Local Commentary

Guest Commentary: Turning Falls Church Into a Transition Town

Imagine a Falls Church not so reliant on imported oil and other fossil fuels. What would our city look like? How would our quality of life be different than it is now?

I firmly believe that a Falls Church like that would be a place where its citizens are prouder of their community, more connected to each other, and happier overall. By coming together to combat the challenges posed by peak oil, climate change, and over-reliance on fossil fuels, we can build a more sustainable Falls Church and foster a greater sense of community.

Earlier this year, a group of my fellow students at George Mason and I started thinking about the challenges posed by our global addiction to energy and how we can overcome them. We realized that we can make a difference on the local level and improve our quality of life by bringing the community together to transition toward using less energy here in Falls Church. Because this cannot simply be an individual effort, the Transition Falls Church movement was born.

Why transition away from energy addiction? There are a number of reasons, but the one that means the most to me is because it can serve to strengthen the sense of community and neighborliness that is so important to Falls Church. There is a sense of trust which develops when you get your vegetables from your neighborhood garden and your electricity from the local solar utility. It is a sense of trust that we have lost ground to the tides of globalization, but it is a sense of trust which we want to restore. We all like to think of Falls Church as a small community within the vast suburbia of Northern Virginia. Becoming a Transition Town goes hand in hand with this sense of community because it means becoming more connected with our neighbors and less to our televisions and cars.


Becoming a Transition Town means becoming more connected with our neighbors and less to our televisions and cars.


There are also scientific reasons for transitioning that we cannot forget. The Earth is warming as a result of the fossil fuels and other greenhouse gasses we release into the atmosphere without even thinking about it. While it might not seem like Falls Church can make much of a difference, we can serve as a model for other communities here in the D.C. area and across the United States by transitioning away from energy dependence.

Oil is a finite resource. Unlike a car that runs the same way until its gasoline is gone, the world will face serious problems if the global supply of energy falls or even just fails to keep up with demand. While renewable energy can be part of the solution, there is no alternative energy source or even combination of sources that can totally replace oil right now. This is our opportunity to get ahead of the curve and to voluntarily start using less energy and in the way we want.

Transition is not just happening in Falls Church. Our efforts here are inspired by the experiences of hundreds of “Transition Towns” across the world. People have realized that they can make things at home that they were importing from China, improve their citizens’ lives by replacing unused parking lots with public vegetable gardens, encourage the development of local businesses instead of chain shops and restaurants, and much more. At the same time, Falls Church is a unique place with its own challenges that merit original solutions. Transitioning Falls Church toward a lower-energy future will require local ingenuity and cooperation. It will not be easy, but I am confident that it can and will be achieved.

Right now, we are in the initiating stage. A temporary initiating group of students and community members is working hard to raise awareness of the issues and to act as a catalyst for collective action. The community film screening of “In Transition 1.0” last weekend was a great success, and I look forward to seeing even more people at other screenings, neighborhood meetings, and events in the future. This summer, the initiating group will disband, and the Transition movement will be unleashed and turned over to the community in order to channel our local ingenuity into action.

This is not a top-down project. If you have an idea for making Falls Church more sustainable, get your friends and neighbors together, discuss it with them, and help in making Falls Church a better place to live! If you want more information or want to know how to get involved, feel free to send us an email at transitionfc@gmail.com. You will soon be able to visit us on the web at www.transitionfc.org as well.

Falls Church is a great town to live in for so many reasons. By transitioning toward an end to energy addiction, we can make it even better.




Michael Irvine is currently in his senior year at George Mason High School in Falls Church.