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Transitioning Towards a Resilient Harrisburg

Mar 09, 2011 07:26PM ● By Elizabeth Daniels

Susan Norris

Susan Norris envisions a future Harrisburg that’s even better than today’s. In 2009, Norris attended a Transition Training, conducted by individuals from transition Colorado, at Genesis Farm, in New Jersey. She was struck by the movement’s positive vision of a future that wasn’t dependent upon oil and that encouraged people to become proactive and do something more than complain about perceived problems. Since then, Norris has indeed been doing something more.

She began engaging Harrisburg area residents in discussions about Transition and how it provides a roadmap to a resilient future for the community built upon a re-localized economy. A grassroots international initiative originally developed by Rob Hopkins and Naresh Giangrande, the Transition Movement seeks to build self-reliance and community sustainability in the face of such challenges as peak oil prices, climate change and economic crisis.

Particularly concerned about unsustainable growth, Norris says, “We can’t have infinite growth on a finite planet. We don’t have to live like this—we can either choose to change, or the world will make us change.”

In June 2010, Norris launched Transition Harrisburg, a local chapter of Transition Pennsylvania and the larger international movement, to raise awareness about our changing energy and climate future. Its goal is to create a more sustainable, resilient and livable community through building self-reliance, one person at a time.

Soon after its launch, local permaculture expert Scott Mann, of Mann Design, joined Norris. According to Mann, Transition actually evolved from concepts of permaculture, an approach to designing human settlements and agricultural systems that mimic the relationships found in natural ecologies. “Permaculture is sustainable land use design and aims to create stable, productive systems that provide for human needs, harmoniously integrating the land with its inhabitants,” he explains.

Informational meetings take place twice a month and discuss a variety of topics including container gardening, permaculture gardens and water harvesting, that focus on what can be done to make Harrisburg more sustainable. The group also works with and supports other organizations and environmental clubs to help build awareness and educate locals about such issues.

Beginning this spring, Transition Harrisburg will host workshops, called “skill shares,” that will teach people hands-on practical skills geared toward building self-reliance. Mann says the workshops will cover a variety of skills, such as changing the oil in a car, sharpening tools, using cloth diapers and community gardening.

Norris says that although the group has a long way to go, by working together, “We can create a more sustainable, regenerative and localized Harrisburg.”

For more info about Transition Harrisburg, email [email protected] or visit

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