The New Survivalist Utopians

Locals in Sandpoint, Idaho are banding together to join the Transition movement, which started in the U.K. and is geared towards creating new, ecologically-planned communities to survive peak oil and climate change.
April 20, 2009, 1pm PDT | Tim Halbur
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Transition's approach is adamantly different from that of the survivalists I heard about, scattered in the mountains around Sandpoint in bunkers stocked with gold and guns. The movement may begin from a similarly dystopian idea: that cheap oil has recklessly vaulted humanity to a peak of production and consumption, and no combination of alternative technologies can generate enough energy, or be installed fast enough, to keep us at that height before the oil is gone. (Transition dismisses Al Gore types as "techno-optimists.") But Transition then takes an almost utopian turn. Hopkins insists that if an entire community faces this stark challenge together, it might be able to design an "elegant descent" from that peak. We can consciously plot a path into a lower-energy life - a life of walkable villages, local food and artisans and greater intimacy with the natural world - which, on balance, could actually be richer and more enjoyable than what we have now. Transition, Hopkins has written, meets our era's threats with a spirit of "elation, rather than the guilt, anger and horror" behind most environmental activism. "Change is inevitable," he told me, "but this is a change that could be fantastic."

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Published on Thursday, April 16, 2009 in The New York Times
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