Saanich, BC, Canada. January 2021
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. I got to Seattle 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 Tahoma or Kulshan I think I understand all the people who do.
I thought I’d grow old in Seattle. It was a relief to feel like I was done moving around. I eventually became a US citizen. But even Seattle can’t escape the deep traumas the US has around racism and xenophobia, and by the end of the 2010s I had had enough of feeling unwanted and unsafe in the country I’d adopted. Wanting to stay in Cascadia and on the Salish Sea took me to Vancouver Island, though moving during a pandemic means I only feel like I’ve half arrived so far. I still have all of that making friends and getting to know the place ahead of me, and I hope we’ll all be able to get back to that soon.
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 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.