the year 2000. Foster in this book tells about the need to reorganizing cities.

The part III of the chapter is very interesting as it helps know state of transition movement in India. T Vijayendra cites initiatives of individuals and groups, and his initiative in 2009. His initiative was in a small town, which was, he claims, successful to much extent. Failure in creating a leadership was the initiative’s drawback, informs T Vijayendra.

T Vijayendra, in the chapter, outlines “The vision of future”, defines “local” and individual’s role, talks about “local response in urban areas: transition town” and “ecological village”, role of people’s movement. His suggestion in this chapter is useful:

Take up a programme of converting your own locality into a Transition Town. Ideal places to start will be the small planned urban communities like university campuses and industrial town ships. Many universities have implemented a few such programmes – waste management (Vellore) Fossil fuel free transport (IIT Kharagpur). While you can start with a few concrete programmes, I suggest that you treat it holistically and aim at converting your campus into a Transition Town.

V V Vinayak’s “My Kinwat Report”, an appendix in the book, is a valuable source of knowledge on the issue, as this discusses the initiative in Kinwat, a Taluk town of Nanded district in the Marathwada region of Maharashtra. In Kinwat, the concept of Transition Town was experimented. So, for learning, this report is highly useful. Initiatives for alternative energy, rain water harvesting, kitchen garden were taken by V V Vinayak in this locality.

Collective web

Usha Rao in the chapter “We are part of the problem: ecological degradation and us” tells an essential aspect of pollution:

“When having too much coexists with too much wanting, there is social pollution which poisons the existence of the haves and the have-nots alike.”

Her observation made at the conclusion of the chapter tells another fact, which is ignored by the mainstream:

“It is indisputable that we can live ecologically only if we revel in being part of the collective web and feel the aptness of doing only that which will be good for everyone and also feel just as good about not doing anything which will detract from the collective well-being. There is a need to look at freedom in the sense of being free to be able to follow this fundamental principle.”

Her emphasis on the “collective” and able to follow fundamental principle of freedom is a bold position.

In the next chapter “School education during transition times” Usha Rao tells one of today’s a hard fact in many persons’ life:

“We are rarely relating to what is immediately around us.”

Strangely, this fact is missed by many. Many of us miss everyday brutality we face in the sphere of environment and ecology. This – the brutality of destruction of environment – is hurting our lives. But, many of us are silent, as if nothing is happening. Markets are defacing environment and ecology; but we are going silent. It’s our inability to relate to immediate surroundings, to immediate environment and ecology. Otherwise, relating to reality would have produced a large resistance to the forces of destruction.

She mentions Dr. Venkat, a scientist, who used to practice permaculture in his home garden.

With specific example she discusses local action at rural and urban areas. She also proposes to make schools as a hub for transition.

In the chapter “Some thoughts on what transition would involve in rural areas”, Usha Rao makes the following proposal:

“We will need to aim at generating the spirit of – ‘we will all work together and enrich our area and equally share what comes of it’.

It’s a courageous proposal. Many people dream this. Materializing this dream is so difficult! But, it’s not impossible.

She talks about an example of exploiting the commons: Making more money by exploiting ground water, which is being drawn from the commons. It’s destructive for all and profitable for a few.

In the chapter “Transition from the present to an economy of permanence” Shreekumar tells a few more hard facts:

“We are all participating in an economy that has as its driving force, profit.”

And,

“We have built an economy that demands perpetual growth with little regard to the fact that the planet has a finite capacity for regeneration.”

But, the point to differ with him is in his statement: The purpose of trade relentlessly shifted from meeting our basic needs to increasing consumption.

Consumption

Trade’s purpose isn’t increasing consumption. Its purpose is increasing profit, taking share of profit. To increase profit, trade runs for increasing consumption of a few commodities, diversifying consumption, making consumption difficult at times. Even, trade goes to make a few commodities scarce at times; and that’s also to increase profit. Consumption is related to production and reproduction of capital. 

Politics

Shreekumar makes a fundamental point:

“A strong political will is needed to decentralise administration and the economy.”

Thus, according to Shreekumar, it turns out that

[1] politics is needed;

[2] political organization/party should play a role;

[3] political initiative is needed.

This emphasis on politics, political organization and political initiative by Shreekumar is important, as on occasions, political forces, party or organization, forget this aspect – politics, and political struggle related to the issue of decentralization, although the issue can emerge as an area for political struggle by people. One of the important parts of the Transition Town Movement is its reference section. It contains a short annotated bibliography, a list of websites and videos. This helps one interested to know Transition Town Movement.

T. Vijayendra, Usha Rao and Shreekumar

Transition Town Movement, Local Action in the Wake of Global Emergency and Collapse

(Editors: Bhashwati and Karnika Palwa)

Publishers: Sangatya Sahitya Bhandar,

Post: Nakre,

Taluk: Karkala,

Dist.: Udupi

Karnataka 576 117

India

Contact: Shreekumar,

Mobile: 94803 46081

Email: shreeudp@gmail.com

Contact: T. Vijayendra,

Mobile: 95916 05634

Email: t.vijayendra@gmail.com

For Copies: Manchi Pustakam

12-13-439, St. No. 1

Tarnaka, Secunderabad – 500017

Email: sureshkosaraju@yahoo.co.in

Mobile: +91 73822 97430

First Print: 2023, Price: Rs. 50/-

Note:

  1. Chowdhury, Farooque, The Age of Crisis, Shrabon Prokashani, Dhaka, Bangladesh, 2009
  2. Frank, Andre Gunder, “Crisis of ideology and ideology of crisis”, in Samir Amin, Giovanni Arrighi, Andre Gunder Frank and Immanuel Wallerstein, Dynamics of Global Crisis, Monthly Review Press, New York and London, 1982
  3. ibid.
  4. Magdoff, Harry and Paul M. Sweezy, “The crisis of American capitalism”, in Magdoff, Harry and Paul M. Sweezy, The Deepening Crisis of U.S. Capitalism, Monthly Review Press, New York and London, 1981
  5. World Commission on Environment and Development, popularly known as Brundtland Commission, Our Common Future, Oxford University Press, Oxford, New York, 1988 (first published in 1987)
  6. ibid.
  7. ibid.
  8. There’re scores of studies on urban scene and on urban poor in Bangladesh. One such recent study is Chowdhury, Farooque, “The poor in Bangladesh urban setting: Embodiment of an exploitative system”, Bangla Journal, December 2021, 18th year, 26th issue, Ontario, Canada. Studies on urban life, urban poor, slum dwellers are also found in many other countries.   
  9. United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), World Cities Report 2020, The Value of Sustainable Urbanization, Nairobi, Kenya, 2020
  10.  United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), World Cities Report 2022, Envisaging the Future of Cities, Nairobi, Kenya, 2022
  11. The World Bank, “Overview”, Urban Development, April 3, 2023, https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/urbandevelopment/overview
  12. NCD Risk Factor Collaboration (NCD-RisC), “Diminishing benefits of urban living for children and adolescents’ growth and development” Nature 615, 874–883 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-023-05772-8
  13. “Socialism and Anarchism”, Collected Works, vol. X, Progress Publishers, Moscow, erstwhile USSR, 1972
  14. ibid. emphasis added.
  15. “Anarchism and Socialism”, Collected Works, vol. V, Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, erstwhile USSR, 1973, emphasis in the original.
  16. ibid.
  17. ibid.
  18. Monthly Review Press, New York   

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