Transition Prince Rupert

Transition from a northerly perspective -By Jordan Bober
On March 23rd, Lee Brain and Ken Shaw of the newly formed Transition Prince Rupert delivered a highly interesting talk to a crowd of Villagers at Langara College about their experiences in forming Transition Prince Rupert and their visions for Transition in Canada. 

Breathtaking Prince Rupert
The audience listened with great interest as the two men described the differences between a big city like Vancouver and a small one like Prince Rupert, and how these differences are reflected in how Transition is unfolding here and there. Prince Rupert, with a population of 13,000, is located on an island with little room for outward growth, meaning that it forms a compact community that, as Ken and Lee put it, is the perfect type of community for a Transition Town. The economy of Prince Rupert is heavily dependent on resource extraction and export and at first blush might not seem like the likeliest place to embrace Transition, but Lee says that after a 2007 mudslide that cut off the highway and gas line and left Prince Rupert "off the grid" for a week, most residents realise that building community resilience "just makes sense". "We're on an island, we all know our vulnerabilities, so we're just tapping into logical, rational perspectives," says Lee.

Due to the small size of Prince Rupert, Ken and Lee knew that to be successful, they would need to go about forming Transition Prince Rupert in the right way. This included a "pre-facilitation" phase prior to officially launching their initiative during which the two co-founders gathered a group of nearly two dozen interested individuals together and began the process of forming, storming, and norming, learning lots about group facilitation and leadership along the way. Realising that their initiative would be much more resilient and successful if every member of the core group shared a number of key skills, the group arranged to undergo Transition training as well as training in group facilitation processes together. As Ken related, they learned a lot along the way, and are much stronger and more prepared for the task at hand because of it.

Transition Prince Rupert co-founder Lee Brain
Lee stressed the need to communicate Transition to people in language that they are already familiar and comfortable with, and will understand. For example, residents of Prince Rupert are very familiar with the terms "Phase One", "Phase Two", and so on to describe the progression of a process, because these are the terms being used to describe their unfolding port expansion. Therefore, Transition Prince Rupert is using the same language when communicating where the group is now and what their objectives are for the future. Lee, whose father is an oil executive and whose stirring testimony at the Northern Gateway pipeline inquiry in February garnered widespread attention across North America,  says that in order for the messages of Transition to reach everyone it needs to reach, "there needs to be that connecting language - to my dad's types... You know how corporations basically hijack "our" language when they say "green", "sustainability", etc... I think the next step for us is to start taking some of their language, and reverse that, because that will connect people into it. Once they connect into it, then they can start learning about it at the community level."

Beyond Prince Rupert, Ken and Lee are keen to see more coordination of Transition at the national level to engage in campaigns calling for a more powerful government and public response to our economic and ecological crises - starting with a campaign to raise awareness of the glaring shortcomings of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as the principle indicator of progress (leading to policies that favour an infinite growth paradigm) and moving to replace it with a measure such as the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI), which takes account of human, social and ecological well-being in addition to economics to deliver a more complete and accurate picture of how we're doing as a society. 

We thank Ken and Lee for taking the time to speak to us, and wish them the best of success with Transition Prince Rupert! We're sure to be hearing more from them and about them soon as they are certain to make some waves, not only in Prince Rupert but in the Transition movement at large! 

Transition founder Rob Hopkins recently interviewed Lee Brain about how Transition can engage young people. You can listen to the first of three parts of this interview on Rob's blog,