Transition Edinburgh University step 1: Get people together and make friends.

The Transition Edinburgh University initiative was set up to put the Edinburgh University community on the road to transition, lowering carbon emissions and finding a community response to peak oil and climate change. TEU was set up partly as a consequence of the People & Planet campaign Go Green and partly as a consequence of the work of the Energy Manager of the University, David Somervell. It works through student-staff coalition and using the process of horizontal participatory management, so with no hierarchical structure, instead through a series of working groups.

Six interns were employed over Summer 2009 by the Energy and Sustainability Office using money obtained from the Scottish Climate Challenge Fund to research Transition and kickstart Edinburgh University’s own transition. They did the valuable background research on why Transition would be a good thing to do, and explored ways of starting it. The thing about Transition is it has to be as wide reaching as possible. To formulate a valid community vision of a low carbon future, all sections of the community must be involved, so that was the next step.

An official Transition launch event was held in November to bring staff and students together, and around 160 people attended. 160 people is not 26,000, granted, but it’s more than the 26 or so who might have turned up to a clothes-customising workshop or even a talk on climate change. People are already aware of the problems, especially in academic environments, it is just a matter of bringing them together to form a positive response.

At Edinburgh, TEU has held a series of ‘Handprint Socials’, the idea being that our carbon footprint is what we’re trying to cut, but we’ll need our positive handprints to make the difference. There was a pecha-kucha (Japanese-style presentation) of related academic research and another of Societies’ ideas for cutting carbon in the University. There was also a discussion on the Psychology of Change, where we explored different approaches to encouraging people to change their individual behaviour in a way that will reduce their environmental impact.

Out of the launch event and follow-up socials, working groups were created, and the scene was set for the practical work to begin….

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