Posted by: Jon | 30/08/2013

The Last Post

This is the last post on this blog, written not by Jon but by L, his “lovely gypsy wife”, as he referred to me in his book Silent Memoir.

Jon tragically died a few weeks ago, on the 5th of August. It was unexpected. He excused himself and said he wanted to lie down for a bit. When I came to wake him with a cup of tea some two hours later it was clear that he must have died from a heart attack pretty much as soon as he reached the bed. He still had his sandals on.

Jon was the most honest person I have ever known and he dedicated his life to trying to make a difference to others. At Basecamp, an outdoor centre for ‘youth at risk’, we ran courses for young people under social work provision, kids from children’s homes, hardened offenders, and personal development courses for the social workers and prison officers who worked with these young people. His work was published in a book entitled ‘Why adventure?’. He didn’t make money from these engagements. He would pay his staff, but generally we worked for nothing except a small food allowance. I personally was paid a token amount during our last two years at Basecamp, having worked for ten years unpaid.

When he died he was working to complete a book called ‘Sustainability for Real’. I’m hoping that this will still go ahead with the publisher.

Jon wasn’t motivated by money and he had the skills and drive to achieve anything he put his mind to. In Scotland we bought an old barn on money borrowed because he saw the potential in it. He worked each day to build the foundations, walls, floors, stairs, windows and chimneys that would turn that shell into a home. Jon didn’t go out drinking and socialising. He spent his time with me or he’d build for others at too low a rate in order to make ends meet. I was working as a support worker at the time and laboured for him when not at work. It took him around four years to finish the project. We lived in a caravan for the first year on site; but wow, people thought we were loaded. It was truly amazing when we came to sell it and it was bought in the first week that it was on the market.

Jon used to carry a small book around with him because if he liked something he would sketch it and make it. His restoration work was second to none. He would pack every minute of the day with some task, and by nine o’clock in the morning he would often have achieved what some people take all day to do. He was good and kind and compassionate and would put his own needs on hold while trying to address the needs of some family member. Jon always did the right thing. He was a moral compass but he wasn’t rigid. He was a complete free thinker who thought out of the box, and most important, he had empathy.

He was never intimidated by people in authority. He wouldn’t back away from a situation that needed confronting, but would do it in a compassionate way unless they were a complete arsehole: then the eyes would turn red. Not a good sign! At these times his knowledge and articulacy would kick in. He could write letters like a solicitor if necessary. He was on the side of the angels, and never for personal gain. But most of the time, Jon just wanted people to be decent to each other.

He could break things down and get people to relate on a human level. I remember an incident in a French notary’s office after we had been strung along for a year by an estate agent. In France agents are very well protected; right and wrong don’t exist, and it’s the law that matters. Anyway, I remember a huge argument in the notary’s office. Because the agent had cost us thousands and made huge mistakes, Jon didn’t want to pay the full fees, but instead proposed to pay the equivalent of what an English agent would get on the property. We had sold the barn and transferred the money so we couldn’t live off the interest, and then found ourselves stuck in London with a rent for a year instead of what should have been a couple of months. The climax came when the agent asked: “Who are you to come to France and tell me what I can have? Are you calling me a crook?” Jon responded: “I’m not saying you’re a crook, but you are an arrogant man. You can take me to court and you can string this out for years, you may even win. And I may spend every penny on this. But I’m not paying you a penny more. I’ll pay the notary. I’ll pay the owner for the loss of a sale. But not you.” Jon’s sister-in-law was trying to pull him back in his seat as she is French and knew the cards were stacked in the agents favour, but he turned and said “I’m an honest man, not a rich English second-homer and morally what you have done, regardless of the law, is wrong”. Then he asked the notary if the agent could give us a moment with him out of the room (I think because Jon wanted to hit him!). While we were discussing how to proceed with the owner and the notary, the agent knocked on the door, came in and said, “There is no fee, and I hope the next time we meet its over a drink as friends”. He shook hands with us both and wished us luck. In her entire career, the notary had never witnessed this.

There will only ever be one bossboots and life will never be the same with out him, not for me.

At his funeral, our son Tristam ended it with Jon’s words, a reading from the last page of Silent Memoir. This book really was pretty true to his life. A couple of weeks later, Tristam rowed me out to sea in a small rowing boat with Rowan, our daughter, waiting on the sands. We put his ashes out to sea at Beg ar Fri. It was a perfect morning and I know that’s where he wanted to be.

I haven’t got Jon’s gift for writing. I’m dyslexic (and not the middle-class form of dyslexia with a few spelling mistakes). But Jon always said write from the heart. It doesn’t matter how other people perceive or judge it if it’s honest. So I have written this because he had so many hits on his website and he would never talk about the knowledge or talents he had in conversation, often allowing a person to think they were informing him on a subject that he knew in-depth, and I just thought you might like to know a bit about the man he was.

The love that I have for the life that I have is yours and yours and yours…

Lulabell x

Louise Barrett

Jon and Louise

Posted by: Jon | 24/02/2013

The Invitation

The Invitation

“It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living.
I want to know what you ache for,
and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are.
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love,
for your dreams,
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon.
I want to know if you have touched the centre of your sorrow,
if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or become shrivelled and closed from the fear of future pain.

Read More…

Posted by: Jon | 13/02/2013

Forever Groundhog Day For Climate?

meltingiceThis is a guest post by David Cromwell, co-founder and editor of Media Lens, a public interest organisation which, since 2001, has been raising awareness of “how mainstream newspapers and broadcasters operate as a propaganda system for the elite interests that dominate modern society”.

In 2007, Media Lens was awarded the Gandhi Foundation International Peace Prize.

This article is reproduced with permission of the author

Forever Groundhog Day For Climate? A Tale of Ice, Smokescreens and Rebellion

Read More…

Posted by: Jon | 28/12/2012

Un message de Pierre Rabhi

(r)evolution colibrisLe mouvement Colibris, conviant chacune et chacun de nous à faire sa part pour changer la société, suscite un ralliement qui ne cesse de s’amplifier. Par le principe d’un vivre ensemble fondé sur la puissance libératrice et créatrice de la sobriété, nous sommes invités à transcender ce qui nous divise et fédérer nos consciences. C’est alors que nous pourrons mutualiser nos talents, nos savoirs et savoir-faire, pour construire avec les décideurs qui en reconnaissent l’urgente nécessité, un monde respectueux de la vie, viable et vivable pour nous-mêmes et pour les générations à venir.

Nous lançons dès janvier la (R)évolution des Colibris pour que tous ceux qui ne savent plus où se tourner dans la chaotisation grandissante du monde, trouvent des voies possibles pour se relier à d’autres et pour agir.

Par ailleurs, en septembre 2013, nous proposerons un ambitieux programme pour aider à créer partout où cela est possible des oasis de vie rassemblant toutes les thématiques que la société civile  développe déjà : la souveraineté alimentaire, l’autonomie énergétique, un habitat sain à faible coût et faible consommation d’énergie, une autre éducation, la réhabilitation du lien social, etc. Nous sommes cependant pleinement conscients que c’est par le changement humain impliquant le changement de chacune et chacun de nous que la société pourra véritablement changer.


Find out more about Colibris here


Here’s  a taster from the Activities Section of the ‘Sustainability through Experience Handbook’ currently in preparation…

The book is a multi-authored theory and practice handbook on outreaching sustainability through experiential learning. It includes real-life case-studies and a compendium of experiential activities designed to extend learning beyond the ‘already converted’ by appealing to the interests of much less engaged populations – in other words, the great majority of people. It is intended as a resource for educators and change agents of all kinds – from CSR professionals, teachers, campaigners and activists to ordinary folk wanting to convey sustainability to less convinced family, friends, colleagues and neighbours.

Tips for Communicating Sustainability to the Sceptical

1) Start from where other people are at:* Read More…

Posted by: Jon | 21/12/2011

The firstSTEP handbook

I have been thinking about whether to review the predictions for 2011 that I made – not from personal expertise, I should add, but from paying attention to those who are expert in these things. But, to be honest, I really don’t want to. After the whirlwind of globally consequential events of the past twelve months, a brief glance back at the predictions shows how many not only have come to pass but also are now self-explanatory.

I will get back to them, I expect, because it seems to me that there is much that is good and hopeful emerging from the past year’s turmoil. But, for now, I want to post an introduction to a “sustainability through experience” handbook I am compiling in the hope of making a contribution to the growing world-wide movement for social change.

The handbook will explore ways of overcoming the immense psychosocial barriers that prevent us from confronting the reality of our unsustainable trajectory. Especially, it aims to outreach active engagement with issues of sustainability beyond the ‘already converted’. Read More…

Posted by: Jon | 15/07/2011

Just Do It: A Tale of Modern Day Outlaws

In an update to my April post, ‘Resistance is Fertile’, I mentioned ‘Just Do It’, a recently released documentary on the motivations that lie behind environmental direct action. The other day I watched a clip of a BBC interview with the film’s director, Emily James, and with Marina Pepper, one of the activist ‘stars’ of the film.

No doubt with the sensibilities of a middle-English audience in mind, the cosy breakfast-show interviewers pointed out the film’s one-sidedness in its sympathetic portrayal of climate change and climate justice protests without balancing this with the views of the corporate institutions protested against. As if the flywheel weight and momentum of the status quo somehow needs defending…  Read More…

Posted by: Jon | 07/07/2011

Sustainability Through Experience

You are deep in the woods at nightfall and it’s just started to rain.

With you are three colleagues: the girl from reception you nod hello to in the mornings who is complaining now about damp hair and no straightening iron; old so-and-so from accounts who is two years off retirement but still knows his knots and lashings from when he ran a Scout group; and a young intern you’ve never met before who actually seems to be enjoying himself and you have privately christened ‘Rambo’.

You wouldn’t be here if you hadn’t been ‘volunteered’ for some sustainability-team-building-thingummy that you only agreed to because you’ve just applied for a promotion. And now you’re bracing yourself for a long uncomfortable night in a make-shift shelter a bit too up close and personal with your three unlikely companions. Read More…

Posted by: Jon | 20/06/2011

Natural Connections…

Litter at Everest Basecamp - Roger Mears/RGS

We have arrived at a point in our infinitesimally short life on this 4.5 billion-year-old planet at which no part of the natural world remains untouched by human hand.

Vast inaccessible areas such as the deep ocean sea bed still remain unexplored and nature continues, of course, in that plants grow, the sun shines and rain falls. But no longer can we regard any part of nature’s cycles and patterns as being entirely natural. So it might seem surprising that, at this time of peak human interference with natural biological systems, we are rediscovering the benefits of getting closer to nature.

Increasingly we hear that the remove at which we live now from the natural world is a significant factor in why we do not cease from degrading it and that, to motivate a meaningful shift to sustainability, we need urgently to rebuild our connections. But a 2009 literature review for the Wilderness Foundation suggests that our new-found interest in nature is actually concerned less with modifying our destructive ways and more on how time spent in the natural world can help us cope with some of the more dysfunctional aspects of modern living. Whilst this review  – and an earlier one by Dr Roger Greenaway and me – shows strong evidence of valuable developmental and therapeutic outcomes, the emphasis is still on what we as a species can gain from nature rather than what we can offer to it to ensure the welfare of all life on the planet. Read More…

Posted by: Jon | 07/06/2011

Envisioning Sustainability…

“As we know only too well, the impact of humanity on the planet is in danger of sacrificing the very ecosystems that provide the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, and the biological diversity for sustaining life. Failure to make changes will provide a planet which can no longer support our civilisation…

While progress has been made in raising awareness… we have yet to solve the systemic causes that continue to thwart meaningful, measurable change…”

Sir David King,  UK Chief Scientific Adviser 2000-2007

Envisioning Sustainability…

The first part of this article, Imagining Sustainability, discussed some of the institutional, social, and psychological barriers in Western societies that “continue to thwart meaningful measurable change”.

It also highlighted failings of population-scale information campaigns intended to motivate such change and indicated the better potential for small group and inter-personal approaches that engage deeper values-based motivation in overcoming unsustainability.

This second part considers in more detail some small group non-formal education approaches that show potential to achieve and maintain community-level shifts to sustainability. Read More…

Posted by: Jon | 24/05/2011

Imagining Sustainability…

Imagine if our Western democracies unanimously declared war on unsustainability and our efforts became culturally embedded…

Imagine if, as in other times of extraordinary endeavour, our leaders led by example, making stirring speeches that warn us of the unthinkable consequences of failure and unite us in our collective resolve…

Imagine if news and stories of our progress dominated the media daily, extolling our efforts and normalising our shared intent….

Imagine if our cultural role-models – the celebrities, sports icons and business entrepreneurs who bench-mark success in our societies – were routinely asked on chat shows and in magazine interviews about what they are doing for the war effort… Read More…

Posted by: Jon | 29/04/2011

Dark Mountain Issue Two

Paul Kingsnorth and Dougald Hine are raising funds to print issue two of Dark Mountain by offering the chance to pre-order the book. This second volume of thought-provoking Uncivilised writing from the Dark Mountain Project is to be published in June.

The collection includes pieces by some familiar names – such as Jay Griffiths and Naomi Klein – but also contains the work of new voices who are opening up our thinking and causing us to reconsider our assumptions about the world and how we live in it. Paul and Dougald have just released their joint editorial for the book – re-posted below – and you can find out more about the book and the project at Read More…

Posted by: Jon | 06/04/2011

Resistance is Fertile

In the final chapter of ‘World on the Edge’, his most recent big picture analysis for a sustainable Plan B, Lester Brown reiterates the need for a wartime scale of mobilisation if we are adequately to confront the severity of human ecological overshoot and escalating climate chaos. He asks “What contributions can we each make today, in time, money, or reduced consumption, to help save civilisation?”

Some would answer him that we are already making steady progress. Many of us have changed our light bulbs, some have invested in solar panels, and the three ‘Rs’ of sustainable consumption  – ‘Reduce, Reuse and Recycle’ – are now firmly embedded in our collective consciousness, if not always in our daily practices. A few hardliners have even committed to some additional ‘Rs’ – such as to Refuse (social pressure and the temptations of advertising), to ‘Repair’ (rather than renew or replace) and ultimately to ‘Return’ (our waste to the earth as ‘food’).

But Lester Brown reminds us that these virtuous but relatively trivial changes are nothing like enough. Global carbon emissions are still rising, consumption is still growing, and, after three decades of squandered opportunity, the scarcest resource of all now is time. Repeated incongruities between the rhetoric and actions of our leaders and manipulative disinformation campaigns by powerful oil and coal interests have undermined such meagre top-down efforts to engender public engagement as have been attempted, let alone the prospects for a widespread public mobilisation anytime soon. If we are ever to achieve the necessary scale of social change, then those of us who have comprehended the enormity of our predicament must do much more now than simply seek to inform and persuade. We must be willing to actively  ‘Resist’ the intractable forces that are marshalled against us. Read More…

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