“All of us can make a difference, all of us can learn from failure. Everybody should recognize that”, George Ferguson.
What is your job about?
I am the Mayor of Bristol. I consider wellbeing as a vital issue and I want and I am trying to put health at the top of my agenda. We have got so many different links and networks that are all interested in our agenda and this puts us in a very special position. We are the only European Green Capital for 2015. I think that we will be putting together a lot of the cities across the world to put pressure on national governments leading up the United Nations Climate Summit in Paris at the end of the year. Our work is about generosity, it is about sharing, it is not about us holding what we are doing to ourselves.
What issues do you address?
I have been nominated for transport but I actually think that the big issue is health. My transport drive is about making our air quality much better, our street much safer, children’s lives much better. So I think that health becomes the umbrella under which all the environmental issues can fall. The immediate needed reaction is about climate change. Climate change is obviously important but people switch off sometimes when you talk about climate change but nobody switch off when you talk about health because it is a thing that concerns all the population. It is very difficult to get people to respond to the threats of hot weather or storms and that is because they see them as distant threats, but it is much easier to respond and understand that you feel better so wellbeing is absolutely vital.
What moved you to take action?
I think that coming to Bristol was a bit of an epiphany. The first real, proper urban experience was living and learning in the middle of Bristol when I was at University and seeing a lot of the destruction that was taking place in the 60s. So I found myself as a young student architect combating some of the destructions of our environment that I could see were happening. So it is all about learning from my experience on the ground and the places I have lived in.
What were the obstacles that you had to overcome?
I think that the major obstacle is getting people to change their habits and to recognize that an environmental approach at life can be fun and liberating. It is also about getting people to recognize that this is not a sacrifice, it is another more enriching way of living.
What helped you keep going in hard times?
I have discovered I am incredibly resilient because I have put myself in positions where people want to have a goal and want to knock me down and I would never allow that to happen.
What first prompted you to become interested in environmental issues and when was that?
I have travelled a lot as a child because my dad was in the military so I have learned always from places. I have probably learned more from places we were than I did from formal learning at school. That led me to lots of different environments from the Mediterranean, up to the North Sea, to Scandinavia. So I had a huge privilege of learning directly about natural and built environments and I think that was when I started to be interested in these topics.
On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being very happy) where would you rate how you feel about your life?
I think that in the bigger sense of wellbeing and satisfaction is 10.