Seattle, October 2017
I’ve never been good at direct routes.
Geographically, it looks something like this, and everywhere on that map has contributed a piece of me; even the short stays and the one place I didn’t like. These days I’m very much more conscious of the drawbacks of moving so readily, so I think I’m actually going to stay in Seattle for as long as I can foresee. I got here quite by accident—my love was hired by A Large Tech Company That I Needn’t Name—but felt at home with the culture and the weather, and fell in love with the mountains, sea, islands, wine, beer, mushrooms and oysters. Over time I made some great friends; that part took a while, as it always does post-college. I’ve never believed in gods, but every time I see Mount Rainier I think I understand all the people who do.
Academically, I finished school studying nothing but languages and literature and then enrolled in a psychology degree thinking it was an extension of these, which was the best mistake I ever made. Three years later I had become such a rabid empiricist and so frustrated with the practical difficulties of experimenting on people that I was determined to only work with computer models. Through another degree and a half I learned enough about systems theory and modelling to become absolutely terrified of just how fast humanity is fouling its own nest.
I became convinced that nothing I could do would be more important than helping to turn back or at least slow that trend. I got involved with a renewable energy group, and then an environmental technical training program. I started to see that the real challenge was about values and human behaviour, more than about technology, so when I started a training program of my own it covered more about behaviour change, advocacy and working with people. More recently I helped set up The Happiness Initiative which aims to get individuals and governments talking about, measuring and valuing human wellbeing ahead of the golden calf of GDP.
Eventually I realised that I’m simply more useful as a technician than a leader, and a lifelong love of maps led me to GIS. These days I put data on maps, trying never to forget that the data itself is about people and/or natural systems far more complex & interesting than the categories I’m shoehorning them into. I am always looking for projects that help us humans relate to each other and the world better, because I still have hope that we can finally learn to live together in the world.
Oh, and my brain looks like this.