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An vening at theBrixton Pound Launch
It’s mid-September 2009, and I am standing in LambethTown Hall in Brixton, London. The hall is packed, theaudience reflecting the area’s rich cultural diversity. We are all there for the launch of the Brixton pound,an initiative of Transition Town Brixton (TTB), itself part of a quickly growing worldwide network of grass-roots groups called the Transition movement. TTB wasthe first urban Transition initiative, starting in 2007,and has done amazing work in pioneering Transitionin an urban context. They also host great events. This was no exception.The Brixton pound is a printed local currency, specificto the Brixton area. It is a brave and bold idea; no onein this part of the world has ever done it before, andthe context of the worst financial crisis the UnitedKingdom has faced since the 1930s adds an impe-tus and sense of urgency to the proceedings. One of the evening’s speakers is the leader of the local coun-cil, who tells the audience, “I want this to becomethe currency of choice for Brixton,” and later tells methat, of course, people will be able to pay their coun-cil tax in it, a national first. The notes, Brixton’s best-kept secret until that point, are unveiled to rapturousapplause; they feature notable former Brixtonians suchas Vincent van Gogh, James Lovelock, journalist andhistorian C. L. R. James, and Olive Morris, who set upthe Brixton Black Women’s Group and who died agedonly twenty-seven. (Brixtonians David Bowie and localdub poet Linton Kwesi Johnson had both declined tograce the notes.) What comes through stronger than anything else isthat this is a large group of people not waiting for per-mission to begin their responses to peak oil and climatechange, and not waiting for distant economic forces tolay waste to their local economy. They are not assuming that central government will do everything for them,but are initiating change from the bottom up, in a waythat is creative and even playful, that is not trying to place blame, and which feels historic. They are not see-ing these challenges as disastrous calamities, but ratheras the opportunity for a rethink of many basic assump-tions about how their society and economy function.They recognize that the future of fossil-fuel scarcityand a changing climate will require us to think evermore locally, and they are starting to make it happen. Welcome to the world of Transition.
Why Community atters
Given the scale of the challenges humanity faces in theearly-twenty-first century, already outlined in greatdetail in earlier sections of this book, it is clear that arange of responses is required. Government is part of the solution, but it tends to be reactive rather than pro-active. Local government is often so focused on meeting immediate needs with limited resources that it doesn’tfeel it can be imaginative or take much initiative. Localcitizens often feel disempowered after years of being ignored in the decisions made about their community.However, any sufficient response to these chal-lenges requires all of the levels of response working together, driven by the twin objectives of massively
Duncan Law of Transition Town Brixton and ayor Christopher Wellbeloveunveil the new Brixton pound notes.