This profile was prepared when Rob Hopkins was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2008.
The New Idea
Through the model of Transition Towns, Rob has created a way to engage people en masse to tackle climate change practically through a solutions-based and action-oriented approach to reducing oil dependency. A Transition Initiative is a community working together to assess what it needs to achieve sustainability, as well as what it can do to drastically reduce carbon emissions and mitigate the economic and environmental repercussions of reaching the peak in available oil supply. Central to this approach is Transition Towns’ role in developing communities. Using environmental challenges as the impetus, Rob brings people together to act for their community’s common good by stimulating a sense of belonging and helping citizens see the consequences of their actions on the people and places closest to them. As this community evolves, apathy is transformed into positive action, and people’s fear into excitement about what is possible. This bottom-up, citizen-led process has propelled over 1,000 communities and tens of thousands of people to effect positive environmental change on the local level. Already, their combined efforts are resulting in policy changes as local governments join the movement as Transition Authorities. Further, as more people continue to take part, more demand-side pressure is being placed on environmental technology providers to deliver solutions that reduce carbon emissions while building alternatives to fragile oil supply chains, creating more practical options for citizens and communities. Rob’s approach has established a virtuous circle of incentives that is strengthened with the addition of each new Transition Town. Locally, as more Transition activity develops, communities become more resilient to the negative effects of the onset of peak oil. On a broader level, as the Transition Network develops, it becomes more robust with each new member, able to offer a greater range of solutions and opportunities for action. Through his continued efforts, Rob has integrated two separate problems into a single historic opportunity to call entire communities to action.