On April 28th at the University of Winnipeg, over 80 Winnipeggers came together to Unleash Transition Winnipeg.

Transition Winnipeg is a community-led initiative to increase our quality of life, make the local economy more resilient and adapt to contemporary environmental and social challenges. It is people coming together to help make a happier, healthier and more resilient future for their communities and acts as a potential framework and an example of a process and approach that offers a solution to many of the issues, challenges, and fears around climate change, more expensive oil and economic instability.

Transition towns are founded on the acknowledgement that we have to transition to a lower energy future whether we want to or not. We just don’t know when. The first developed Transition Town was Totnes in the UK. Rob Hopkins is generally credited as the founder of the Transition Movement, and author of the much cited Transition Handbook. Check out this short video to hear Rob himself introduce Transition!

Basically, the ultimate goal of a transition town is to create and implement an Energy Descent Action Plan. In simple terms this means fulfilling all the existing needs of our community but in a way that uses far less energy and resources than we currently use. It is founded in the principles of Permaculture – a philosophy of design which seeks to develop sustainable human settlements (homes, farms and communities) modeled from natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of landscape and people providing their food, energy, shelter and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way.

Permaculture’s prime directive is to take responsibility for our own existence and that of our children, to get our own houses and gardens in order so that they can feed and shelter us and to focus on becoming a producer instead of a consumer.

Permaculture also has an ethical foundation. Earthcare recognizes that the Earth is the source of all life, that Earth is our valuable home, and that we are part of Earth, not apart from it. Peoplecare encourages us to support and help each other to change to ways of living that do not harm ourselves or the planet, and to develop healthy societies. And Fairshare demonstrates that we have to place limits on consumption to ensure that Earth’s limited resources are used in ways that are equitable and wise.

Permaculture is also a design system that expands the ethical foundation into a set of Design Principles:


The Unleashing that took place in Winnipeg was a great opportunity for people wanting more information to become aware and educated about Transition and its possibilities. They used open space to begin the discussion of what Transition Winnipeg could become. Groups discussed co-housing, permaculture, how to build an R-2000 home or watched the Transition 2.0 video. Participants recognized that we are not alone, and we are not starting from scratch – and this is the most exciting thing! – that there are so many cool amazing things happening in our own backyards, never mind what’s happening around the world.

The Unleashing was hopeful opportunity for people to come together and talk with compassion, creativity, ingenuity about some of the things going on in Manitoba and Winnipeg. Though not always defined as being part of a “transition” process, they are in their own way contributing to the creation of a stronger, healthier, more resilient community.

For example organizations like Green Action Centre, South Osborne Community Coop, the Harvest Moon Society, the Winnipeg Community Garden Network, Fruit Share, Climate Change Connection, The Community Economic Development Network … among (I would wager) hundreds more organizations and groups around Manitoba are already doing work that is making our communities more resilient!

Why not take a few minutes to reflect on what skills and resources you have that could be brought forward. What is alive in you that you can share? How have you been professionally trained? What hobbies do you have? What skills do you have? We all have unique strengths – from making people laugh to food preservation to sewing to event planning. In the face of adversity and increasing awareness of the environmental, social and psychological impacts of the last 100 years it is easy to feel isolated and overwhelmed. Recognizing and sharing our skills and gifts will help us move positively and resiliently through difficult times

We know that life with less non-renewable energy is inevitable and that infinite economic and consumptive growth is simply not possible. It’s better to plan for the changes ahead than to be taken by surprise – we need to ride the wave and have fun! Our communities, governmental and social systems have lost the resilience to be able to cope with energy shocks… we know that we have to act together and we have to act now. I like to think that by unleashing the collective genius of the local community we can design ways of living that are more enriching, satisfying and connected than in the present.

To get involved, check out www.transitionwinnipeg.ca.


Jackie Avent presented on this topic at the Transition Winnipeg Unleashing. She is currently on leave from Green Action Centre to explore her small farm dream on family land near Portage la Prairie. She is a former co-chair and founding director of Bike to the Future and holds her Permaculture Design Certificate from Pacific Permaculture.