Principles for Transition: Power over, Power with

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Power Over/Power With

This module of Principles for Transition (see below) explores transition through the lens of power. A premise is that transition, being a fundamental, unprecedented, discontinuous shift with both biophysical and social dimensions, will play out along lines of power differences and power sources.

Part I examines how physical power, especially fossil fuels, especially oil, translates into economic, political and military power.

Part II examines resistance to such power, including the organization and protest of resident and indigenous peoples, NGOs and transnational organizations.

Part III examines the concept and practice of “power with”  -- empowerment through action; the special power of the place-based; and the power, individual and collective, of reconnection, respect, humility.

Most readings are in a coursepack.

Final product is a research paper, a comparative analytic paper, or a final exam.


Principles for Transition

In general, EAS 565, Principles for Transition, examines contemporary shifts, biophysical and social, especially those that are discontinuous and irreversible, with an eye to the future. A primary purpose is to understand and prescribe measures for positive transition—that is, for effecting peaceful, democratic, just and sustainable changes in how societies North and South organize themselves.

Two overarching goals are to develop i. a grounded sense of urgency and possibility; ii. tools—historical, conceptual, practical—for positive transition.

Substantive topics include the  contemporary food movement, the phase-out of fossil fuels, local finance, ethics of resource use, market redefinition, distancing, sustainability, entrepreneurship (business, behavioral, moral).


1. The world is in transition, a process that will intensify as a) the era of cheap energy comes to an end; b) payments for past environmental abuses come due; c) marginalized peoples and social entrepreneurs assert their sovereignty over food, fuel and markets.

2. Business-as-usual, however efficient, equitable and cooperative, can not be sustained.

3. Less consumption for the Global North and more consumption for the Global South is possible, desirable and just.

4. To avoid catastrophic loss, fundamental (not marginal) social change is necessary—and urgent.

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