How local group responds to global challenges

Transition Newburyport formed in 2009 when a small group of Newburyport residents came together with shared concerns about how our community could respond to the looming global challenges of climate change, natural resource limits and economic uncertainty. We had been inspired by the emerging Transition movement in the U.K. Transition Newburyport was the first Transition initiative in Massachusetts and the 21st in the U.S.

Photo by Jens Johnsson on Unsplash
Participating Allies

An Elizabeth Marcus and Conrad Willeman commentary. Daily News Editor’s note: This is one in a continuing series of guest opinions about fostering environmental stewardship. The series is coordinated by ACES, the Alliance of Climate & Environmental Stewards.

The Transition movement is about acknowledging these existential crises and taking action to address them at the local level, by examining how the systems and activities our community needs to sustain itself and thrive can be reimagined. How can we transition from fossil fuels, live in harmony with resource limits and build equity for all, by modifying “business as usual” approaches to food, water, waste, transportation, energy, economy, housing and education in order to create sustainable and resilient systems?

The approach is empowering to those who become involved, facilitating their ability to work in community with fellow concerned citizens. It changes individuals’ relationships to the challenges within a caring, supportive culture, weaving webs of connection between self, others and nature.

Since the group formed, we have organized, both alone and with other groups, many awareness-raising programs through speakers, films and study groups. From these groups came a number of both short- and long-term projects, the results of which are still visible in the community.

To name a few:

In 2009, the North Shore Permaculture Collaborative was formed by a group of individuals inspired by the Transition movement. They primarily offer skill development workshops on food production and preservation.

In 2011-12, we co-sponsored two Community Resilience Circles — study groups designed to raise awareness and support individuals who wanted to take local action. Participants were encouraged to join together to choose a project that inspired them. One group went on to launch the plastic bag ban initiative and another chose to organize the Time Trade Network of Greater Newburyport, our local time bank — a community of individuals who support one another by sharing their skills and time.

Since 2012, we have co-sponsored and helped organize the annual Earth Port Film Festival, highlighting short films (20 minutes or less) that tell engaging and inspiring stories of people around the world taking action to address the environmental challenges facing their communities.

Most recently, we have been TeamTomorrow collaborators organizing screenings of the documentary film “Tomorrow” in the North of Boston area. “Tomorrow” is an inspiring film about how people in many corners of the world are changing fundamental systems to address global climate, resource and economic challenges.

Inspired by this film, a group is forming to advocate for growing food in publicly accessible spaces in Greater Newburyport. In addition, a small group is looking into starting a local, complementary currency.

Transition isn’t a solution. It is groups of people developing and testing demonstration projects, aligned with their passions, in their community. What they learn — challenges, successes and failures — can be shared with others.

The Newburyport area is a community of activists, many of whom have been working on “transitioning” activities for years. We recognize the important work that these individuals, organizations and municipalities are doing to address the challenges to our communities.

We are excited to see the emergence of two new local grassroots organizations: Newburyport Livable Streets, which seeks to make it easier and safer for people to bike and walk throughout Newburyport, and Tinkerhaus, where makers of all ages and skill levels can share tools, space, ideas and knowledge.

Transition Newburyport and Storm Surge co-sponsor an online calendar listing programs and events put on by over 30 local organizations to help build more resilient, sustainable communities. You can find it at

Elizabeth Marcus and Conrad Willeman are Transition Newburyport initiators. You can learn more on the website,, and on the Facebook page,

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about the author
Elizabeth Marcus

Founder of Transition Newburyport and Leader of the Coastal Trails Coalition and is involved in a number of groups: Storm Surge, the Merrimack Valley Coastal Adaptation Workgroup; the Edible Garden Group; Reading for Resilience Discussion Group; and the North Shore Permaculture Group, and Mothers Out Front.

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