Why Transition Studies?
[ T.C. Weiskel (New Hampshire & Balliol 1969) ]
This weblog provides links to current news, key documents from government sources and non-governmental organizations, as well as video documentaries about climate change, environmental ethics and environmental justice issues. More than 30,000 sources and links are listed here to be used in whatever manner they may be helpful for research scholars or activists in public information campaigns, course preparation, teaching, letter-writing, lectures, class presentations, policy discussions, article writing, civic or Congressional hearings and citizen action campaigns, etc.
Currently, the industrial world is living as if we had infinite resources and finite energy supplies. We have this fundamentally wrong in both respects. In reality, we need now to recognize instead that we live on a finite planet with infinite through-put solar energy. Coming to this realization will require a major transition in our thinking and our collective behavior. The required transition represents an about-face in our self-understanding. We need now to move beyond the illusion of continuous growth as a desired goal and embrace instead the behaviors and values that assure stability and sustainability on a finite planet.
The Transition Studies weblog was initially developed by faculty and teaching fellows in Harvard’s Division of Continuing Education as a means of sharing news and information for use as potential teaching material in a variety of courses in the Sustainability Degree program of the Harvard Extension School. Over the summer months of 2012, the weblog was opened on an experimental basis to all students of the Sustainability Degree Program at the Harvard Extension School.
This initiative proved to be such a popular success that it was quickly made available to all Harvard students in all faculties and graduate schools. Subsequently, access has been extended to the world at large. Anyone with a link to the Internet can now use it for teaching or research materials on environmental issues at the internet addresses for, EcoEthics.Net, EcoJustice.TV, Climate-Justice.TV or Transition-Studies (.com, .net, .org, tv or .us)
The educational intention of this website is born of the realization that there is no “Planet B.” If we are to survive as a civilization and as a species it will be here on Earth. Moreover, we are just beginning to realize globally that the current generation has largely — unwittingly, but none-the-less inexorably — foreclosed upon future generations. The real cost of our generation’s fossil fuel gluttony is being transferred onto the future generations with a price tag already estimated in the trillions of dollars. At the same time through the research of its most serious and dedicated scientists the human community has come to realize that: we only have one Earth; we only get once chance.
Objectively speaking the prospects are not good. Sir Martin Rees posed the question quite starkly nearly a decade ago in Oxford: Is this our final century? This is an open question with no foregone conclusion. Nor it is not a joke. As he pointed out, the answer will be, to an important extent, determined by how we behave as a species in Earth’s complex and precarious ecosystem. Unsustainable behavior will not be sustained. Extinction can ensue. It follows that in order to survive for very much longer in the anthropocene the global human community will need to undertake several major transitions away from its unsustainable habits of the recent past in a remarkably short period of time. Habits of the heart, mind and behavior will have to change in the very near future.
Most notably, because of their finite supply and the dangerous consequences of their combustion humankind will have to overcome its current dependence upon fossilized carbon for fuel. Instead we must urgently design and swiftly implement a transition to sustainable, renewable energy sources.
Moreover, this transition will need to be accomplished in a manner that decreases inter-community conflict, reduces social inequity and remediates historical patterns of environmental injustice engendered by centuries of conquest, colonial domination or economic subordination. Techno-fixes or “engineered” solutions to our environmental dilemma will not solve or even begin to address the socio-political dimensions of the transitions we will need to address. Indeed, technological solutions on their own are likely to exacerbate the problems which social systems face all over the world. It is now clear that in order to achieve sustainability we will need to look beyond the pervasive fundamentalist belief in techno-scientific salvationism.
* * *
This weblog has been developed, therefore, to explore the multiple dimensions of a global transition to a just and sustainable future. In the Spring of 2017 The Harvard Extension School is offering a course that will be available online throughout the world dedicated to exploring these issues, entitled: Envisioning a Sustainable Future… Source material for that course will be made available through this Transition Studies weblog, but the weblog is posted for the world at large — beyond any particular college, university or institution. It is intended as a “switchboard” to provide access timely and relevant documentation accessible across the Internet for an emerging global citizenry . It is not primarily a platform for original published material. Rather it is a frequently updated “clearinghouse” or directory to information of interest to students, scholars, activists and citizens concerned with the transition to sustainability on Earth at all levels from local to global scales.
It should be understood, therefore, that this weblog is intended as a research and reference portal. It provides links to online materials, but it is not responsible for nor does it endorse or condone the content of any of these external websites. Nor is this weblog responsible for the ads automatically inserted in the left-hand column or on screen by YouTube, the BBC, WordPress.Com or any other referenced source. Proper citation of any information on this site must refer to the original source of the material.
Fair Use Notice: The material on this website is provided for educational and informational purposes. Links to original source material are being provided through this site in an effort to advance the understanding and diffuse information about scientific, environmental, economic, social justice and human rights issues etc. For this reason reference to the original material constitutes ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law.
In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have an interest in using the included information for research and educational purposes. If any individual or group wishes to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of their own that go beyond ‘fair use’, they must obtain permission from the copyright owner. The information on this site does not constitute legal or technical advice.
See the “How to…” reference webpage for suggestions on different ways to use this weblog.