Monday, March 17, 2008

In Memoriam Will Howard

My good friend Will Howard has just died, following a long and brave battle with cancer.

Will has been in recent years a passionate advocate of the form of personal carbon trading known as Cap and Share [link to the web site he set up].

Unbelievably, on the day he died, Environment Secretary Hilary Benn announced that the UK would set up what Reuters' press release called "Domestic Carbon Emissions Trading". This represents a fantastic achievement for the whole movement to get such a trading scheme established.

Despite his cancer Will cycled to Brussels from his home in west Wales near Machynlleth last summer as part of this campaign.

It's to his great credit, that as the main UK campaigner for this simplified form of carbon trading, it is now firmly on the UK political agenda.

A lifelong campaigner

I will try to summarise what I know of his life. Will was a brave man who cared deeply about the state of the planet and its people.

I met him in 1997 when we began collaboration on two projects: a Green Solutions CD-Rom for the Centre for ALternative Technoogy, featuring the then new technology of Quicktime virtual reality, and the Palace of Amnesia, a prototype computer game I wrote and he directed.

At that time he was living on the Gower Peninsula near Swansea, running an Apple Mac design company.

With his wife Lyn and boys Sam and Dougie they had moved there from Bristol, where Will, who held a PhD in biology and was an ornithologist, had been a campaign officer for Amnesty International.

This was an early example of the strength of his campaigning zeal.

When my wife Zoe was severely ill in 1998 with a heart tumour, they put us up in their Swansea flat and took care of our own boys.

Their boys were and are home-educated, another example of Will's do-it-yourself approach to life - he and Lyn believe the education system lets children down.

The track of their life eventually led them to Machynlleth where I live, and where Will pioneered a campaign to have the Dyfi Valley becme a Fair Trade Valley - and he succeeded.

As a multimedia author he programmed the Carbon Gym for CAT, and designed the multimedia version of Peter Lord's The Visual Culture of Wales - three CD-Roms for the University of Wales.

This was not enough - he moved on to the most pressing matter of our time - mitigating climate change.

Will was not good at putting himself first. This was part of his selflessness.

In 2004 he had lower back ache which he attributed to poor computer use. In fact it was cancer but because he delayed seeing a doctor about it, so it was at stage 4 before being diagnosed.

He was given just about three months to live.

But he refused to give in, a mark of his courage.

He spent a year trying alternative methods of treatment believing the NHS way to be deeply flawed. They almost worked. But cancer is a persistent enemy.

With stubborn determination he survived a further three years - with the help of his wife, Lyn, and boys, always trying the latest remedies and treatments, from Switzerland and the States, supported by his GP Simon Morpeth. Latterly these included chemo and radiotherapy.

Perhaps he should not have made the bike ride to Brussels. But you couldn't have stopped him. He was determined to do it, because he loved the planet and believed this to be the best thing he could do with his life.

You couldn't ask for more.

The best tribute for him is that his work be carried on to its successful completion.

This is an inadequate memorial. I hope others will add to it.

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