13 people attended the Friday, February 4 meeting of Transition Ferndale. 7 are residents of Ferndale or Pleasant Ridge. The other six live in more distant neighborhoods and are interested in how to start a similar group with their neighbors. A round of introductions revealed a variety of skills, interests and experience in the group; environmental and political organizing, engineering, financial expertise and permaculture design.

Art Myatt gave a short rant on why this economy, which succeeds only when it grows, is failing because peak oil limits the kind of growth on which our economy has depended for at least a century. A quick and sound introduction to the basics of peak oil can be found in an article called “The End of Cheap Oil,” published in Scientific American in 1998. (Six pages; free download from http://oilcrisis.com/campbell/EndOfCheapOil.pdf). Continuing discussion and much more can be found at http://www.theoildrum.com/ and http://www.energybulletin.net/.

Trevor Johnson emphasized the importance of following the steps outlined in the Transition Handbook, because the approach that has already worked in hundreds of Transition Towns can work here. The complete 240-page handbook is available from Powell’s Books for $24.95 (http://www.powells.com/biblio/1-9781900322188-0). A free summary of the Transition Handbook called the Transition Primer (50 pages) can be downloaded from http://transitionnetwork.org/resources/transition-primer. The Transition Primer is strongly recommended as a beginning. A new version of the complete Handbook, which the authors describe as a sequel, is being worked on and should be available later this year.

Michelle Foster described how the Ferndale Time Bank (http://www.ferndaletimebank.org/), which has been in existence for just about one year, works to build community and answered numerous questions about it. We didn’t take a vote, but it was obvious that people at the meeting were very interested in and supportive of the project. Time banking fits very well with the community building goal of transition.

Todd Blankenship outlined the monthly video/speaker and discussion series which we plan to start when the Ferndale Library reopens after flood damage to the building is repaired. It was decided that members should recommend relevant videos – especially videos that they own – to Todd, so he can organize a list in some logical order. The sense of the meeting was that the list should cover the major issues of limits to food, water, energy and economic growth, and that we should not present issues without also presenting practical local responses to those issues.

A local response is not a “solution,” but the whole idea of Transition is adapting to a low energy future, not expecting the development of a magic new energy source which will “solve” peak oil by powering continued economic expansion.

There was some discussion of relevant books and the possibility of developing a book group. Nothing definite was decided. If you have a particular book to recommend to the group, and can write a review of it, the review can easily be posted on the TransitionFerndale.Wordpress.com website. Bring further ideas along this line to the next meeting, especially if you are willing to be the organizer.

Step 1 in the development of a transition town organization is the formation of a “steering group” that ought to last for the first several stages of the organizing process. The de facto steering committee so far is composed of several people named above. Art is the acting secretary; Trevor, the expert on community-supported agriculture; and Todd, the meeting manager for the issues discussion series.

We will need a treasurer, preferably before we get sufficiently organized that the group has money from donations. If anyone wants to volunteer for this, or for a useful role not defined yet, please feel free to do so. The idea is that we will have elections for better-defined offices within a year. For now, the steering committee is a fluid concept, and anyone wanting to participate, can.

Step 2 is raising awareness, and screening movies followed by discussion is the handbook’s recommended method of raising awareness. The library is scheduled to reopen on Monday, February 21. Once we arrange a definite schedule for the once a month film and discussion series, we will sending out an announcement with attached flyer for distribution.

It was agreed that future business meetings could continue to be held on the first Friday evening of each month. The Drayton Avenue church is currently available for that schedule and for a fee of $30. However, we will try having next month’s meeting at Paper Street, 1511 Jarvis Street, Ferndale, MI. (Copy this address into Google Maps, http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&tab=wl for directions from anywhere.) This facility should be available for no charge, and ought to work until we outgrow it. I’ve talked to the owner, and we should be there on Friday, March 4 at 6:30.

The meeting agreed to the distribution of contact information for everyone attending among the attendees. That is consistent with the agreement reached at the first informal meeting at AJ’s in November. Therefore, I also included in the e-mail to those at the meeting, contact information for members who did not attend the 2-4-2011 meeting. Please do not copy this contact information outside the group of people who are supposed to have it.

It was not decided, for the next business meeting, whether to have a longer meeting which starts with a pot luck dinner, or a shorter and later meeting without the food. For myself, I like starting with a pot luck, especially if the food is as good as it was on Friday. Please let me know which you prefer. Write to almyatt@yahoo.com.

If this organization is going to succeed, it will take more than members simply attending a business meeting once a month. We are talking about changing our own households and our local communities to cope with, at the very least, the end of cheap oil and the economic growth that depends on cheap oil. If gardening, bicycling, Time Banking, studying the issues and building community count as participating in transition – and I believe they all do count – then we are going to be involved in transition every day. As an organization, we are already considering three monthly activities – business, video/discussion and books. As spring approaches, we will probably add to this list. Community supported agriculture, while not expensive, takes a lot of community time. We are going to be seeing a lot of each other.