My rising environmental awareness

Jon Crooks
Studying MSc Green Economy at Bournemouth University.
Over the next two years, from September 2016, I will use this website to store reference and research material relating to the green economy and as an outlet for what I learn and the views I form. Please follow my blog and share my journey.

 

How did my connection with all things green emerge?

As my son got older, I began to rediscover my love of nature, showing him the things that had brought me simple delights as a child. And as he got older, I had more time to rediscover outdoor adventures such as trail running, scuba diving and climbing.

I don’t know when I first started to read about climate change, but I recall that when I did I became both incensed at our inaction in society, but at the same time excited about the possibilities of confronting it.

My love of nature  began to merge with my interest in current affairs and global politics. I developed a very strong interest in certain environmental issues. Not just climate change, but loss of biodiversity, our changing landscapes and the pollution of our ecosystem. Those farmers fields on my long run began to take on a different meaning to me and I had to learn more about how everything was interconnected.

I started to join the dots between the environment and the economic system in which we live. I became very interested in concepts such as degrowth and steady state economics in developed countries and sustainable development in the global south.

I began to realise how politicised my thoughts were becoming and I felt nervous that I was become obsessively green. Was I becoming a kind of radical, obsessed with our impact on the planet?

I led my family on a series of environmental decisions: Was it better to be vegetarian or vegan? What impact does eating local food or organic food have? Should we buy a second hand car or a new electric car? Should we stop flying for holidays?…and so on.

But perhaps because of the grounding I’ve had in the commercial sector and my good understanding of economic issues, more recently I have began to understand very well the conflict in the world today in balancing economic interests and economic decisions (as individuals and as businesses and governments) with environmental concerns; and I crave information and research into how we address these conflicting issues.

Citizen activism

My passion for reading about politics, economics and the environment reached a point at the end of 2013 where I could no longer be a bystander.

I became much more politically active and I began to engage with civil society groups. My first foray was with my local Green Party and in the lead up to the 2015 General Election I worked with my local party on press releases and letters to the media. I began to engage with other like-minded individuals around my home city and further afield. Local politics frustrated me though. It seemed to me that far too much time was spent administering the local party and trying to win locals over by talking about issues that dominate the agenda; such as health, immigration and social care. All important issues of course, but not the issues I wanted to engage with.

Instead, after the election I began developing relationships with people with an interest in environmental campaigning. I began working to identify theories of change and opportunities where citizen action can bring about a difference. I was involved in a number of campaigns. I set up a petition calling for 100% clean energy by 2050 aimed at the new Mayor to be appointed in Greater Manchester. The petition grew to more than 3000 signatures and I was interviewed and featured in the national press (The Observer).

COP21 – the Paris agreement

In one of those incredible twists of fate that life throws at us sometime, my wife (who had been working in the charity sector for many years) then took a job with the campaigning group, Avaaz, and was asked to join as campaign support officer to their COP21 climate team. This gave me a rare insight into developments on the ground as we witnessed first hand the events in the lead up to Paris unfold, and during the conference itself.

Through my involvement with Avaaz, both as a member and through my wife’s role with the organisation, I played a key role as a volunteer on the weekend of the London Climate March on 29 November 2015, the weekend before the start of COP. From distributing leaflets, supporting the attendance of indigenous leaders from the Amazon and supporting the official organisers with the complex coordination of the lead of the march on the day, I got heavily involved and finished up leading the march from the very front with a loudspeaker and a placard through the streets of London.

My exposure to Avaaz and through working with the organisers of my local 38 Degrees Manchester group throughout the second half of 2015, I began to understand the need to network and build strong relationships to be effective. And the need to reach compromises and to develop strategies to effect change.

The Paris Conference in December was a catalyzing moment. It seemed to bring everything together for me, both in my personal journey and of course in terms of the historic agreement itself. During the COP21 Paris conference, I linked up with a group of people who all attended the Paris event and we have formed a tight-knitted group of online climate activists and thought leaders trying to help consolidate a strong climate movement in the UK. We work together as a forum for sharing ideas and news on issues of climate change and sustainability.

Writing

In January 2014 I began to write, as an outlet for my own concerns about our unsustainable world and to focus my ideas and what I was learning into some editorial-style articles; some of which were published.

I also see my writing as a way of raising awareness of the political and environmental issues I confront. I set up my own blog and I began writing for a news website called The News Hub. I also started writing articles for a number of other groups and organisations such as Campaign for the North, 38 Degrees and A Greener Life, A Greener World.

I enjoy writing, hence why I have set up this new site and I would be very happy if I could get more work published in the future.

My views for a green future

I strongly believe that the Paris agreement marks, or at least should mark a turning point in how the world tackles climate change. Governments have sent a very clear message to the markets about how we need to transition away from fossil fuels and transform our economy. The direction of travel is now clear and I am incredibly excited about the opportunities that this will create for those wishing to work in delivering the changes required. I very much want to be a part of making this happen.

Next steps

The MSc is part of my journey to establish a change of career. I would very much like to leverage my experience in finance and combine this with my passion for the environment and my concern for the effects that climate change will have in the future. I do know that whilst I have built up a good level of knowledge on a range of subjects over the years, the more I read, the more I need to know and I also need experience putting my campaign and lobbying skills into practise by offering solutions to governments and businesses.

My future career aspirations are still quite broad. I can see myself working for a campaigning organisation; or for local government working on sustainability; perhaps for an organisation working to influence policy-makers in national government. In either scenarios, my strength will be my ability to see the different perspectives, understanding the political landscape, the business pressures of the bottom line and answering to shareholders.

I also could see myself continuing my studies beyond this course, going into research and/or teaching.

Why the Msc Green Economy?

The attraction of the MSc Green Economy course is the fact that it is such a highly interdisciplinary degree. We cannot continue to isolate green issues as something belonging to the NGO sector, or people who work in the field. The environment is not “out there”. We are the environment!

By Jon Crooks, 24 July 2016

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