Transition Cowichan

Transition Cowichan is a volunteer initiative working to empower our community to build resilience in response to the challenges of global warming and the impacts of accelerating climate change, peak oil, and global economic instability and inequity.

With a focus on community building, Transition Cowichan hopes to inspire ourselves and others in working collectively to make our Cowichan communities healthy, sustainable places to work, play, and raise future generations. This initiative will ultimately be shaped by all who are able to participate, in whatever way they can.

We seek to bring together and work with those in our community who are already working on local resilience and self-sufficiency in food, water, energy and other matters vital to healthy communities. We also seek, new models for community transformation which will help us reach our goal of community resilience and sustainability.

Why Transition?

We are living in an age of unprecedented change, with a number of converging crises: Global warming, overpopulation, erosion of community, food insecurity, declining biodiversity, global economic instability and resource wars - all connected to our dependence on cheap, non-renewable fossil fuels.

The science of global warming is clear. A rise in global temperature greater than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels is an important limit beyond which the risk to human health and planetary ecosystems becomes especially dangerous. Average global temperatures have already increased about one degree C since 1900. Today millions of people are already suffering as a result. Business-as-usual will add at least another degree C increase between 2015 and 2020, putting another 240 million people around the world under acute "water stress" [footnote 1].

Climate scientists tell us that Canada, like other parts of the world, will continue to see increased rains, storms and floods in some areas and increased drought and forest fires in others, if atmospheric greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations continue to rise and our human-produced, largely fossil-fuel-based GHG emissions continue to exceed the capacity of the earth's oceans and forests to absorb them. In BC we have already lost much of our interior forests to the mountain pine beetle because of consistently warmer winter temperatures. The warming ocean and rivers are putting the future of Fraser River salmon at risk. There is a growing scientific consensus that the concentration of atmospheric CO2 must be reduced to 350 parts per million or less in order to stabilize climate at a level that can support human communities [footnote 2]. The global atmospheric concentration of CO2 is now 390 ppm.

Peak Oil occurs when half of global oil reserves have been used, causing supplies to decline and prices to rise. Geologists [footnote 3] tell us that we are nearing and may even have reached the peak. Conventional oil and gas reserves are already in irreversible decline. This puts pressure on the world to use dirty fuels like coal and dirty oil from tar sands. These dirty fuels will also decline, especially if we carry on with business-as-usual, and meanwhile their use is further destabilizing the global climate system. Currently over 98% of the transportation of people and goods in Canada depends on oil. We use oil to make almost everything - aspirin, electric sockets, computers etc.

"Our central survival task for the decades ahead, as individuals and as a species, must be to make a transition away from the use of fossil fuels - and to do this as peacefully, equitably, and intelligently as possible". - Richard Heinberg

Our model, and the model used by Transition Initiatives emerging around the world, is described in The Transition Handbook by Rob Hopkins. This book addresses the challenges we face. It also provides a blueprint for creating a richer, more vibrant community through the re-localization of the services and resources we need to survive and thrive in a world of global warming, depleting fossil fuels, and increasing economic instability.

The Transition Handbook can be purchased at Volume One Books in Duncan, BC or viewed at

What is the Transition Movement?

The Transition movement is made up of people and communities engaged in responding to the effects of climate change, peak oil, and the economic crisis. We want to put ordinary people back in charge, so that we can act on the challenges facing us and create sustainable communities for and by people. By working with people and community groups in the Cowichan region we hope to help create a vision of sustainable, stable local communities that meet our needs. Then, looking back from that vision of the future, we will plan and work to get there.

Building community resilience involves "re-localization" - producing what we need (food, shelter, health care, transportation) using local resources - and "re-skilling" -teaching and learning the basic practical skills needed to sustain life, such as growing and preserving food, etc. Re-localization and re-skilling are designed to lead to a life that is not only more resilient, but more fulfilling, more socially connected and more equitable than the one we have today.

In order to reduce the impacts of global warming and the end of cheap oil, creating a community "Energy Descent Action Plan" is one of the goals of each Transition initiative. The emphasis, however, is as much on the community's process toward reaching that goal - including awareness-raising, building understanding of resilience, making connections with existing groups, and engaging the community by forming re-skilling and work groups in areas such as food, water, transportation, energy, health, the local economy, ensuring a healthy physical environment, etc. - as it is on the outcome.

Transition Initiatives' have their roots in community sustainability based upon permaculture [footnote 4], which looks at designing human settlements and agricultural systems that mimic the relationships found in natural ecologies. Starting in Ireland (Kinsale 2005) and England (Totnes 2006), there are now 234 officially designated Transition initiatives in 15 countries, with more and more emerging in communities around the world. For more information see: List of Transition Towns and the Transition United States website.

The Transition model is based on a loose set of real world principles and practices established through experimentation and observation of communities working to reduce carbon emissions and to build community resilience.

Underpinning the model is a recognition of the following:

  • Human-induced climate change and peak oil and are real and require urgent action
  • Re-localization and building community resilience are necessary responses to these challenges
  • Life with dramatically lower energy consumption is both inevitable and desirable
  • It is better to plan and be prepared, than be taken by surprise
  • Human settlements within industrial society have lost the resilience needed to cope with the shocks that will accompany global warming and peak oil
  • We need to act together and we need to act now
  • This will require all of our skill, ingenuity and intelligence
  • Solutions must creatively engage the head, the heart and the hands
  • Unleashing the collective genius within our local communities, we can build ways of living that are more connected, healthy and enriching, and that also recognize the biological limits of our place and our planet.

Transition Cowichan encourages community members to become involved in and empowered by this initiative, to offer their own ideas and insights, and to pitch in and help create a viable and sustainable future for ourselves, our children, and our children's children.

In January 2010 nine of us formed an Initiating Group and in February Transition Cowichan became an officially designated Transition Initiative. Others have now joined our core group as we move forward in this exciting work. Six of us have taken the two-day Transition Training (the Transition Network requires that at least two members of each Initiating Group take this training). We have found the training is a great way to get introduced to and involved in the movement. In June 2010 we offered a two-day Transition Training in Duncan which was attended by 19 people, mostly from the Cowichan region, but also including participants from Victoria, Sannich and Nanaimo.

Transition Cowichan endorses the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and has signed the Cowichan Food Charter. We have begun hosting events to engage the broader community in discussions about global warming, peak oil and how our community can build resilience and prepare for a transition away from fossil fuel dependence. We are showing films to generate discussion about transition throughout the region, starting in the summer 2010 in Chemainus and most recently in Cowichan Bay. On October 10th, as a part of’s 10-10-10 global work party., we worked with an amazing team of volunteers to plant over 100 fruit and nut trees in a dozen communities throughout the region. We look forward to engaging the community in “open space” discussions as we work toward what the Transition Handbook describes as "the great unleashing".

We believe that, with a positive vision, community dedication and commitment, the serious challenges facing our society can be met and overcome.

Together we can build a strong, resilient, environmentally sustainable community that is more connected and vibrant than our current oil-dependent society.

We invite you to get informed and involved in the Transition discussion. Bring your talents, your skills and your vision to help us build a better future for ourselves, and our children.

Together we can make a difference. Contact us to find out more.

  1. Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
  2. Dr. Rajendra Pachauri (IPCC chair); Dr. James Hansen (NASA Goddard Institute) 2009
  3. The Coming Oil Crisis (1998) by Dr. Colin Campbell and Jean Laherrère,
  4. Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability (2002) by David Holmgren