A new climate for a new society.
At his "A new climate for a new society" conference on December 13th, environmental activist Rob Hopkins invited the audience to imagine how many uses an abstract object which he held up could have. The audience imagined up to twenty possible uses, after which Hopkins explained the point of the exercise, which was to stimulate the audience's imagination and energy - something he deems crucial to fighting climate change. The conference was led by Hopkins alongside Ana Huertas as part of Re-City's "Facing Climate Change" conference cycle, organized by the Catalunya Europa Foundation in collaboration with BBVA and supported by Barcelona City Council, the Metropolitan Area of Barcelona and the Department of "Territori i Sostenibilitat" of the Generalitat de Catalunya. It was held at the Antoni Tapies Foundation, and moderated Lorenzo Chelleri, professor at the School of Architecture of the International University of Catalonia (UIC).
Rob Hopkins is the founder of the Transition Movement and holds a PhD at the University of Plymouth (England), and Ana Huertas is coordinator of Red de Transición and an expert in sustainable agriculture and community development. In the conference Hopkins argued that while governments and economic powers have imposed the story that there is nothing better than the world we live in, it is not true - there are alternative city models that are more environmentally friendly, covered in green spaces and car free, that promote the local economy and places where people can live more connectedly. The Transition Movement wants to move towards a more sustainable world without oil, to promote local initiatives and other ways of imagining the future of cities, our neighborhoods and local communities.
The Transition Movement proposes other imaginative and innovative ways of living that remove our dependency on cars, oil and polluting industries in order to meet the urgency of addressing climate change. Hopkins and Huertas hold that we are currently living in a moment of transition towards a new model of society, from which their movement stems. The Movement was founded 12 years ago and is present in about fifty countries and a hundred towns. Among their ongoing projects, there are cases of "cities in transition" such as Preston in England or Liège in Belgium, where dozens of local economy experiments and social cooperatives have been developed thanks to collaborations between city councils and citizens.
The power of imagination
Huertas argued that it would be essential to create spaces where people can exchange experiences, establish connections and relationships of trust that allow them to promote their own projects as a result of cooperation and collaboration with local administrations. Se criticised governments for putting obstacles in the way of community projects and only speaking of participation when it suits and often acting without listening to the citizens. Promoting the associative fabric so that communities are owners of their own projects and losing our fear of imagining and being creative is crucial for Huertas. She gave the example of Mexico City, where the local government has created a creative consultancy figure and the so-called "Laboratory for the City", an office for the experimenting with new forms of collaboration and citizen participation, led by the artist and journalist Gabriella Gómez-Mont.
In Spain we also have many good examples grouped under the project "Municipios en Transición", in towns such as Carcaboso (Extremadura), Orendain (Basque Country), Argelaguer or Cardedeu (Catalonia). Ana Huertas mentioned original initiatives such as the El Puma social currency that can be used to buy in the El Pumajero neighborhood of Seville; a school that substituted the school bus for a horse carriage; or the "cinecicleta", a cinema that works thanks to the energy generated from pedalling a bicycle. All of these projects will be presented at the Global Forum of the New Economy and Social Innovation (NESI) to be held in Malaga from April 24 to 26, 2019.
Rob Hopkins also defended the responsible use of new technologies so that they serve to develop community projects and not to isolate us socially. According to Hopkins, the transition to another model of society is inevitable, if we really want to stop climate change. He labelled climate change as a great failure of imagination, because we have given up on imagining other ways of life.