In 2001 Rob Hopkins began teaching a Practical Sustainablity course at the Community College in Kinsale Ireland, based on the principles of Permaculture. It was the first two-year Permaculture-based course ever taught in Ireland and attracted very strong enrolments.
In the second year of the second course, in 2005, Rob Hopkins saw the film "The End of Suburbia" and subsequently showed it to his class. Around the same time he had Colin Campbell, the founder of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil (ASPO), come and speak to his class. These two events put Peak Oil very firmly on the agenda of sustainability issues for the course and the combination of climate change and peak oil was given a lot of thought and attention for the rest of the course.
In June 2005 Rob organised a two day conference on “the challenge and opportunity of peak oil” with speakers such as Richard Heinberg, author of ‘Peak Everything’. As a final assignment for his graduating class, Rob set them the challenge of coming up with a well-researched and meaningful set of plans for the local Kinsale community to adjust itself to a future challenged by the need to address its carbon emissions and the economic impacts of a growing scarcity of cheap oil. This project was subsequently presented to the community and the local government authorities and it was given the name "Energy Descent Action Plan".
The community and local government authorities, along with the college, then took the plan and began working at expanding it, modifying and implementing it. This was the first attempt in the world at designing a timetabled strategy for weaning a town off fossil fuels, and towards a lower carbon footprint.
In September 2005, Rob moved to Totnes in Devon, England to commence work on a PhD through Plymouth University. Inspired and informed by his experience in Kinsale, Rob then co-founded the first "Transition Town" initiative in Totnes in 2006.
The rest, as they say, is history. From the learnings of the Totnes initiative and the great efforts by Rob and others to communicate their experience with the "Transition Model", it has inspired the start up of similar initiatives all over the world. (See here for officially recognised Transition Initiatives and here for other communities considering starting one). There are a growing number of officially recognised Australian initiatives (including Transition Sydney) and many others 'mulling it over'. Our goal is to see many across the Sydner region in the not-too-distant future.
To read more on the Rob Hopkins story and the beginnings of the Transition Towns movement click here