Transition Los Angeles?

Since Transition is all about connection, resilience, and community, how is it possible to have a Transition Los Angeles, or Paris, or Barcelona? It is daunting to think of trying to support a Transition Initiative in a city of 3,792,621 people (according to the Los Angeles 2010 census) or 11,000,000 people in the greater LA area. So, with that question in mind, I set off to discover Transition Los Angeles.

According to their brochure:

Transition Los Angeles was established in late 2008 as a city hub to support the blossoming of Transition ideas among the residents of Los Angeles. Local initiatives have sprouted up across the greater LA basin…..with more in formation.

I had made a date to meet with Joanne Poyourow who has been a part of Transition Los Angeles (TLA) since the beginning. She’s also a blogger on the TransitionUS website. Since I did not want to rent a car, it was very interesting arranging to get to her in the Westchester area of L.A. Having grown up in the Los Angeles area, I remember when it was impossible to cross the city without a car. Now I could get on a transportation website to figure out a route from Hemet, where my son lives, to Joanne’s neighborhood.

I took an early commuter bus from Hemet, which is out in the desert kind of towards Palm Springs area, to Riverside transit center. There I took a Metrolink train in-town to Los Angeles Union Station. I then had to walk about a block to catch a bus which traveled in a special lane right down the very busy freeway! In fact the bus dropped me off in the middle of the freeway with stairs heading down to the street where I caught another bus out to within 3 blocks of where I was to meet Joanne. I write all of this because I was so impressed that it could actually be done and within a fairly short period of time with short wait times between buses and trains. It’s what’s in store for all of us in the future when personal cars may no longer be available or desirable.

Joanne and I met in a beautiful, small community garden with flowers and vegetables that was created on the lawn of a church. The church wanted to make the change from lawns to food and there was a ready set of hands in the neighborhood to do the work. I began by asking Joanne about how Transition LA City Hub works.

Joanne said many people ask her, “which comes first, the local group or the hub?” For LA the hub came first because at the first Transition Training the 19 participants came from all over the area and they felt they needed a support system to keep the momentum going.

At the very beginning, in late 2008, Mar Vista/Venice, Westchester, and Culver City neighborhoods were groups in formation. Now, in 2011 they have a total of eight active pods and on the cusp of having 11. Early on they made a decision not to localize by geographic area, but instead by where people felt a sense of belonging. I love the fact that on their website there are individuals identified in certain areas who are looking for others to work with. What a great networking tool that is!

Joanne explained that this growth of initiatives stretches the work needed in the hub. Up until this point they have been in start up mode: no legal organization, all volunteer, and rather amorphous. But it has become difficult since there’s more work to be done. They are about to change a whole lot, but don’t know quite how. Joanne feels confident that how they’ll change will come as they together discern the next steps. They have a leadership team of 28 people with monthly meetings and are connected electronically. They have at least one representative from each pod (an earthy, permaculture approach to naming the initiatives), though not everyone can come to every meeting. All meetings have so far been face-to-face, knowing that being “techno-centric” may cut out many people in the city.

The work of the individual LA Transition Initiatives is very localized. The hub acts as a facilitating device and uses its ability to bring in important speakers and host larger events. The hub helps when local groups encounter leadership issues, or need some guidance.

Joanne is excited by how fast it’s growing and how individualized each pod is. The challenge is the size of the area. The leadership team doesn’t look at the big picture very often. They don’t think about the fact that there’s eleven million people out there and worry that most of them don’t know about Transition. Instead they “put one foot in front of the other” and stay focused on what they can do. Joanne said this is better than doing nothing and it’s also moving them in the right direction. Some of the leadership people have been involved with Occupy LA, bringing food and information to the crowds. They find opportunities wherever they can.

When I asked Joanne why she was attracted to the Transition model, she said she feels it’s about the only model which can address the combined issues of peak oil, climate change, economic contraction, and social justice. It involves all the petals of the permaculture flower. In fact Joanne published a novel, Legacy, about using permaculture as an inspiration for humans to transition from an oil-based culture to one without oil, and just before publication she found Rob Hopkins work, and realized that all the way across the planet someone else came to the very same conclusions! She also said that she can’t imagine doing anything else with her life.

Her vision for Los Angeles is what her book covers. For the book she had created a time-line for success. Now that the Transition movement is active, she has seen that constructed time-line shorten for the positive changes of transition and that excites her. One vision includes food gardens permeating the whole area. She now sees that the food base is happening so much faster than she ever imagined.

She believes that the world vision is what is coming out of Rob Hopkin’s work–that he is the “visioner.” She also said that we are in a grieving phase and that the vision will only come after that phase. She also said that since being world-globalized is a contradiction to transition, there really can’t be a “world” vision. It must be made up of local visions, that are human scale.

Because of the many challenges towards Transition in a city as large as LA, and because we all face huge challenges to make change in our culture, Joanne has given a lot of thought to how we will survive severely-depressed economic times and has written a blog entry on economic resilience, which can be found at We have to take seriously that our future will be very different from how we live now and Transition is one very meaningful path to that resilient future.

I’m excited by this hub model and believe it can work in small cities as well as large. In fact, even in my small town, I think we could divide into neighborhoods and communicate through a hub-like communications group. Let’s next see what’s been happening in Brazil! Tune in.

There’s an opportunity available for you to help with funding for the Transition 2.0 video by going to Transition 1.0, available for free on has been watched by thousands who have been inspired to start Transition communities around the world. Transition 2.0 exposes the more mature movement, including the voices and faces of people who are already involved and excited about the movement. I hope you’ll consider contributing.

I’m ending with this great poem by Wendell Berry, since it has inspired me:

“If we pursue limitless ‘growth’ now, we impose ever-narrower limits on the future.
If we put spending first, we put solvency last.
If we put wants first, we put needs last.
If we put consumption first, we put health last.
If we put money first, we put good last.
If for some spurious reason such as ‘economic growth’ or ‘economic recovery,’ we put people and their comfort first, before nature and land-based economies, then Nature sooner or later will put people last.”

About ruahswennerfelt

I am searching for a global vision for a sustainable, resilient world in the face of peak oil, climate change, and economic instability.
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2 Responses to Transition Los Angeles?

  1. Carol Bradley says:

    I am so glad Ruah took the opportunity to visit her son and learn of the LA initiative. Family connections are so important; I know so much more about Montreal, Toronto and Edmonton initiatives because of family there, even if I don’t see them “enough”.
    Who has read Starhawk’s ‘The Fifth Sacred Thing’ ? Particularly interesting in view of this visit.


    • Hey, Carol, I read The Fifth Sacred Thing and I think it’s very relevant to the Transition movement. It’s now being made into a movie. I’m not sure when it will be released, but I’m anxious to see it. I was very taken with it when I read it and talk about the book alot. I love Starhawks’s portrayal of an egalitarian culture and their response to violence. I think we can all learn much from reading it. In fact, I think I’ll now read it again! Thanks for reminding me of the book.

      My visit to my cousin in Scotland took me to two very interesting Transition Initiatives in that country. My visit to cousins in Sweden made possible my visit with Transition Alingsas. I love combining family and Transition!


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