Albert, not his real name, is an old age pensioner, a grandfather, and the oldest person I interviewed for this research. Aged 87 years, he lives alone in a beautiful 3 story Victorian semi-detached house and is an inspiration to his entire neighbourhood and to me as well. While he recognises that he will not live to see the more severe changes resulting from climate change and peak oil, his commitment to energy efficiency and sustainability is evident in his actions. He gave up his car over a year ago, and I have seen him cycling all over town. He has solar photovoltaics and hot water panels fitted on his roof. A massive custom conservatory of his own design rising 2 stories on the south side of his house provides passive solar gain to his home. Albert has personally installed a small green roof outside one of his upper windows. All the modifications to his house have occurred since he moved there 3 years ago. One of the main reasons for his efforts is “more to set an example”.
Albert grew up on a farm and his family grew most of its own food. Later his wife and her family were influential as keen gardeners and cooks; the couple had a one hectare sized garden and grew most of their own food. Albert still uses a book he and his wife bought nearly 50 years ago ‘The ABC Vegetable Garden’ by W.E Shewell-Cooper; it is full of notes and addendums, a family treasure. He has trouble with digging now but still keeps a vegetable garden.
Albert lives in the neighbourhood, of all the ones I researched, with the highest level of community involvement. He is quite active there and is a highly valued neighbour. His career before retirement was as an academic and researcher in life sciences. He believes that children should be provided with a plot of their own to grow on, that councils should obey the law and provide everyone who wants one with an allotment, and that there should be widespread access to composted material and tools VAT free through the council. Albert is concerned about climate change, peak oil, soil erosion, the lack of farmers markets in Sheffield and the deleterious effects supermarkets are having on the food supply.