Transition Town Movement
Posted by: OutofTransition ()
Date: March 26, 2010 05:49AM

Hi, I am new here so I don't know if this question has been asked before. If it has, please bear with me. I am wondering, has anyone here had any experience or information on the Transition Town movement? From what I understand it started in England around 2005 and is a group that supposedly teaches communities how to become resilient in the face of economic uncertainty, peak oil and climate change. The reason I am asking is that a Transition Town group recently formed in my part of the state. I went to a few meetings and came away increasingly disturbed, as I do not think that they are being 100% honest about who and what they are. About 3 weeks ago, things got really weird at one of their so-called business meetings, and I ended up quitting.

Among the things that I learned at that meeting is that this group was brought to the United States by a New Age channeller, a fact they would like to play down when dealing with the general public. I have no objection to a group that is openly New Age, but that is not how they are selling themselves at the movies and lectures that they sponsor. At their "business meetings" it is another story. New Age rituals, philosophy and buzzwords abound. I also learned at a meeting that this movement has encountered some controversy out in Colorado, but I have been unable to find out exactly what. I can say, knowing my particular area, that the New Age bit alone can be enough to rile some folks, but I suspect that there is something deeper than that. The words "radical Greens/radical Left" came up an awful lot on the websites that I googled even though I was not searching for those particular words.

I have no ax to grind with anyone politically; I just want to know who these people are and what their agenda is. All I could think of when listening to them talk was "cult. Been there, done that, outta here."

Re: Transition Town Movement
Posted by: karenb ()
Date: March 28, 2010 12:07PM

There's some discussion here of possible links between the Transition Town movement and Rudolf Steiner/anthroposophy/Waldorf/Camphill. Nothing firm, but entertaining!


Re: Transition Town Movement
Posted by: organic ()
Date: May 03, 2010 11:50PM

I am relived to read that someone else has had a disturbing experience with the Transition Town movement. I recently joined a Transition Towns IG (Initiating Group). I have only been to a few meetings but I became more and more unsettled and uneasy with several of the practices.

• The language – the 12 Steps to Transition include “the Great Unleashing” and “the Great Awakening”. Meetings commenced with a “Reading”.

• The lack of clarity about how they would interact with existing environmental groups.

• The slavish adherence to the Transition Towns model. It was like a franchise.

The excessive frenzy to-do something” without referencing it back to the end goal, i.e. effectively future proofing the local community against a potential disaster resulting from energy crisis and climate crisis.

When I raised these concerns with the IG group, I was put through 3 questions.
1. Did I believe in climate change?
2. Did I believe in Peak oil?
3. Did I believe in the 12 Steps to transition?

I must have failed the last question because I was kicked out of the group. This dismissal from the Group presents an interesting conundrum. Most bona fide groups have “rules” for dismissal. I was just dismissed.

Is there an analogy between this behaviour and that of a cult or a religious group? I don’t know as I have never belonged to either.

However, it does make me wonder who is this Rob Hopkins? What is his background?

Re: Transition Town Movement
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: May 04, 2010 06:34AM

Here is a way to research this. Rudolf Steiners movement is called 'anthroposophy'

Use 'anthroposophy' as a search term for anything or anyone related to back to the land, nutrition, schooling and see what comes up.



Biodynamic Farming is also part of this. Google it and see what you get.

Google that and any name, person or project you are interested in or concerned about and see what comes up.

Waldorf schools are also part of the Steiner movement. Google criticism and see what you get


Add terms like 'secretive'.


As 'going Green' and 'slow food' become more and more fashionable, these areas of aspiration, (just like yoga) may become entry areas for a lot of interesting projects.

If people are proud of Steiner, there's no reason to be shy about him being their source of inspiration.

There are even some Steinerians/anthroposophists who have taken an interest in the 1930s research done by Weston Price, a dentist.


(alternative views here. A pal and I said that totally following this ideology would add up to a horrnedous amount of extra work for women already snowed by too much to do)


There is even a connection with wine making


Edited 4 time(s). Last edit at 05/04/2010 06:47AM by corboy.

Re: Transition Town Movement
Posted by: Hope ()
Date: May 05, 2010 10:16AM

Well what timing! I'm going to a Transition Town pot luck dinner/introductory meeting on Thursday. The questionaire that came with the invitation was a bit off-putting, which raised a teeny red flag, and then I came here and read the other two accounts. I'll keep the date just out of curiosity. Something I read elsewhere claims there is no empiric evidence that Transition Towns anywhere have really accomplished anything and that members were goaded to keep busy, without any clear goal. It almost sounds like the Hunger Project.

I wouldn't be surprised if Transition Towns and other groups like it turn out to be the environmental est groups of this era.

Re: Transition Town Movement
Posted by: margarets ()
Date: May 05, 2010 11:40AM

Just out of curiosity, I looked up the Transition Towns in my area. There are several within a few hours drive of where I live - all communities with which I am quite familiar. I was surprised to find that many of the initiatives (at least, as they appear on the various local TT websites) are just the kind of thing I am interested in professionally and personally. A lot of the goals, such as sustainable transportation (walking and cycling) or reducing waste (e.g. stop buying bottled water), buying local produce, are very much in line with government environmental programs. I didn't find anything too freaky on these websites.

My guess is, at least in my area, these groups are not cults, but they may be lead by some very zealous and controlling nutjobs. That's not uncommon in the non-profit and activist sector, unfortunately.

Re: Transition Town Movement
Posted by: Hope ()
Date: May 05, 2010 09:17PM

Yes - their initiatives are right up my alley, too, but we'll see how they implement the program, how they deal with questions and other views, what is expected of members, etc. All "cults" have goals that speak to peoples' values and interests, which is how they attract members, but their intent and how they treat people is what is important.

Re: Transition Town Movement
Posted by: margarets ()
Date: May 05, 2010 09:42PM

You're right Hope. After I posted last night I thought about how, on the surface, groups like these appear quite harmless, but then again, cults always do - on the surface!

Frankly, this is just the sort of thing that could potentially draw me into a cult. A religion or a personal development course, not so much.

Since there are so many TT groups near me and I'm interested in this stuff anyway, I'm going to observe how they develop. I'd hate to see a legitimate movement towards sustainability get poisoned with cult nonsense.

Yes to rainbarrels!

No to cults!

Re: Transition Town Movement
Posted by: Hope ()
Date: May 05, 2010 10:03PM

Same here. It's good to know our BS detectors are up and running. Also, we can do a lot as far as sustainability goes WITHOUT belonging to a group, but it would be nice to meet people who think alike, have the same goals and who can educate by being an example. We'll see.

Re: Transition Town Movement
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: May 05, 2010 11:28PM

Yes to rainbarrels, no to cults, I like that.

Ha---I can make my own yogurt, can even make my own fermented cottage cheese, make kick ass bread and do cult education.

Yes to fermentation, yes to science, no to secrecy.

Anything in the culture that has a bandwagon effect or that promises to meet a social need (child care, elder care) does risk being co-opted by enterprising types as a point of recruitment into something far more demanding than just whats offered on an event flier.

This is not to counsel total paranoia.

But we do need to be alert consumers. There are only 24 hours in a day, we have only so much energy and money and many of us are already tired and over-extended, especially parents--and parents are already targeted for guilt inducting fear massaging advertisements relating to kids and nutrition. Last thing needed are ideologies not even rooted in science but in funky old models of Theosophy that add new sets of fears to what we are already burdened by.

Decide if what you want is only to (say) learn gardening or recycling and just that. If you dont want to buy into a belief system along with learning to garden, stay away from any project that links gardening to some belief system--and especially if they do not tell you in full and up front before you get emotionally and socially involved.

Right now, Going Green and Reducing the Carbon Footprint are big.

Remember, you can learn how to grow a home garden, cook healthier food, and make your own yogurt and saurkraut and how to recycle without having to take on a belief system any different from your current one.

If you have to answer questions, buy into some belief system or prove you 'have something to contribute'--feh!

***Two, if the methods taught are time consuming, expensive and demanding, ask hard questions. Find out if the leaders of the educational project live like you do, or if (by any chance) they have lots of eager disciples who donate labor at the leaders homes or farms, a resource that ordinary schmoos like us cannot count on.

There is a book entitled Back From the Land, an overview of the 1970s homestead movement. The author learned that some of the revered role models of the country simple life, actually had financial cushioning and also had eager disciples who helped farm their land, and they didnt make this sufficiently clear to ordinary, normal couples
who tried to emulate them and ended up exhausted, worked to death, shame ridden at being unable to do it--and worse, impoverished by health care costs due to injuries on the land.

Its up to these folks to make their case and demonstrate they are worth YOUR time and that they are worth YOUR money.

The thing to ask is if a set up is only teaching a particular skill or skill set...or whether it is using the promised tutoring in a desirable and newly popular skill to expose an audience drip by tiny drip, to an entire, long term ideology that most members of the audience would refuse any part of, if told up front, at the very start.

It is one thing to have a simple interest in wanting to learn how to cook more healthfully, or start a home garden. Hell ya can buy books or check em out of the library. You can go to the local nursery and get some great tips just by quizing the people who work there.

You dont have to change your entire mindset or take on an entirely new belief system to do this. Mom, who was science minded, and against oppression and organized religion in allf orms taught me bread baking because she'd grown up learning to do it by watching her mother and aunt and grandmothers. No belief system--its just what people did, whether protestant, catholic, jewish, or no belief system in particular.

Only belief we had was--making sure the stuff tasted good.

Ditto for saurkraut making and yogurt making. In the old days you learned to make that at home, because your folks were from a part of the world where those skills were adaptive. You did not culture yogurt or make saurkraut in order to live by an elitist world view that required production of politically correct doo doo with gut bioflora that enhance your karmic potentials and soul ascension.

The thing to be alert about is…does a group aim to teach only cooking or gardening? Does the group only aspire to run a grade school for kids?

Or is it way way to slip in, slowly, and without telling you up front, slip in indoctrination into an entirely different mindset—and possibly a mindset that is undergirded by a separatist elitism that you yourself would reject out of hand if you knew up front that this is the ideology driving the group---an ideology that is very much more than just gardening and learning to do home made yogurt?

Whatever is fashionable to mainstream culture can be easily tweaked into a point of recruitment. A few years ago, Anticult joked that a wily recruiter would aim to purchase yoga studios. But today its going ‘Green’.

Karen Maclaren writes:


. Yoga has been jokingly called the “gateway drug” to the New Age. That was certainly true for us.

“I first encountered the New Age in 1971, when I was ten years old. My mother had been experiencing numerous arthritic symptoms that just weren't responding to medical care, and she was headed for a wheelchair. Somehow, she found a yoga class, and slowly, she became well again. She also became a vegetarian (which was very avant garde at the time) and we began frequenting health food stores in search of unusual things like whole grain cookies, cod-liver oil, and bean sprouts. Our lives changed very swiftly, especially after Mom became a yoga teacher herself and entered more fully into the metaphysical/New Age culture’’

Their family broke up


Our family fell apart over this massive change (though my parents’ marriage was rocky anyway), as my father was and still is a skeptic with a strong intellect and good native training in scientific and critical thought processes. One of my brothers, who is now a mathematics professor, joined with my father, while the rest of us kids (four total) went along in our own ways with my mother’s interest in metaphysics, spirituality, and the New Age.
We switched from conventional medicine to homeopathic care, learned to meditate, and joined groups that listened to supposedly “channeled” beings-we became a part of the “in” crowd.

(NOTE: There is actually such a thing as Anthroposophical Medicine—a system of healing based on Rudolf Steiners Principles. Imagine the possibility of a family fight if one parent wants to take the kids to their longtime, western trained pediatrician and the spouse has been converted, via the Transition Town or Waldof scene into taking a stance of distrust toward western practitioners and is pressured by Steinerian buddies to ignore the spouse and consult an Anthroposophical pracitioner ?)

(Maclaren continues, and gives a reason why this alternative scene can be very appealing)


It was a fun and often exciting time, **and though I much preferred the magical world my mother showed us to the mundane world my father defended,** I was always a very bright and skeptical person. Even in my early teens, I was able to see right through questionable things like est, Scientology, breatharianism, urine drinking, and the really dangerous cults-yet that same skepticism and intelligence actually helped me validate other unusual experiences (of which I had many). I knew many psychics and alternative healers who seemed to be very good at what they did, and I directly experienced healings and psychic readings that I couldn't logically refute.

In that period, it would have been wonderful to come upon skeptical and critical thinking techniques, but alas, critical thinking wasn't taught in my high school. I didn't even know the category existed! When I went to junior college, I took geometry and logic for my critical thinking courses and thus I missed out on the subject once again. In my education, I didn't gain the skills I needed to help me understand what was occurring when New Age and metaphysical ideas and techniques seemed to work. My empirical experience “proved” the validity of things like psychic skills, auras, chakras, contact with the dead, astrology, and the like—and I had very little in my intellectual arsenal at that time to help me understand what was truly occurring.
For instance, an understanding of cold reading would have helped me a great deal. I never knew what cold reading was, and until I saw professional magician and debunker Mark Edward use cold reading on an ABC News special last year, I didn't understand that I had long used a form of cold reading in my own work! I was never taught cold reading and I never intended to defraud anyone—I simply picked up the technique through cultural osmosis. “

Maclaren sees a difference between New Age Culture and evidence based skeptical culture.


I'm writing this piece as a thank you letter to the skeptical community. I want to thank you for helping me to fully understand just how much bad training I've been exposed to in my metaphysical/New Age culture (actually, it’s not my culture any longer, but for simplicity’s sake, let me continue to claim it for the duration of this piece).
But I'm also writing as an attempt to open a dialogue, and perhaps to begin bridging the precipitous chasm that exists between our two warring cultures, because at this point, the lion’s share of people from my (former) New Age culture can't really hear much (if anything) from the skeptical culture. And that’s a real shame.

“That wall, built of deep cultural differences and decades (or centuries) of distrust, meant that I could find nothing within my (new age) culture that could help me think critically. Critical thinking and skepticism live in another world from mine-they live across a chasm where no bridge and no safe passages exist. It wasn't until I became a citizen of the Web that I was able to undertake the harrowing journey across that chasm and land, finally, on solid ground.

Bridging the Chasm between Two Cultures


Right now Going Green is popular. So is yoga, so is organic gardening and slow food.

So are schools and care for little kids. In a few years, eldercare is going to be very desperately needed.

So...that is where enterprising recruiters across a wide range of ideologies will seek to get your attention.

And in the case of eldercare and little kids, these are vulnerable groups. Mr Rick Ross got started in his career as a cult expert when his grandmother told him that aggressive Christian proslytizers had infilitrated her nursing home and were pressuring her to convert. Mr Ross didnt like anyone messing with his Bubbe.

People be vigilent. You do NOT have to become part of some odd ball theosophical cultic milieu in order to learn to garden, slow cook, bake bread or learn recycling.

And keep a close eye on what your kids are learning in school and make sure your older relatives get respect and not not pressured by care staff to take on beliefs they dont wish to take on.

Because, mark Corboys words, eldercare is going to be a new target of opprotunity and whoever has the gall to exploit this deserves to be reincarnated as a slug.

Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 05/05/2010 11:47PM by corboy.

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