Monthly Archives: February 2010

Catherine Sutton Has Died

Catherine Sutton, founder of Transition Albany and a beloved member of many communities in the Berkeley/Albany area, died unexpectedly on Monday, December 5. All of us who knew her are in shock and mourning.

Following is a brief description of Catherine’s life. It’s followed by a second post with information about her upcoming funeral and memorial celebration.

Please feel free to use the website contact form to pass along any memories or thoughts–I’ll make sure they get to Catherine’s husband Leonard.

Bob Spies
Transition Albany Webmaster

Catherine Ann Hildegard Sutton was born in Oxford England in 1949 to German refugee Margo Müller and British aeronautical engineer Peter Sutton. Her parents met during WWII, as Peter was sent in to discover the Nazi’s secrets. They say Catherine was born during a thunderstorm.

She is survived by husband Leonard Edmondson, sister Sally Sutton, brother John Sutton, two half-sisters, Peggy Sutton and Annora Sutton, son Robin Breathe, daughter-in-law Alice Breathe, and the joy of her life, granddaughter Hazel Breathe.

Living in England until she was almost 40, Catherine never drove a car there. She lived in some 50 places in her lifetime, and particularly loved living in Wales on some land with a group of 7 or so friends. She came to the United States in 1988.

Catherine was a Russian major at Leeds University. Studying Bulgarian as her second language, she was forever infected with the magic of Bulgarian music and dance when she came upon a wedding while living in Sofia, Bulgaria. (She was cluck-clucked by the old Bulgarian women when she wore her mini skirt on the bus.)

Using her gifts of language and cooking, for livelihood she has cooked, waited table, worked as a janitor, sold knives, written resounding resumes, played in a Balkan band, taught dance and guarded crossings. Her job was always what was right in front of her calling to be done and working for the ideal of right living and social justice. In the early 80’s, her business was called
Sunshine Biscuits. She would bake flapjacks and deliver them to local businesses by bicycle with her son Robin also riding in the trailer, and people called her “Cathy Sunshine”.

Catherine’s first stop in the U.S. was Campbell Hot Springs in Sierraville, California, living with Leonard Orr’s radical rebirthing community. She lived in Reno for a time and then in Penngrove, where Leonard found her. In the late 90’s, they were both involved in a company called Cell Tech which network-marketed super blue-green algae health food, yet another controversial and radical venture. They connected on a sunny Sunday on the green grass at the Cell Tech August Celebration in Klamath Falls, Oregon where she was playing with a baby. She came to live with Leonard in about 2001 and they were married in 2005. He added stability to her life, rooting her in Albany and giving her support, and she flowered in place like nobody’s business. They were continuously setting new records for her longest relationship and longest residence of her life.

She believed fiercely in non-institutional, community-based birth, life, and death. She had her own son Robin at home and would have preferred to die that way. She was stubborn, determined, fiery, and idealistic. She is the founder Transition Albany with its delightfully generic mission, which both spawned and assisted many other local projects. There is a pattern here of living on the edge, sometimes associating with controversial, shady but dynamic characters with idealism and determination to fundamentally change the world for the better.

With fabulous energy, she juggled many balls at once, daily, in a way that few can emulate. Around the bulging micro urban homestead she and Leonard shared, she cared for fruit trees, bees, chickens, worms, compost, and flowers, and did solar cooking, preserving, fermenting, drying, washing, conserving, with water tanks, a grey-water system, whole house water filter, solar water heating, solar electric generator, line drying, and the list goes on.

Leonard says,

I lost my life companion, wilderness backpack travel buddy, and my cryptic crossword co-puzzler. Catherine had an astounding command of language, often teaching me new words. When she built things it was always by the seat of her pants.

She is her mother’s daughter in that she survived and thrived, living by her will and her wits, holding strongly to her principles even when there was nothing else to hold onto. She was a challenging person to love, with the operative principles being continuous forgiveness and renewal. Now I’m working on forgiving her for dying.

Posted in Community Building, Economy, Edible Landscape Project, Energy, Food and Agriculture, Health and Healing, Housing, Local Activities, Resources, Social Justice on December 10, 2016

A HomeGrown Event

Join us for an event about urban homesteading!

Film  •  Discussion  •  Seed Exchange

Sunday, February 21  •  1:30 – 4:30 pm

Albany Library, Edith Stone Room, 1247 Marin Ave.

HomeGrown: The Film

HOMEGROWN follows the Dervaes family who run a small organic farm in the heart of urban Pasadena, California. While “living off the grid”, they harvest over 6,000 pounds of produce on less than a quarter of an acre, make their own bio diesel, power their computers with the help of solar panels, and maintain a website that gets 4,000 hits a day. The film is an intimate human portrait of what it’s like to live like “Little House on the Prairie” in the 21st Century.  – Excerpt from the film’s website.

Visit the film’s website to learn more.

Discussion with Novella Carpenter


Following the film, Novella Carpenter will share her experiences with her Ghost  Town Farm in Oakland, in an active discussion format.

I’ve been cultivating the city for over ten years now, and my neighbors still think I’m crazy. It all started with a few chickens, then some bees, until I had a full-blown farm near downtown Oakland. – Excerpt from Novella’s log at Farm City is her account of her experiences. She will have copies of the book available for sale at the event!

Seed and Plant Exchange

Simply bring your extra seeds and plants, and some envelopes or containers to hopefully take home others in exchange. Best to label all items properly to prevent surprise crops (but would that be so bad anyway?).

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Posted in Uncategorized on February 9, 2010

Special Showing of The Age of Stupid

The groundbreaking film The Age of Stupid will receive a special showing at the Albany Twin Theatre on Solano Avenue on Sunday, March 7, 2010 at 11:30 a.m.  Transition Albany has organized this one-time-only showing to stimulate both discussion and action to address the challenges of climate destruction and the imminent end of the age of cheap oil.

Writing in Britain’s The Guardian, George Monbiot called The Age of Stupid “a captivating and constantly surprising film: the first successful dramatization of climate change to reach the big screen.” Grounding the film is a fictional character who looks back upon our time with full knowledge of the environmental and social upheavals of the first half of the twenty-first century. This device distinguishes the film from more conventional documentaries and arguably provides a drawing card for the film.

Age Of Stupid ArchivistIn the film, Academy Award-nominated actor Pete Postlethwaite stars as the Archivist, the lone caretaker to the collected knowledge of humanity.  In the year 2055, the Archivist looks back upon video clips of the early years of the climate crisis from within his tower in the now-melted Arctic, his refuge from a world devastated by storms, starved by droughts, and consumed by violence.  As he views the videos, he seeks answers to the question that haunts him: Why did humanity fail to save itself?

Postlethwaite, whom Steven Spielberg named “probably the best actor in the world today,” delivers a strong performance, but it is the lives of real people from our time whom he observes in videos in his archives that make the film so compelling.  Through these videos, director Franny Armstrong follows the struggles and aspirations of several intriguing people in often uncomfortable relationships to oil and global warming.  From Iraqi refugees to a British wind farm developer, from an Indian airline founder to a French mountaineer, we see the emerging possibilities of humanity’s future with all their complications and contradictions.

Amidst resistance to change in countries such as the U.S. and U.K. and growing aspirations elsewhere to “live like Americans,” can we avoid the fate that the film depicts? Or is our time destined to be remembered as the “Age of Stupid” for our failure to heed repeated warnings?

It’s been said that the best way to predict the future is to create it.  Consider this showing an invitation from Transition Albany to begin doing just that.

Age of Stupid: Trailers: Original Theatrical Trailer from Age of Stupid on Vimeo.

This theatrical showing of The Age of Stupid is expected to be the only one of its kind in the San Francisco Bay Area in the coming months.  Tickets will be available for purchase at the box office of the Albany Twin both in advance and on the morning of the 11:30 a.m. showing on Sunday, March 7, 2010.

You can help publicize this special showing of The Age of Stupid when you download the poster shown here in PDF format to print and display at your workplace and other suitable locations.
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Posted in Uncategorized on February 6, 2010