The town of Reading lies some 40 miles to the west of London. Each day around 70,000 people commute from Reading into London, from a population of around 230,000, and surprisingly, almost exactly that same number commute from London into Reading. I say surprisingly because although the link between Reading and London is such that it is often referred to as a commuter town, it is generally thought that the jobs are all in the Capital, but this is no longer so. For one thing, some businesses have found it cheaper to set-up in Reading and have moved from London, and also there are new high-tech industries e.g. "silicon valley" that have brought wealth to the town, bypassing London to take-root independently in the computer sector.
Transition Town perspective, it seems absurd that such a large and equal
number of commuters should effectively change places on a daily basis.
In part this represents a disparity in the skills-base of the mobile
workforces and those working in Reading tend to be of the more
technically trained, while many who commute into London are
office-workers. Thus, it might be concluded that Reading is not the
ideal to become a Transition Town, but surely this situation is both
unsustainable and temporary.
No one should
underestimate the challenges that will confront us as we backcast from
Transition Utopia - or as near to it as we can get - many of which are
only now becoming apparent. Progress is somewhat slow, but time is not a
resource we have in abundance, since the shortage of cheap oil will
begin to urge itself upon our daily actions within the next five years.
Thus, the daily commute will become inexorably expensive and indeed as
the price of oil rises it is debatable whether those jobs in either
London or Reading will still exist and certainly many of them are
unlikely to survive the next couple of decades until 2030, by when local
authorities and nations are planning to have active low-carbon or
ideally zero-carbon initiatives in place as an integrated whole.
is a key issue but perhaps it is a close second to food production,
which is intricately and inextricably enmeshed with the use and cost of
crude oil, much of which we now import into the UK. All identifiable
arrows point increasingly in the same direction, that of localisation,
which curbs our dependence on oil by reducing the need for extensive and
cheap transport, and from which is beginning to emerge the green shoots
of the new brand of growth - not at the global level, but that which
must rise at the level of localised communities. Community partnerships
with local companies and local authorities will be a practical driver in
this ultimate direction.
For now, the companies that
are staffed by the daily force of commuters are generating useful
income, and it would make sense to divert some of this bounty toward
establishing local resilience, not as some form of charity but within
business models that generate profit by building local and regional
strength. By 2030, Reading will no longer be a commuter town nor a
commuter importer, but there will be plenty of work closer to home in
establishing a brave new deglobalised world. How exactly we accomplish
this is an open and unfolding question, and while I doubt it will be
easy it must be done, for by then there will be no other choice.