In 2008, a handful of neighbors concerned about climate change started discussing how to address it. We started by shifting our own attitudes and habits, and it soon became a group venture—to help mitigate climate change and adapt to its effects. Three goals emerged:
to reduce our carbon footprint, as individuals and as a neighborhood
to prepare for severe weather and possible economic instability
to build our community's resilience—and have fun while doing it.
We learned about the worldwide Transition movement: the cities, towns, and neighborhoods transitioning from a fossil-fueled way of life to more sustainable practices. We discussed books such as Pat Murphy's Plan C and Rob Hopkins' Transition Handbook. (See "Resources" for more.) Then we took the next step.
Reaching out, taking action
Naming ourselves the Energy Resilience Group, we formed in 2009 as a subcommittee of the St. Anthony Park Community Council's Environment Committee, aiming to deepen local awareness of climate change. Over the next few years, we reached out, hosting speakers and a "Green on the Screen" film series. We wrote commentaries for the Park Bugle. We launched a newsletter (now Transition Times ASAP) and made a splash at SAP's Arts Festivals and Fourth in the Park parades.
At two community meetings early in 2013, neighbors gathered around topics of interest, forming eight action groups: community solar,
home energy curtailment, housing options, local school partnerships, sustainable food and land, transportation, zero waste, and a Reflective Circle for the inner process of facing climate change and finding our best responses to it. These remain our areas of action (now with the addition of emergency preparedness and "transitioning our money" to fund a more local, resilient economy).
That April our Transition Festival brought over 200 visitors to see the action groups' displays, discuss videos, and celebrate with music and puppetry. On our streets, the Transition "t" started appearing in windows. (Print your own from the pdf.)
It's official: "Transition Town - All St. Anthony Park"
Soon the groups were leading food-canning workshops, strategizing for a local solar array, promoting public transit, and furthering community discussion on rezoning for more accessory dwelling units to lower our per-capita carbon footprint. At Murray Middle School, we consulted with students on rain-garden designs. We collaborated with college interns, and we started a monthly Transition Tap for relaxing and welcoming newcomers over a local brew. So we took the next step: we gained the official Transition Town designation.
Our support broadens
In 2014, a neighborhood vote earned us a $15,000 grant from the SAP Community Foundation. The funds are helping us:
host a series of community-wide meetings to set goals for a sustainable future
reach out to other local groups and offer stipends to youth interns
share more widely via web and social media
plan for two more Transition Festivals
scrapbook, made by
Regula Russelle, who
also created our
Slide show: Our history in pictures
We were also named to the District 12 Neighborhood Honor Roll, and two years later (2016) we won a Sustainable St. Paul Award. In between, we launched a visioning process (see "2040 Plan") but then we changed course. Since St. Paul's community councils were drafting their own ten-year plans, we decided to focus on influencing that very real process. And in SAP's final draft in 2018, the top two areas of focus were equity and climate change.
Meanwhile, we also kept tabs on the Paris Climate Agreement, oil pipeline resistance, Citizens Climate Lobby's work for a carbon tax and a congressional climate caucus, and the aftermath of the 2016 elections. But while many of us take political and social actions individually, the group focuses mostly on building the world we want locally, with some overlap with other Transition Twin Cities groups.
The power of art, and a national gathering
For the Twin Cities Northern Spark arts festival in June 2017, a team of Transition artists created Transition NOW—Grove of Life in downtown St. Paul. All night long, visitors added leaves to the trees, each inscribed with an earth-friendly declaration.
When the national Transition hub (based in California) chose Macalester College for its first Transition US National Gathering, we pitched in as local partners. That July, over 200 people attended a week of workshops and idea exchange. For us it led, among other things, to the Transition Your Money group we started that fall, looking for ways to invest in values like local sustainability. A spinoff investment club called Local Dough is forming now, in fall 2018.
We're also strengthening partnerships with groups like Hampden Park Co-op and the St. Paul Tool Library, as well as the SAP Community Council. Can we collaborate with your group? Let us know: info@TransitionASAP.org.