Monthly Archives: March 2011

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

New Chance to Lower Your Carbon Footprint

Update: This will be the last class until fall, so don’t miss your chance to sign up and attend.

You can’t control gas prices, but you can learn how to use less of it!

Are you a concerned citizen interested in cutting your costs, while helping the environment, saving energy, water and carbon emissions?

On Tuesday, April 12th, join this fun and engaging, FREE, four-session course where you’ll be supported to learn how to dramatically reduce your impact on the environment, save money and foster a Greener Albany.

Class dates are April 12, 19, 26, and May 3.


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Posted in Energy on March 14, 2011

Albany’s Great Unleashing – Sunday, May 22

While we face many problems going into the future, there are already lots of good efforts going on to address them in Albany. You can find a list of working Albany organizations on the City’s website.

But the problems are far too big for a few organizations or for government to tackle alone. Behind all of them – over-population, species extinction, climate change, fossil fuel depletion, unsteady economy – the idea that we can continue to live disconnected from nature’s laws and “grow” our economy endlessly on a planet whose resources are limited, is key . We’re going to have to seriously rethink our lifestyles if we are to have a world of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” for all.

It’s going to take everyone in Albany – young, old, working, not working, rich, poor, Latina/o, African American, White, Asian – working together to create neighborhoods that can gracefully weather the changes ahead in a way that’s fair, fun and inclusive.

The Transition movement believes that there are plenty of people in every community with the smarts to come up with solutions that are unique for their place. So for those of you who have been coming to our events for the last 18 months and left thinking, “What’s next?”, here’s what’s next:

The Great Unleashing … of the Genius of the Community!

The time has come for all of us to put our shoulders to the wheel in the areas where we each have the most passion and interest. Then, with the advantage of everyone’s best thinking focused on the problem, we can devise practical solutions that dig deep, solutions that are uniquely applicable to the place where we live.

The task? To make Albany resilient to sudden, as well as gradual but inevitable, change, especially in areas where we rely on a fragile supply system for our essentials. You can find ideas on the kinds of areas we could work on at

We’ve been led to believe that consumption is what life is all about, but what about learning to be producers again? Good neighbors? These are the kind of issues that we will be addressing together at the Great Unleashing.

➢ If we wait for the governments, it’ll probably be too little, too late.

➢ If we act as individuals, it’ll be too little.

➢ But if we act as communities, it might be just enough, just in time.”

Potential Problems We Need To Address In Albany

  • If the price of oil stopped trucks from running or made the cost of food rise steeply, how would we feed ourselves? In the event of disruption, Safeway and other food stores only have enough to keep us going for about three days.
  • What if we couldn’t afford to buy the essentials we need? Do we have skills to share with others in exchange?
  • What if pharmaceutical drugs (most of which are based on petrochemicals) became less accessible? Are there effective alternatives we could develop locally?
  • Are our children equipped to deal with the practical demands of a life without gadgets and technological aids? What useful skills could we be teaching them?
  • How well do we manage during a power outage, or when the water’s turned off for a few hours, several days? What about sewage?
  • How are we dealing with the realization that our children and grandchildren are going to be living with a lot less of what we’ve been taught is our “due”?

So, what exactly IS the Great Unleashing?

It’s a working afternoon with a celebratory feel, starting 2 pm Sunday afternoon, May 22nd, at the Albany Vet’s Building in Memorial Park on Portland Avenue. Because we want everyone’s participation, we are providing a great kids’ program for children 4-11 in the room next door. Details below.

2:00 pm
After a short introduction to the concept of Transition, we’ll remind ourselves briefly of the challenges (with active dialog) and look at how they affect us in Albany.
3:00 pm
Using Open Space format, those who want to will propose initiatives, then we gather into working groups with others of like mind to brainstorm projects that will help ensure a future Albany that is energy-lean, satisfying and resilient. Each participant will come away with contact information of neighbors they would like to work with going into the future, and a plan to meet again to put these projects into action.

5:30 pm
A picnic in the park, with food for sale by local merchants, music and fun

Richard Heinberg

6:30 pm
Richard Heinberg will give the keynote address based on his soon-to-be-published book, “The End of Growth”. He has authored ten books, including “The Party’s Over” and “Peak Everything”. Richard is widely regarded as one of the world’s most effective communicators of the urgent need to transition away from fossil fuels. Indeed, in many important ways life without oil could easily be preferable to the present. With a wry, unflinching approach based on facts and realism, Richard exposes the tenuousness of our current way of life and offers a vision for a truly sustainable future.

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Posted in Local Activities on March 6, 2011