What comes to mind when you hear “Richmond, CA”? Crime? Pollution? Urban decay? That’s the news the media reports. But a quiet revolution is taking place here as in many urban areas; what you don’t hear is that Richmond is a successful Transition Town, with active support from the community and the city government.
So what’s a Transition Town? Locally, the focus of the Transition Initiative is: “…to re-localize the essential elements of our community which are needed to sustain and thrive in a world increasingly challenged by dwindling oil supplies (also known as peak oil) and climate change. Our vision is of a vibrant, resilient Richmond, CA where progress means interdependence, resourcefulness, and plenty for all.”
We know our society is not on a sustainable path, and we’re probably all coming to the realization that the big systemic changes will not come from the top. The changes required for us to make it in the future need to come from the people. But “systemic changes“ sounds so challenging, and the system is so ingrained and we’re so puny, what can we do? Take heart; a lot of these changes are already happening all over the globe, they’re just ignored by the media.
Richmond, like other urban areas, has already “picked itself up by the bootstraps” out of necessity, and is working toward a sustainable future for and with the community. The city manager’s office includes a division of Environmental Initiatives, which supports activities ranging from food scrap recycling to the city’s climate action plan. The city commits to green-collar jobs by partnering with Solar Richmond, a non-profit providing hands-on solar installation training to low income residents as part of a pre-apprenticeship construction program. In 2009, the city met and surpassed its goal of achieving 5 mW of solar installation in one year.
Another successful venture is “Richmond Grows”, a Seed Lending Library located – you guessed it – in the main branch library! Richmond Grows offers residents lessons on growing produce, then saving the seeds to return to the Library to lend to other urban farmers. Like Detroit and other cities, Richmond has involved the young people in urban farming. Some of the high schools have partnered with Urban Tilth to lay the infrastructure and build the capacity to grow significant amounts of produce.
Yes, we’re surrounded by crises on every side. But there are ways we can make positive changes where we live, and build on those changes as we encourage each other. The more we learn to depend upon ourselves and develop our local resources, the less stressful our journey to the future will be. To learn more about Transition Initiatives, see the many links through our local site, Richmond Rivets: http://www.richmondrivets.org/index.html