Jeff Griggs - The Re-emergence of Transition Towns, Men’s Sheds & Localised Food

Interviewed by

Tim Lynch

Jeff Griggs - The Re-emergence of Transition Towns, Men’s Sheds & Localised Food

Whangarei in the north of NZ is stirring and it’s around ‘community participation’ as a result of a small dedicated team based on collaborative leadership.

Food resilience is one of the important focusses of Transition Towns (TT) as it affects everyone, the poor, middle income and even the rich. We all need high quality food in our body to obtain optimum results. By re­localising their food system, which even here in NZ has been taken over by large corporate players and international supply chains, we have to have plan B.

Fortunately over the last 8 years, Jeff has been in Whangarei holding the space whilst many if not most TT’s have dissipated and/or fallen away. But, in Whangarei people come in and out depending on the issues and they are continually finding situations that galvanise people and engage community and get them involved. Which he warmly finds is contagious. Once you gain the awareness of people who want to find out what they can do, it then becomes all what they can do at a community level.

Especially film evenings when you have 'conscious get togethers'. One of them very recently being 'This Changes Everything' a Naomi Kline movie, assisting in pulling the threads of community together can build up a synergistic momentum.

Jeff mentions Cuba, being a classic example when the Soviet Union dissolved, it left the whole country of Cuba with no oil supplier as well as no chemicals for agriculture.Thus, resulting in the Cubans falling back on their own commitment to self and group responsibility which resulted in a very resilient community in a matter of 4 or 5 years growing into being.

He also sees that, we too in NZ are in transition and when we get community engaged and involved ­ the coming together, the passion and the enthusiasm ­ the commitment and the co­creation that happens ­it's potent and empowering ...

Jeff Griggs states that the principles of the Transition Town (TT) model are very robust, as it contains so many aspects that builds resilience back into community. Including co-opetition, community building and because it was positioning to cover the peak global oil situation, when it was sidelined by full spectrum fraking. This fraking did bring down oil prices, but in the process, in so many cases, destroyed the water pan with chemical pollution causing many unrecorded environment and health problems, like discharging flammable gasses into the water supply that came out through kitchen water taps.

What he now states is the end of cheap oil and we here in NZ, being dependent on oil needs, still exposes us to being vulnerable around oil supply. So going back to the TT model, it is far broader than just fraking and costly oil. This is where organics and permaculture meet, home schooling and holistic healing modalities, alternative currencies such as green dollars and time banks extend into the local economy, as well as a reignited ‘neighbourhood support’ system. Thus the strings of a community extend across many demographics and resilience comes into play.

Jeff thinks that when we pool all these components together there is 'collaborative' leadership and this word is becoming to be more known in the mainstream vernacular. When you get groups of people with common visions sitting down around the table actively listening to one another, looking at possibilities, getting creative in a co creative way ­ the magic and the power that comes from that kind of round table discussion is quite mind blowing! When you compare this polite dialogue and sharing with the antics of NZ’s Parliament or US politics, we need go no further.

Validating collaborative leadership is a new way forward.

Which due to Jeff's experience in local government this is what is missing ­ collaborative leadership.

The challenge now is to convince government and bureaucracy to commit to find ways to embrace collaborative style of being and working ... where you get rid of the win/lose scenarios and also the power struggles and the competition.

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” R. Buckminster Fuller

When you clear the old patterns put these old forms aside and embrace the new all of a sudden when people start engaging in this new way of working, the collective wisdom, the collective knowledge starts to emerge and this is where the leadership starts to come up from the grass roots level.

People practising this experiential learning of collaboration find it’s like the magic ingredient where you get the group together ­ create the space and then you just let it go ... and the outcomes are so powerful ­ its going back to community outcomes, community well­being and health of the environment ­ all this stuff starts to play out.

The passion gets renewed.

This interview covers a lot of C words ...
Co­opetition
Co­operation
Co­creation
Collaboration
Collectives
Community building
Can do ...
Commitment ­ which many people seem unable to do ...

Other words for these times.
Local resilience
Reclaiming
Social enterprise
Self sufficiency
Personal responsibility
Be the change

When in a group situation and people are using this vocabulary ­ you know that you are all on the same page and wavelength.

The Transition Towns model being a very well thought­out model that with 12 parts to it Jeff thinks it is a very well structured system.

One of these unique parts of this TT system, calls for ‘inter generation’ connection and honouring the elders ­ these are all components that consist of building interactive resilience back into communities ­ the coming together ­ the grand fathers/mothers ­ the very young ­ this is known within indigenous populations where is is very much a natural unified field.

One such initiative that happened when listening for the voice of the youth of Whangarei, was that no one was looking for their aspirations, they were not being actively factored into the future so Jeff and a team wrote to the Principles of the five major high schools in the City saying that their TT group was a voice of concerned citizens and they were interested in hearing the voice of the youth of today.

They asked for two students from each school and meet with all five high school representatives to support them in asking them to share their aspirations and get their voices out. So the TT group coached them in being media savvy and how to give presentations etc.

Then Jeff met with them personally for near on two years and they wanted to have a number of things, one being a forum to be able to communicate with government politicians and a youth space where they could come together and support each other along with other smaller objectives, such as tutoring. As a result the feel confident to go in front of the Whangarei Council and they have been acknowledged, listened to ­ and have their own space and received funding for ongoing group consensus etc.

The TT group seeded it, now they have stepped back.

Then the TT group checked out the elders ­ and saw that the women were far more organised and had their social networks, but the men, they were another story. Jeff said that he sees them at the library ­ bring back cartloads of books ­ they were just home reading. Yet, they had so much talent and skills sitting untapped by the community. Having heard about the Man Shed concept in Australia, where the Federal Government actually funds them because they can see the indirect health benefits of keeping the men occupied, because with no outlet the men get depressed, and go onto medication and the downward spiral ... and Jeff and a team decided to do it here in Whangarei where the end product is that there are now 80 men in a shed that happens to be the old Whangarei railwaystation.

This they purchased off the Council for one dollar, they are now restoring it, they are doing projects all over Whangarei for charities and non profits, Salvation Army, hospices, repairing furniture etc This being a total entrepreneurial old group of guys who love being together, love building things and love giving back to the community. They are now bringing in home school kids, women groups, also to learn many differing skills, that it is becoming a community point where everyone comes together to honour this intergenerational connection.

The next step being, to invite in young males who have missed out on connection with fathers and male energy ­ to come hang with these older blokes and learn and laugh and again bring the inter­generation energies together into a more co­creative environment, these older men are ex builders, plumbers electricians etc with a huge resource of skills.

There are now mens shed in Kaitaia, Kerekeri and starting in Ruakaka and they are being donated huge amounts of tools and gear etc. It is overwhelming what is being donated.

Also mentioned in this interview is Barbara Marx Hubbard (whom we both have met) out of Northern California, who talks about "Conscious Evolution" as against, unconscious evolution, which is basically where we are at in this old paradigm that is hemorrhaging and not fulfilling humanities needs or the natural world.http://barbaramarxhubbard.com

Covering; GE Free Northland as championed by the Whangarei Council and the Far North Councils. Plus, honouring Zelka Grammer and her unwavering and dedicated work to keep GE & GMO's out of the North.https://organicnz.org.nz/node/624

Other TT projects are about re localisation. (Do a web search on ‘Localise’ NZ for the various web sites www.localise.nz ) This will give pointers about Relocalising our food and reshaping Northlands food production as well as integrating distribution and and understanding consumption systems.

Because Whangarei and districts have a niche climatic system, available water, rich soils many of them volcanic, the possibilities are huge yet compared to the food grown in Northland 100 years ago very little food is grown today.

Why?

6,000 people go to the Saturday morning Whangarei markets on Saturday morning. Based on the collaborative leadership model it is fundamental to bring in this new paradigm and re educate everyone including the present businesses, the institutions, the economic development people, leaders etc, to see just what is possible.

And ironically, all this Transitional Town dynamism is being done by volunteers, actually just three people ( Just as this radio program is totally voluntary as well) No resources or money other than their own time has gone into this project.

Jeff tells that last year he took 4 months off in 2015 to visit North America to study the local food movement, especially in Vermont, which has quite a counter culture and where Bernie Sanders comes from and they have this ‘localised food movement’ absolutely sussed. The Book called ‘The Town that Food Saved.’ Based around an organisation called ‘The centre for an agricultural economy.’ www.hardwickagriculture.org/ It's a social enterprise, is very entreprenurial and is self supporting.

Kaitiakitanga means guardianship and protection. Rahui and regenerating fish stocks. Northland being a GE and GMO Free Zone and Auckland City being the gate keeper to keep such materials out from the north.

The very high price that organic dairy farmers are getting for milk powder emphatically states that there is a world market for top quality healthy products. 5 times the price of conventional dairy prices. Covering a huge array of subject matter from Morgan Williams the ex Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment and how strong and forthright he was when taking that post.

That today, the NZ Government and ‘business as usual’ have corrupted and abused the word sustainability and deleted it from any ecological context, but use it to sustain the ongoing plunder of our planets resources, people and future.

The semantics of sustainability."if it is good for the environment and good for the people and good for the economy then you are well on track to be sustainable" Morgan Williams. It is the life supporting capacity of our planet that has got to be the main criteria for us in supporting the biosphere.

Progress indicators GDP and the measuring of gross domestic product Dr Ron Coleman who was invited by Dave Breuer of AnewNZ and who had Michael Cullen’s ear, ( The Minister of Finance for the previous Labour administration.) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genuine_progress_indicator

The game is to replace the system with one that is going to work for our common future and environment, people and economy basically in that order.

In fact "it is not a revolution it's a paradigm shift" ­ from the grass roots up.

And more and more people are twigging to it, as they tire of the same frenetic diet of homogenous unconscious drivel spewed out via the MSM and when they see the possibilities of TT’s bountiful expression and the garden of delight ­ it awakens them to their real self and their connections to self and the greater community.

Neo Liberalism has been totally embraced by the NZ National Party and it is not serving the country as whole.

Food for Life in Whangarei is based in giving food to school children in low decile schools = 1200 meals per week.

Stopping food waste, at super market is something that is being looked at.\

USA Hospitals have an initiative called "farm to hospital" so as to get fresh food into hospitals from local sources.rodaleinstitute.org/farmtohospital/ and www.farmtoinstitution.org/

‘Sew good’ Where Whangarei women engage in teaching and sewing in a community workshop space.http://www.sewgood.org.nz

Whangarei, is maybe becoming a cellular nucleus or mothership to not only the localised area but for supporting new community collaborative initiatives in outer lying towns within the Northland region.

This is a wonderful interview that will warm your bones and get you excited. I apologise for this poorly written summary, there are only a certain number of hours in the day.(Tim)

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Tim Lynch

Tim Lynch

Tim Lynch, is a New Zealander, who is fortunate in that he has whakapapa, or a bloodline that connects him to the Aotearoan Maori. He has been involved as an activist for over 40 years - within the ecological, educational, holistic, metaphysical, spiritual & nuclear free movements. He sees the urgency of the full spectrum challenges that are coming to meet us, and is putting his whole life into being an advocate for todays and tomorrows children. 'To Mobilise Consciousness.'

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