28 Feb 2014
Your ‘Step Up’ moments: No.11: Ian Webb of Transition Long Ashton
I was born in 1933 so my upbringing involved all those things associated with a wartime economy, food, clothes and petrol rationing all these things seemed natural and worth doing to achieve a result. Also I don’t remember feeling deprived! In 1944 I went to a Quaker school to study for School Certificate (the last one I think) and then on to another Quaker school for A Levels. Although I never absorbed the religion bit I think this education gave me a strong moral background and a habit of questioning rather than accepting (government policies for instance).
My mother was active in CND and I went with her on part of the Aldermaston march. She was also very active in Oxfam and helped set up and run one of their shops. I have supported them and similar charities ever since.
After National Service I worked as an Ordnance Surveyor for a couple of years before joining the LCC as a trainee Structural Engineer. I met my wife in London and after qualifying we decided to move to Bristol where I spent my career working for a Consulting Engineer and living in Long Ashton where we are still. I recall that during my career I was always much happier designing schools, hospitals and other building which I could see were ‘worthwhile’ rather than the office blocks and multi-storey car parks of which we did quite a few.
It was not until I retired in 2003 that I really got interested in renewable energy though I remember being pleased that my father had some shares in ‘The Wind Fund’ well before that (I have since added to those shares in what is now the Triodos Bank ‘Renewable Energy Fund’. Shortly after retiring I built my own solar water heating system on the thermo-syphon principle (no electricity needed!). I later installed a PV system as well as upgrading all the home insulation.
Why have I not yet mentioned Transition you may be wondering? The reason is that now I am involved in it I have come to realize that it has in a sense ‘brought me full circle’ as so many of the things we did when I was a child which were done to help defeat Hitler we are now doing under the Transition banner to combat climate change, environmental degradation and excessive use of fossil fuel. In the long term I think the problems we have brought on ourselves since the end of the war by over-consumption may be even more serious than that war.
I had heard and approved of what you were doing at Totnes and as a result of a number of casual conversations with friends and neighbours of like mind we decided to launch Transition Long Ashton. Since then I have been Hon. Treasurer on the Core Group and active in the Energy Group, Community Agriculture Group, Village Market etc, although now I am 80 I am stepping back a bit. As a result of Transition my wife and I have got to know a whole lot of interesting people that we had no contact with before and I think helped make our village a better place to live.