Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Party With Purpose

Do you really have a more important commitment scheduled for 4:00-8:00 p.m. on Sunday, March 13?

A party has been planned for you, your family and friends by a collection of your thoughtful, dedicated and conscientious neighbors.

Imagine if partying could have saved the Titanic from sinking or if partying could cure cancer. Now imagine if partying could revive the economy, rebuild community, reduce environmental damage and reverse destructive energy policies.

Attending this party could help give you some tools to transform some of today’s depressing headlines into tomorrow’s hope and security.

At least that’s among the aspirations of the worldwide Transition Movement of which Transition Cheltenham is a part. March 13 celebrates the grand launch of the local collaboration, which in recent weeks came of age as one of 80 official Transition Initiatives in the U.S. and 352 internationally. Another 360 or so communities are in pre-official stages. Transition efforts are happening in 31 countries.

Transition Cheltenham joins Denver, Los Angeles, Portland (Maine), Ann Arbor, Montpelier (Vermont), Tucson, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Palo Alto, NE Seattle, and Houston among prominent Transition communities that had already been mobilizing local sustainability efforts.

“The idea is to gather community, reach out, raise awareness, connect with groups already on the right path,” explained Beverly Maisey, an energy engineering consultant based in Wyncote and member of Transition Cheltenham’s initiating team.

Maisey recapped the one-and-one-half year process leading up to the March 13 launch party. Events included an “un-car picnic,” a “locavore banquet,” and a series of environmental workshops – for example on permaculture and on energy efficient (and even energy-producing) buildings and passive home design. “Gathering the Genius” events and “Sustainability Salons” also welcomed the ideas of all participants. Maisey estimated that 500-600 people have attended these events so far.

Kathy Hampton is Commissioner of Cheltenham’s Ward 4. She said she appreciates Transition Cheltenham’s perspective on how to change environmental habits to reduce the carbon footprint and reliance on fossil fuels. She said she hopes they can effectively educate the broader community in both environmental science and in how to make a difference at the household and policy level.

The Transition Cheltenham website – – has an impressive listing of resources, including films, to provide background information on carbon, climate, fuel, food and water, etc. The website also describes the various ongoing action committees open to all interested members of the public.

Free of charge, taking place at the cafeteria at Cheltenham High School, the March 13 party includes music, a special scavenger hunt, and of course, a cake. Guests will learn some Tai Chi and have a chance to express their creativity in the arts. They’ll feast on a potluck banquet – you’re asked to bring a dish and beverage to share, as well as your own “bowl, eatin’ irons and a cup.” The latter contributes to Transitioners’ goal of moving toward zero unnecessary waste.

Maisey emphasized that Transition Cheltenham is “all about the good of the community.”

Long-time environmental educator Judith Gratz echoed that sentiment with a metaphor about an old-fashioned bucket brigade to tame a fire. The future of a community depends on “an increasing number of people joining in and offering their ideas, skills, experience and wisdom,” she said.

“I’m eager to facilitate innovative projects such as roving work parties,” Gratz said. For example, she envisions “Cooperative gardening, in which small groups come together for a few hours to help each person with his/her garden from time to time as needed, or neighbors teaching each other simple skills – building a compost bin, and so on.” Gratz also hopes to facilitate meetings with experts on “best management practices to hold rainwater on our properties to reduce creek flooding, and then get funding to implement our plans.”

Commissioner Hampton emphasized the importance of putting theory into practice. She noted that Transition Cheltenham has some great ideas that “hopefully won’t just sit on a shelf collecting dust.”

These folks passionately believe in protecting our environment and in the power and value of community. Do you? They’re inviting you to a party. See you there.

Sunday, March 13, 4:00-8:00 p.m.

Cheltenham High School Cafeteria

(500 Rices Mill Road, Wyncote, PA 19095)

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