RIDGWAY – There are four possible visions of our future, said Wayne Pandorf last Friday (Feb. 10) at a gathering in Ridgway. One is the vision our fathers had: everything will be bigger, shinier, more. A second future vision is decidedly more apocalyptic: doom in some form for a profligate and heedless human population. Number three, Pandorf said, might be a kind of Star Trek vision: humans escaping (or transcending) Planet Earth to explore the wider universe. And the fourth vision: a kind of localized sustainability, based on the things a community identifies it can do for itself – a decentralized, post peak-oil, back-to-the-future future, if you will.
A future where the average American carrot doesn’t travel 1,800 miles from farm to plate, as it does now.
This is the message of the Transition Movement, Pandorf, a pony-tailed, two-year transplant to Ouray, told the full house at the Ridgway Community Center. Transition, as in “transitioning off fossil fuels. The movement was born,” Pandorf said, “out of the concept of peak oil, that in the future we will be able to depend less and less on fossil fuels” to grow and transport our food, to supply our energy needs, etc.
He screened an upbeat, one might say idealistic, film on the origins of the Transition Town concept, which began five or six years ago in Totnes, England, and has since spread from Boulder to Bayfield in Colorado, and around the world as far as New Zealand. The Kiwis call it the Ooooby movement: “Out of our own back yard.” Consider the resilience, Pandorf said, of a community that simply grows its own salad fixings and doesn’t have to depend on the oil-based fertilizers and diesel miles involved in hauling lettuce from Mexico or California. “From dependence to local resilience” was the film’s subtitle.
Pandorf said he is part of an early-form committee that is calling itself Transition Ourway. “It’s a combination of the two town names, Ouray and Ridgway. You can pronounce it ‘our way’ or ‘your way.’” The group, which is loosely affiliated with Telluride’s The New Community Coalition, will be screening more films in both communities in the coming weeks, in the hope of generating ideas and eventually inspiring action.
Kris Holstrum of TNCC was in attendance Friday night and said, “This initiative has no downsides. It’s all about making communities more self-sufficient. There is no model. The community decides what it strengths are and you go from there.”
Pandorf, who participates in Ridgway’s seasonal community garden, admitted that Ouray County’s strength might not be in food production. But his enthusiasm led him to claim that “Ouray did itself feed a regional population of 20,000 during the mining heyday.” Maybe with help from Colona and Montrose.
His point was that even a partial return to self-sufficiency is a good thing. Boulder wanted to produce more of its own food, Pandorf said. “It wanted to go from producing 2 percent of its food to 20 percent in five years. But after five years they had only upped it to 7 percent. It’s hard. But you have to start somewhere.”
Holstrum added, “This is a process that doesn’t have the answers out of a box. It’s a catalyst.” Like the governor’s bottom-up economic development model, Pandorf said, which has led to the formation of a creative district in Ridgway. No one knows what may eventually come of it, but the process has generated energy and enthusiasm.
“Eventually we may want to form an ag working group,” Pandorf said, “a transportation group, a government group.” Energy, education, food, government, economy: Transition Ourway could address and influence them all.
He echoed an interesting concept broached in the film: the idea of a locally circulating currency. In the film residents of Totnes printed up their own Totnes pound notes. “We could have the Ourway dollar,” Pandorf said. “Mindful money. You’d purchase it for $1.05, say. Merchants would agree to accept it as legal tender and residents would agree to take it in change. Money that can’t leave the community, it would create an awareness of the local economy,” of where the money goes.
Finally, Pandorf challenged the crowd to “Imagine a future that you would like to see, a future worth living for our children. A world we want. Or we’ll get the world that somebody else wants.”
Transition Ourway is sponsoring another film screening (a different one), Friday Feb. 17 at the Ouray Community Center at 7 p.m. And yet another film at the Wright Opera House Feb. 24, also at 7 p.m. Following the film series, “We may want to convene a kind of Transition Town Hall meeting,” Pandorf said, and from there . . . who knows?
For more information, contact Paula James: firstname.lastname@example.org.