Monthly Archives: March 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

One Hour without Electricity

Earth HourHave you ever noticed how quiet it gets in your house when there’s a power outage? Once you’ve gotten over the inconvenience, isn’t it actually rather lovely?

A few years ago I had the pleasure of sitting in a circular house of straw bale and mud, the guest of a lovely woman named Emma who had founded a community farm that operates completely “off the grid” in West Wales. We sat on a thick, warm rug made of woven, unprocessed wool, sipping home made herb tea that had been made over the wood fire burning in the grate and most magical of all was the exquisite silence of NO electricity. It was Emma’s choice to live this way and my thoughts seemed to quiet themselves as I felt my energy expand in gratitude, the way you sigh with relief when the roadwork outside your house stops.

On Saturday, March 27th, from 8:30 to 9:30 pm local time, people around the world are invited to turn out their lights and electronic devices for one hour in a symbolic gesture to their government that they are ready to reduce their use of cheap oil. It’s called Earth Hour and you can find a lot more about it, and sign up to show your support, at the Earth Hour website. (And yes, I’m sure you could turn off your fridge for an hour without negative consequences). Last year I was in England with my son and his wife for the event and we spent a hilarious hour playing charades by candlelight. Each year, more people join in. Some people meditate alone, some party with friends and family. Hey, it’s an opportunity to remember what people did to spend the time BEFORE electricity!

Emma’s community is Brithdir Mawr. This was my first visit to see another longtime resident, Tony Wrench, a friend of mine over many years. As we made our way down a muddy lane, hoping we’d followed the directions properly through back country Wales, we saw a tub rotating in the rushing water of little stream beside the road and knew we were in the right place. “I detect funk,” said I, as we realized we had found their clothes washing “machine”. They farm with plough horses, generate all their own power, grow most of their own food, and each resident has a way to support themselves financially.

Tony and his wife Jane live in another roundhouse with its own website, which describes, amongst other things, the long battle they’ve had with the local planning commission to keep it standing. So far they’re still there, and with their simple lifestyle they’ve proved that it’s possible to reduce your carbon footprint to a globally sustainable level (and that is a real feat in the western world) without sacrificing everything and living in a home built from what was right there on the land. Check out the video on their website…

Well it’s not the same in a city, you say. Well yes, but for the story of someone on a one year jag to reduce their consumption in the Big Apple, there’s the film No Impact Man (here’s the trailer), where a New Yorker and his wife and small baby lived without electricity for six months. While he has finished with that particular experiment, you can read his ongoing blog.

If you are ever in Wales, I recommend a visit to Brithdir Mawr (their website tells you how). And if getting to Wales seems a long way off, you can create the specialness of a non-electric hour for yourself on Saturday, March 27th between 8:30 and 9:30 pm.

There’s a cool map of the USA on the Earth Hour website that shows how many have committed to this so far, state by state. How about putting the date in your calendar now so you remember to do this very radical thing, and join a growing number of folks around the world who are determined to do whatever it takes to align their living style with what’s sustainable and fair for everyone on our beautiful planet?

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Posted in Uncategorized on March 11, 2010

10:10 in Albany

What if all of Albany reduced 10% of its emissions during 2010, through personal action?

The 10:10 project is an international campaign for individuals, businesses, schools, and organizations to publicly commit to taking responsibility for their person contribution to global warming by reducing their greenhouse gas emissions 10% in 2010.

If all of Albany participated, we would get well on our way to the City-wide greenhouse gas reduction goal of 25% by 2020!

Transition Albany is supporting this campaign by spreading the word and encouraging people to do the same. Here are 4 easy steps to participate!

  1. Commit. Sign onto 10:10 online and tell Transition Albany that you’re committing, so that we can add you to the list in Albany.
  2. Count. Measure your baseline greenhouse gas emissions with one of the many online carbon footprint calculators. We recommend the one at because it is more comprehensive than some others out there. Note: Click “click here to continue” after entering California as your state.
  3. Act. Start reducing! Find a helpful and fun list of tips on the site. Join the Low Carbon Diet. Read Albany’s Climate Action Plan to get some ideas.
  4. Share. Spread the word about the 10:10 campaign to others in Albany. Volunteer to contact and sign up 20 friends. Or pick a business or block of businesses to sign up. Or go after your school or your child’s school. Let us know through the comments below. The more we talk about it, the more people will be aware of 10:10!

Join the list of those participating in Albany!

(in alphabetical order)

Individuals & Families

Arkin Tilt family, Marge Atkinson, Dorothy Bevard, Gerhard Brostrom, Marge Brostrom, Allen Cain, Christopher Carter, Hortensia Chang, Patty Chin, Jess Cosby, Heather Cunningham, Linda Currie, Len Edmondson, Edward Fields, Andrew Frankle, Evan Frisch, Tree Gelb Stuber, Chester Godfry, Clara-Rae Jenson, Miya Kitahara, Robert Lieber, Dan Lieberman, Ly / Williams family, Allan Maris, Peggy McQuaid, Nierlich/Abbott Family, Claire Norris, Caryl O’Keefe, Brian Parsley, Nick Pilch, Beth Pollard, Suzanne Schrift, Janet Smith-Heimer, Amy Smolens, Catherine Sutton, Carol Swan, Karina Tindol, Ellen Toomey, the Utedskis, Meera Valdez, Wynette Weaver, Buddy Williams, Tony Wolcott, Florence Wahl…


Gathering Tribes


Albany Unified School District

This list is updated every week or two. Please alert us if you see a misspelled name.

Get on the list by filling out this quick form or by commenting on this post!

Read more about each step… (more…)

Posted in Uncategorized on March 7, 2010