Prince Albert as a transition town

“A clean town that works for everyone”

On the 10th February, 22 people held a meeting in the small town of Prince Albert in the Great Karoo to discuss the possibility of the town becoming a “transition town”. As a result of the meeting, the group agreed that they would communicate the ideas to everyone else in Prince Albert and see who else is interested in getting involved.

The worldwide “transition town” movement is a response to two of the large challenges that humans face and that will significantly change the way we live in the future:

  • The first is climate change. We know that the earth’s climate is changing rapidly, although we do not know for sure how it will affect us.
  • Secondly, we know that the earth is going to run out of abundant fuel quite soon and that we need to change our reliance on oil and oil-based products.

The “transition town” movement was started by a man called Rob Hopkins and some of his students in the town of Kinsale in Ireland who were concerned about these challenges. They developed a plan which set out how Kinsale could make the transition from a high energy consumption town to a low energy one. In 2005, the town council adopted this plan unanimously. Hopkins himself later became a leader in a transition initiative in Totnes, a town in England, which became the world’s first Transition Town. Each individual transition initiative has its own objectives with a range of practical projects.

The objectives of a “transition town” are as follows:

  • Becoming more resilient to environmental and other changes, by building self-reliance in areas such as food, energy, health care, jobs and economics. For example, growing our own food, instead of waiting for it to be trucked in.
  • Reducing reliance on energy and food sources that are running out.
  • Developing a functional, healthy, local community that works together and cares for our people and our environment, so that we can all thrive.
  • Reducing our negative impact on the environment – reducing and recycling waste, reducing our carbon emissions and dependence on fossil fuels, protecting the remaining biodiversity, mainly using renewable resources and restoring damaged ecosystems where possible.

There are many current activities underway in Prince Albert that already work towards these objectives. As a result of further efforts after the meeting, the recycling project in the town has been resurrected. As a community, the town would develop many more creative activities.

In considering why Prince Albert would be suitable to become a transition town, the following factors are important:

  • We are a small community with a clear identity
  • We are far away from urban centres
  • We have fertile soil and enough water (if it is managed carefully) to grow our own food
  • We are more dependent on the outside world than we need to be
  • We have abundant renewable energy sources (sun and wind)
  • We have many passionate people doing positive work to improve the town

In considering how the Prince Albert community could benefit from becoming a transition town, the following ideas are important:

  • Our increased self-sufficiency would improve quality of life for everyone
  • We would gain new skills and knowledge by linking in to the worldwide Transition Network and all their information and resources
  • We would become less vulnerable to external changes, including climate change
  • It could provide another reason for tourists to visit us
  • It could build our pride as people of the town
  • It could unite us as a community if we share a vision for the town

This is just a beginning. Our next steps include building awareness and gathering together interested parties. In the first meeting, we agreed on a “work-in-progress” vision for the town based on a vision that had been developed through an extensive public participation process in 2002. This vision was “a town that works for everyone, excluding no-one”. We thought that this could be adapted to “a clean town that works for everyone” to include the environmental component. We will keep having conversations in order to ensure an inclusive process. And for those who are interested outside of our little town, we will keep you posted.