Leading a training session at ‘The Container Project’, Jamaica, 2003
About Paul Mobbs & MEIR:
In this first section, I outline the route I took into this rather unusual line of work; how my early experiences formed my skills and then carried over into creating my own ideal job.
Why did I get into this line of work? Well, more than anything else I just seem to have the knack for research.
From my early teens I enjoyed looking into the bowls of libraries, or local authority filing cabinets where people didn’t normally look, to see what was inside. Mostly, dust; but sometimes, gold.
On the right is an article I produced with the late Bill Heine. At the time I was volunteering with CND and Friends of the Earth, which is how I got to feature on his local BBC radio programme. He valued my ability to look through volumes of archives and quickly pick out some startling anomalies – in this case, the Atomic Energy Authority unlawfully dumping waste on the edge of the pretty South Oxfordshire village of Sutton Courtenay (curiously, given the denial and distraction that followed, just a couple of hundred metres from the grave of George Orwell).
Leading a walk across a US military communications base, 1985 –
click here for the video
More than anything, while working with the peace movement in 1983/4, I was tutored by some wonderful people who had been doing activism since the 1960s/1970s. They taught me how to use the system against itself, and the importance of evidence and information to any action or campaign in order to do that. That’s how, aged 17, I could lead walks through American military bases, with soldiers in uniform waving guns at us and ‘get away with it’.
In November of 1991 I left my job in the engineering industry (in any case, shortly after that my job left for Asia). In that job I used to work shifts; one-week on and one-week off, and was paid a large premium to do so. On my week off I would travel around Britain, walking and sometimes backpacking, and as part of that I would inevitably wander-in on local environmental problems. I started to help out. People began to offer me money to help them.
Still stuck for a full-time job I thought there might be an income in helping local communities with their problems. In early 1992, enthused with the prospects of the grand changes that would follow the imminent Earth Summit (OK, a little naïve in retrospect) I took up the opportunity of going on the government’s ‘Enterprise Allowance Scheme’ – registering myself as an environmental researcher and consultant.
I expected the job to last no more than six months, which is how long the funding lasted. Twenty-seven years later I'm still here.