A bit about me

I thought I’d let you know a little about myself.  In particular I’d like to mention what I have done (or not) to lessen my impact, and how I have benefited (or not) from my actions.  If any of this comes across as self-righteous then I’m sorry about that, I’ll try to avoid it.

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As I mentioned in my first post, I am a father and husband, living in the commuter town of Berkhamsted.  I live in a smallish three bed semi with my wife Rowan and three children Maddie (nearing 7), Emily (verging on 4) and baby James.  Yes, I do feel a little guilty about my part in growing the population in the greedy west, particularly with the arrival of number 3 – so much so that I invested in a scheme to avoid deforestation in the Amazon that should offset all of the carbons that will be emitted due to James’ life.

Rowan thinks I am mad to attempt what I am attempting, but is supportive.  The kids haven’t really noticed.  As a family we are quite risk averse, and so that is why I have started the business alongside this work, so we can keep the wolves away from the door and allow me to continue to spend time on this going forward.

When it comes down to it, I’m doing this for the sake of my children.  We have a responsibility to leave the world in a better state for the inhabitants of the future than we ourselves found it in, and we are failing massively in that responsibility.

I first got aware of climate change when doing a geography project 20 years ago at school.  I was out there with a theodolite measuring the contours of the beaches around Anglesey where I grew up, and mapping how many times the local coast road would be flooded depending on the different projections of sea level rise at the time.  Difficult to remember exactly, but I think it was going to go up from being impassable a handful of times per year to a third of the year by the end of this century.

Like many people, it slowly dawned on me over the intervening years what sort of an impact I personally was responsible for, and I decided to change my ways.  I used to drive too fast and fly abroad regularly, something I wouldn’t dream of doing now.

At home we have had the house insulated and the 20 year old boiler renewed.  We’ve got solar panels fitted.  The loft insulation could be better: there is room for improvement.  I took part in an Eco-Team and reduced my waste, water, gas and electricity usage down by quite a bit.

Our water bills have a very useful graph on the back showing what typical usage looks like by size of household, together with what efficient use looks like.  With reduced flushing of the toilet, fitting of Hippo bags to reduce the size of each flush and general awareness, we use about a third less water than an efficient two person household.

With care we are now in the position where our revenue from the solar panels and our outgoings on gas and electricity balance off with one another.

I no longer commute to London, and we take holidays in the UK.  I’ve got a lot more time for the family, immediate and extended.  As a family we spend about £25000 a year in total.  That includes mortgage, bills, food, clothes, socialising, travel, holidays, the cats (two of them, Albert and Noodle), everything.  I have no useful barometer – does that sound low to you?

That has meant we have been able to save, and I have been able to make the step of leaving full-time employment.  If we’d carried on spending as we were, I’d still be working full time.

All in all, looking at the simplified calculator on the WWF website as to the impact you are having on the planet, I am still using up resources at a rate that would require 1.79 Earth’s to sustain it should everyone do the same, so more still to do.  Give up the car completely, maybe (great health benefits if I can)?  Become a vegetarian (I need some meat, surely)?

Please do let me know what you think.

John Bell,

Ordinary bloke


2 thoughts on “A bit about me

  1. I remember your geography project. Made mine look as boring as it was. (What’s MOIRA2 all about?)

    • MOIRA2 is for railway passenger demand forecasting in the UK (basically software used to predict the number of people that will travel on different trains depending on the timetable, fares structure, number of seats etc).

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