Friday, 27 April 2012

Walking The Talk

Steps towards a sustainable life.

For too long now, or maybe for just the right amount of time, I have been living in a way that I knew was not right for me.

To give you a bit of background – before I became the Care Taker at The Yarner Trust I was a gardener and nurseryman. I spent a good 10 years tending to plants, digging, conditioning soil and trying to put plants first whilst caring for the local environment.

I then reached the point when I wanted to know more, to get both the big picture view and the microscopic insight into the workings of a plant and their place in the wider scheme of things.

For me, that meant going as a mature student to university. I had scraped through school and college and was more interested in travelling, partying and visiting my friends who had gone off to uni in various parts of the country than studying for another three years. But now felt like the right time. I don't know who was more freaked out by the sight of me in a white lab coat – my mates and family who had gotten used to me as a bit of Worzel Gummage meets Jack the lad or me? Whenever I caught sight of myself in the reflection of the fume cabinet with my goggles and lab coat on I would wonder if I was in an episode of Quantum Leap and was catching a view of me in another person's body.

Sitting in class doing quantum physics, macro evolution or organic chemistry I just had to keep reminding myself that I had come into this with nothing to lose and with the mentality that you can do anything you put your mind too even if you had failed GCSE maths.

Sandwiching in a year at Kew, a plant-collecting trip to Puerto Rico and a place on an EU funded biodiversity mapping project – alongside being taught by some of the most distinguished lecturers in plant diversity – made me aware of four things:

1. The world we live on is facing an extremely difficult future
2. There appears to be very little work being done to create realistic solutions to the problem of global change
3. The entire human race and the whole biological world depends completely on the plant kingdom
4. The only way to make a real impact is to practice what you preach (or hear)

For me, this makes working at the Yarner Trust the perfect job. More specifically, I can help to organise and run courses that offer practical solutions that contribute towards leading a more sustainable lifestyle. I can also take what I’ve learned about the importance of respecting the natural world into schools, colleges, prisons, business forums, garden societies and anywhere else where there are people in a position to make a positive difference.
Finally, I can use a compost toilet, grow my own food, produce some of my own energy and hopefully by the end of my time here be able to build a sustainable home which will have a minimal impact on the Earth's resources.

Jon will be doing a sponsored walk along The Green London Way, 28 May – 2 June 2012. More information here.

Jon Every is a botanist, working as Care Taker and Education Officer at The Yarner Trust

Photograph: Ferns by Colleen Slater