Jo’s Climate Journey

After finishing my degree in Mechanical Engineering, a year spent working in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (then Zaire) inspired me to use my engineering skills to improve water supplies for people in developing countries. Back in the UK, after a spell working in the water industry, I did a masters degree in Community Water Supply and Sanitation. For the next 7 years I worked in Cameroon, Liberia and Tajikistan on water supply, sanitation and health education projects in rural communities and refugee camps: improving water supplies, building toilets and empowering people to avoid diseases like diarrhoea and typhoid (despite getting it myself!) To ensure the long term success of these projects the key was to tailor the solutions to each local situation to make sure they were sustainable, making sure the technology used was appropriate to the needs, culture, skills and resources of the people that would be looking after it.

Climate change was a recurring theme affecting the lives of the people I worked with. In Zaire the rains were coming later and later each year, and in Tajikistan there was a drought for 2 years running so crops failed and water sources dried up. I knew of some people who had to sell part of their roof to buy food. For these people already living a precarious hand to mouth existence, changes in weather patterns were having a devastating effect.

I returned to the UK convinced that the way we live here has a direct effect on the lives of the people I had met in those far off countries, and that our comfort shouldn’t be at their expense. So I took a much greater interest in how I could reduce the negative impact of my life and how to help others to do the same. This lead to a job with a local authority in South Yorkshire helping to develop community recycling services, and to involvement with a group at my church which looks at how to live with a lower negative impact (consuming less, lower carbon footprint) and a higher positive impact (being more generous, campaigning, etc) . I was very inspired by Christian Aid’s Cut the Carbon March in 2007 in which 10 Brits and 8 people from around the world marched 1000 miles around Britain, holding rallies in the cities they passed through, to raise awareness of the effects of climate change, and I joined them for the rally in Leeds. (For campaigning ideas see the links pages.)

Becoming a householder in a typical Sheffield terrace house and wanting to stay warm without the gas bill going through the roof (literally!) forced me to think about how much energy I was using at home. We noticed a big difference after installing a new boiler and a new roof with extra insulation. At the same time I was having conversations with friends about how it would be great to make their house greener but not knowing how to go about it or not having the time, so never getting round to doing anything. One friend had solar panels installed but had a lot of hassle because they weren’t installed properly first time.

I realized that I could bring together my technical background, my concern for the environment and my experience in finding appropriate solutions for individual situations to set up a service to help people get round the obstacles and take action. By working in partnership with people I could help them achieve reductions in energy use that neither of us could have done on our own. I supplemented my skills and experience with courses in green renovation, domestic energy assessment and how to set up and run a business, and Earthmine was born!

Why the name Earthmine? The earth is full of natural renewable resources, like sun and wind, which can provide us with energy, like a natural mine. It’s also a play on words because actually the earth isn’t only mine, it belongs to everyone including the people that will come after us. So the earth is ours to use, but this brings with it the responsibility to preserve it for future generations, so none of us should take more than our fair share of its resources.