Actualizing local responses to the new realities.
About this site and Rob Hopkins
For more about this website and what is all about take a look at the page “Why Transition Culture?”. This section is to tell you about who I am, and how I have ended up doing this website. My name is Rob Hopkins, and I just turned 38. I did my permaculture design course in 1992, and around the same time saw Bill Mollison lecture in Stroud, and both of these things dramatically changed my life. I became involved in the Bristol Permaculture Group, and at the same time did a degree in Environmental Quality and Resource Management at UWE Bristol. You can find my dissertation, ‘Permaculture - a new approach for rural planning’ on this website. I then moved with my family to Ireland, where I began teaching permaculture and laying the groundwork for the ecovillage development we wanted to undertake.
I set up Baile Dulra Teoranta, the first company granted charitable status for an eco-village development in Ireland. Over the next few years I taught permaculture courses, set up a mail order sustainability books service called Walnut Books, (which is still operating), wrote a booklet called “Woodlands For West Cork” (now out of print), and continued to develop Baile Dulra. This eventually, in 1999, led to the purchasing of land near Enniskeane in West Cork, and, after 3 years of planning applications, to the first planning permission in Ireland in an area where no development would be permitted being approved on the grounds of its sustainability.
The resultant project, The Hollies Centre for Practical Sustainability now runs an annual programme of courses, which in the past have featured such luminaries as David Holmgren, Christopher Day, Ianto Evans and Linda Smiley, Ben Law and Pat Borer. From 2002 to 2004 I worked to build my family’s home, the first new cob house built in Ireland for over 100 years. This was documented in a Building Diary that you can see here. The house was built with no cement, and using mostly local materials. Many volunteers helped with it and it touched a great many people. Unfortunately the house was destroyed by an unknown arsonist 3 months before completion.
In 2001 I started the Practical Sustainability course at Kinsale Further Education College. This grew over the next few years to become the first 2 year full time permaculture course in the world. It did a great deal to put permaculture, natural building and group facilitation skills on the map in mainstream Irish education, and became widely respected as a pioneering approach to education. It is still running, under the capable guidance of new teacher Graham Strouts. This course proved to be extremely popular, being massively oversubscribed in the last couple of years. Students combined practical work such as gardening and natural building, with site visits and more formal classroom sessions. The highlight of this for me was the opening night, (in May 2005) of the Kinsale Playhouse, the cob and cordwood amphitheatre that was built by myself, Saul Mosbacher and the college students. The performance on a summers evening of The Merry Wives of Windsor on this handbuilt stage was truly magical. In December 2004 I was awarded the Cork Environmental Forum’s prestigious Roll of Honour award for the pioneering work undertaken by myself and the rest of the folks at The Hollies.
In June 2005, together with Catherine Dunne and Louise Rooney, I organised Fuelling the Future - the challenge and opportunity of peak oil, a 2 day conference with such speakers as Richard Heinberg, David Holmgren, Colin Campbell and Richard Douthwaite. This was extremely successful, and you can find out more about it, buy the DVD or listen to the mp3 files of the talks here. This was also the time that saw the launch of the Kinsale Energy Descent Action Plan, the first (as far as we know) attempt at designing a timetabled strategy for weaning a town off fossil fuels. The approach involved an Open Space Technology-facilitated community Think Tank event, and also the input of a range of thinkers in the area, being collated and written by the college’s 2nd year students under my guidance. This final document, which I edited, will soon be available to download here.
In September 2005 I moved to Totnes in Devon, to begin a PhD at Plymouth University looking at Energy Descent Action Plans, refining the model in such a way that they can be done anywhere. This involves looking at what I call the Head, the Heart and the Hands of Energy Descent. By the Head I mean the concepts of peak oil, arguments for and against localisation as well as any historical examples that we can learn from. The Heart refers to exploring how to actually engage communities in a positive and dynamic way, how to use peak oil as a tool for empowerment rather than leaving people feeling helpless. This part of the exploration is about how to actually facilitate change, and the dynamics of cultural transformation. The Hands refers to the practical aspects, could the UK become self sufficient in food and how? How much well managed woodland would it take to heat a town with efficient CHPs? Can local materials be used to retrofit houses?
This website is designed (by my dear friend Tom to whom I am deeply grateful) in such a way as to allow me to share thoughts, insights and resources that I come across as I do this research, in the hope that it will be of use to you. I am designing an Energy Descent Action Planning process for Totnes which will begin in the summer, once the first year of research is out of the way and I have a thorough methology worked out.