“I hope that we live in a converging world rather than a diverging one where people come together and work together to protect the Earth which is the only place we can call home, therefore we should look after it”, John Pontin.
“Things that are given are received as a gift and with gratitude”, Wendy Stephenson.
What is your job about?
The Converging World is a charitable Foundation that uses funds from the generation of clean energy to help to rebalance the economic inequalities that exist between the Global North and South. The Converging World is working towards the transition to a low-carbon economy, simultaneously tackling poverty and climate change. The Converging World has set up eight wind turbines in South India. The energy that is produced is bought by various business and users including the hospital. The Converging World intends to use the money generated by its wind turbines to build new turbines, to pay back the loans used to build some of the turbines and to develop initiatives that benefit the local community.
What issues do you address?
- Dependence on fossil fuels, climate change
- Lack of affordable, reliable energy supply in India
What moved you to take action?
John– In 1990, I attended a conference in Sweden for leaders of ethical businesses. I was inspired by a talk given by Carl Henrich Robert detailing the four system conditions relevant to a low-carbon lifestyle. Robert made the point that human beings are the only species which creates waste where waste is useless. He called for human society to rejoin nature. I was inspired by this to join the movement towards zero waste. In 2004, I was invited by the RSA to take part in the Coffeehouse Challenge to mark its 250th anniversary. I reenacted the role of William Shipley – who founded the RSA in a coffee house in 1754 – by leading discussions with members of his local community of Chew Magna on strategies for moving towards a zero-waste community. The idea for the Converging World came out of these discussions.
Wendy– I wanted to take action on renewable energy, demonstrate that it can be done and encourage it, I wanted to prevent climate change.
What were the obstacles that you had to overcome?
- Explaining the project has proved to be a challenge – people have trouble understanding how it works and the ideas behind it.
- Convincing people that it is not too good to be true!
- Indian bureaucracy
- Access to funds, access to the right skills
- Transferable skills
What helped you keep going in hard times?
John– I don’t have a single reason to want to give up. On a daily basis I experience “a shower of people and things” which I believe I am “meant to experience”. I believe I was “being used” for a higher purpose.
Wendy– There was never a moment of wanting to give up however knowing the impact of what the project was going to do was my motivation to keep going.
What first prompted you to become interested in environmental issues and when was that?
John– Charing the Dartington Hall Trust I think was the trigger point for me becoming interested in the environment. I was a trustee for 18 years and I was the Chairman of the Trust for 13 years. It is a big charity, wide ranging, international with very strong indian connections and I would say that my whole sustainability interest from 1973 onwards was strongly influenced by the Dartington Trust’s experience.
Wendy– I grew up in Teeside where there were many power plants I could see the effect they were having on surrounding environment and it really started me thinking about the issues. I have always had a connection with the natural environment.
On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being very happy) where would you rate how you feel about your life?
John– Now I am living the best years of my life so I would say 10
Wendy– 10, I am very happy