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15.9 Urban Design: Transition Towns

Author: Biancah Roe

ABSTRACT: Transition Towns are the product of a neglectful government and communities that are determined to come together and make a change.


In order to understand what a Transition Town is, we must understand that movement is a response to various social, ecological and economic problems. The last two centuries have had industrial societies experiencing substantial economic growth from the use of an abundant supply of coal, gas, and oil. Although there are benefits to economic growth, the negative effects harm our planet, and in turn, us. The world’s political leaders try and solve problems caused by growth by wanting more growth, leaving ordinary people to step up in their communities and confront these problems.

The Transition Town movement has surfaced in cities and towns, around the world. Communities refuse to wait any longer for governments to make a change. Although this movement is serious about the problems of climate change, it is characterized by positivity. It leads by example, showing others that the transition to a new post carbon life can be very fulfilling. A goal of a typical Transition Town is to become less dependent on the oil-dependent economy by coming together as a community and have  a goal of using local resources.

As well as re-localization, another key concept in the Transition Town movement is ‘resilience.’ This is the ability of communities to withstand various societal or ecological shocks that are inevitable in the future if the world continues down the path of growth with no limits. To be resilient, communities must learn how to provide for themselves. This could involve, sharing assets with neighbours, or learning new skills like mending clothes or preserving food (Alexander, 2012).

Other benefits of Transition Towns include having immense diversity with a large range of voices, inclusion and diversity are embedded at the center of transition towns. Transition Towns are sustainable, localized and equally focused on people and the environment, with many Transition Towns creating their own local currency. The currency can be traded for local services and goods, which helps support businesses in the community. For instance, New York issues  its currency called Ithaca Hours, Massachusetts issues BerkShares, and North Carolina issues the Plenty. Transition Towns maintains respectful communication by focusing on good and active listening, valuing and cultivating qualities of compassion and promoting politeness throughout the community and lastly, Transition Town promotes social enterprise and entrepreneurship (Transition town, n.d).

The biggest disadvantage to Transition Towns is insufficient funding as Transition Towns are fragile when it comes to funding. When looking at thirty-three initiatives, over half had to request support in the form of funding from a local authority, with 40% successfully receiving  funding (Transition initiatives, n.d).


Alexander, S. (2012, July 20). What is a transition town? Retrieved March 19, 2021, from What is a Transition Town? – The Permaculture Research Institute (

Transition initiatives: A critical assessment. (n.d.). Retrieved March 21, 2021, from

Transition towns. (n.d.). Retrieved March 20, 2021, from

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