218: Gavin Fernie-Jones/Citizen
If you follow what I do at all closely, whether through my newsletter or my podcast, you’ll know that ‘how we talk about activism and the climate’ has been a bit of a preoccupation for me these last few months.
I’m loosely connected to what you might call the wider activism movement, which has become a proper industry these days. And much of it leaves me cold. From my slightly remote perspective, it seems to be an echo chamber full of impenetrable language, where activism tends to be cast as a personal journey or – worse – a nakedly commercial business opportunity: as opposed to a genuine attempt to invoke change that will benefit everybody, and not just those that trade in the same wonky jargon.
Fumblingly exploring these ideas is why I’ve published stories by Calum McIntyre and Lesley McKenna this year, why I am careful about which events I attend and which causes I personally lend my name to, and why I was so keen to speak to Gavin Fernie-Jones for this episode of the podcast.
You probably haven’t heard of Gavin. But for me, this is one of the most insightful and important conversations I’ve hosted this year. Gav lives in the French Alps, and originally his story was a well worn one – Brit skier moves to the mountains, embraces the seasonaire lifestyle, and ends up staying put.
And yet, over the last few years, Gavin has been slowly but surely changing his life in response to the climate crisis he can see unfolding around him, and impacting his local environment and community.
He’s quit the lucrative, ski season job that enabled him to work a mere few months a year; started a local grassroots community group called Re-Action; embraced a slower, more purposeful life; and has begun actively living as a ‘citizen’ rather than a consumer.
Why is this important? Because change is coming, and mountain communities like Gavin’s will be at the forefront of this change. Personally, I also feel that the type of ‘activism’ that Gav and his Re-Action peers are engaged in – local, grassroots, community-based, circular, symbolic, and undeniably impactful – is the type of quietly revolutionary approach that has the power to drive real change. Where the work has an impact on real people, is forward-thinking and inclusive, and will actually help real communities address the challenges they’re going to face.
So that’s why I asked Gavin to come on the podcast, and why I really implore you to check out this episode. Inevitably, because Gav is just an ordinary bloke rather than a massive name, these episodes tend to get much less traction. But I’m hoping that if you do give this a listen, it’ll give you as much food for though as it did me.