Posted by: Mike Grenville | 9 April 2009

‘The Transition Timeline’

‘The Transition Timeline’ For a local resilient future By Shaun Chamberlin

Another invaluable tool for transition initiatives has been published called the Transition Timeline. With a foreward and a section written by Rob Hopkins, Shaun Chamberlin’s book explores future scenarios and outlines some tools for groups to explore how the future might look themselves.

The first half of the book lays out four realistic visions of the history of the next twenty years, in the UK and the wider world, covering the range of possible responses to the challenges we face. Then it takes the most desirable of these, the Transition Vision, and examines it in depth, fleshing out key areas like food, energy, population, healthcare etc, to provide a sense of context for Transition initiatives visioning a positive future for their own communities.
transition timeline cover
The third section was written by Rob Hopkins and explores how Transition initiatives can use the book to support their Energy Descent Planning process, with a look to the tools that Totnes have been using.

The second half is an update on the latest evidence on climate change and peak oil, and more depth on the interactions between the two. There’s also a section here focused explicitly on the UK impacts of these twin challenges, looking at the impacts we have already seen here, the Government’s responses, and what we are likely to see in future. This provides a lot of information from authoriative sources that should be useful in dealing with sceptical individuals or organisations in Transition Towns. This section is not intended as a detailed explanation but should provide enough information to educate without the reader drowning in detail.

“Stories are key to the process of shaping our collective understanding” said Shaun Chamberlin, “and in particular I feel that our culture’s dominant stories about the likely shape of the future are not serving us very well. The main narratives here could probably be summed up as “more of the same”, “apocalypse” and “technology will save us all”, but I don’t believe that choices guided by any of these narratives are likely to create a very desirable future.”

In the Foreword Rob Hopkins notes that “We really only have a small handful of future stories in our culture. There is the default Business as Usual story, the one that assumes the future will be like the present, but with more of everything. Then there’s the one that assumes that everything will collapse around our ears overnight, leading to a Mad Max-style world of bandits and hairy men eking out a living from mouldy potatoes and roast squirrels. Finally there is what David Holmgren calls the ‘Techno-fantasy’ story, the one that has us living in space stations, nipping to the Moon on holiday, growing food in bubbling tanks of chemical gloop.”

“We need new stories” says Hopkins, “the ones about the generation who saw the problems, looked them square in the face, and responded with courage and adaptability, harnessed what excited them and acted both as midwives for the birth of a new way of living and as a hospice for the passing of the old, unsustainable way of doing things.”

By providing both a look at the situation we face and exploring a selction of alternative scenarios, the book provides a good framework for transition initiatives to explore the future – something that in spite of the large amount of talk about seems to be a dificult topic to explore.

With the same accessible look and feel as the Transition Handbook, ‘The Transition Timeline’ is a vital tool for Transition Initiatives and others wanting to participate in how the future unfolds.

Shaun has written up some of his motivations for writing the book on his blog here:

The book can be ordered from the publisher Green Books here:

Short video of author Shaun Chamberlin talking about the book:



  1. Chelsea Green is distributing this book in the US and has it available now! go to or Amazon or your local bookseller.

  2. Shaun,
    I agree that we need new stories to help us imagine our way to the future. One of our existing stories tha has been ringing ture at he moment is that of the Rabbit and the Hare. As a society we have become the rabbit needing speed for everything. Needing speed for food has led us to the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides to grow a lot of food fast without regard for ruining our soil in the long run. We require our return on investment to be fast which often forgets the long term cost of operations that can be reduced if we had paid for conservation and efficiency measures up front.

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