Local Commentary

Guest Commentary: Transition Falls Church Movement Continues to Grow

It’s a Sunday afternoon and youth from George Mason High School and neighbors from the City are meeting in the home of Peter and Riva Adriance. We go around giving introductions and saying a few words about what brings us to the Transition Movement. Sandy is a Master Gardener with strong community interests; Tim is an environmental leader and chair of the City‘s Environmental Services Council; Dana is a member of the garden club and has interest in building a strong local community; David is a member of City Council; Peter works with youth and adults to raise awareness on the moral and ethical dimensions of climate change. He and Riva both serve on the board of the Village Preservation and Improvement Society (VPIS). And the high school students like Elinore, Maria, Matt, and myself? As youth, we have come to be engaged in a conversation seeking solutions to the challenges of our generation. To us, the Transition Movement offers a holistic approach to problems like peak oil and climate change, reaching into the domains of local economy, culture, and civic society. It is a means of fostering new relationships and a more tight-knit community. It addresses issues of energy consumption and use of resources and the values underlying them.

The Transition Town movement aims to foster local responses to the challenges of sustainability, and in the process, through the fostering of new relationships, to make communities culturally and spiritually richer. It has been taken up by cities and towns all around the world, stimulating a growing consciousness of possibilities born of collective action. In Transition Totnes in the UK, the first Transition town, neighborhoods have become more vibrant and the local economy strengthened through a range of community enterprises. In Transition Pittsburg, PA, local gardens planted in sunny patches on vacant lots of run down neighborhoods are not only reducing food miles, but providing affordable food for an ignored section of the community, instilling a new pride in the neighborhood, and engaging at-risk youth in an empowering alternative to getting in trouble. In Transition Fujino, Japan, after the recent nuclear disaster, members of a local Transition group are hosting workshops that teach families to assemble solar panels to power their homes.

We ask ourselves, what are the possibilities for Transition Falls Church? This initiative began in early 2012, when seniors from the George Mason High School heard mention of the movement during the film “The Economics of Happiness” shown in a theory of knowledge class. Inspired, a group of interested youth came together, and a new Transition project was born. Although this is the project’s second year in Falls Church, it’s a project that’s supposed to last decades because it aims at facilitating new structures founded on the values of community well-being and environmental stewardship – a long-term and ongoing endeavor.

Currently, Transition Falls Church is in a phase known as “Awareness” which focuses on introducing the project to the community. Through talks and public films, we hope to foster discussion and spark imaginations. A few film screenings and discussions have already taken place, and the project continues its efforts to foster engagement and conversation. Central to this organic process of building interest is the development of new relationships.

As a youth, I’ve been refreshed by meetings like this one in which youth and adults participate in a mutual discourse. Transition poses the possibility of an intergenerational movement. It also poses the possibility of becoming more present to one’s civic society. At these meetings, I’ve also met members of my City Council, discovering that they too are passionate about the blossoming of such efforts. Where I once thought there were only a few people who took problems like climate change seriously, I now have a sense that there are many individuals and groups in the community yearning for more action. Imagine the potential of Falls Church if these yearnings are consolidated and mature into concrete initiatives.

Thus far, I’ve come away from the project with these things: an appreciation for community connections, a desire to become more engaged in my civic society, and an excitement for the future.

A key message of Transition is that people can be awakened to a new power to address challenges like climate change when tapping into the unchecked potential of community, and we can do it creatively and become richer from the lessons we learn in the process. As Rob Hopkins, the pioneer of the Transition model has said, we don’t need to wait for anything to respond to these problems for us, because we’re already here.

In cooperation with VPIS, Transition Falls Church will host at the Community Center a screening and discussion on In Transition 2.0 on Sunday, May 5, 3 – 5:30 p.m. The film captures 16 inspiring stories from seven countries around the world of ordinary people doing extraordinary things in their own communities. Come and get inspired!


 Ronald Lapitan is a senior at George Mason High School in Falls Church.