Ruby + Jon
INTERVIEW W RUBY + JON [ENVIRONMENTALIST + FILM MAKER]
We are currently living in the Basque country in Biarritz, relishing in being able to hike and camp in the Pyrenees or surf half a block from our cute French apartment. We’ve also been lucky enough to road trip around Europe a bunch lately in our 1993 Renault Express called Sheila.
Jon is originally from the US and works as a freelance cinematographer for mainly outdoor brands, while also tending to the ocean making sure the waves are still there.
While Ruby is Australian and is finishing up her Master’s in Environmental Management after working in communications, with hopes to bridge the two worlds.
A lot of our time recently has been spent launching our joint endeavour Climax Community, which is a platform to connect people with nature through content and activities.
What are your current meeting points with nature?
We surf, swim or snorkel most days. Around us there are endless breaks bordered by beautiful cliffs all the way into and through Spain. Jon grew up in the mountains snowboarding, so for him it’s been totally different being able to surf every day. For me (Ruby), I grew up next to the beach but have lived in the city for the last decade. I hadn’t realised how much living by the sea had formed me until being back by it. I’ve developed a relationship with it again that I didn’t appreciate when I was younger - being able to dunk your body, float or listen to the waves is a kind of therapy everyone should have access to.
Pays Basque is also full of farmland practicing traditional peasant farming techniques, so it has been really incredible to access local, affordable healthy produce and have a more connected relationship with our food.
Do these inform or shape your perception of beauty?
Being more exposed to nature again has made us think a lot more about the aesthetic value of nature, which is the ability to satisfy aka make someone feel content. Beyond just looking, this is also tasting, smelling and feeling. Being surrounded by the beauty of the Pyrenees mountain range and the Atlantic Ocean and that sensory experience is definitely making us more content than ever.
But it’s also making us appreciate our home countries nature more, in that Australian and American landscapes have been comparatively less touched by humans and are rawer.
As large areas of Western Europe have been colonised for longer there’s far more cleared land, instead of natural forests with wallabies or bears roaming around our family homes. We are realising what you perceive as beautiful can really shaped by where you grew up.
Which environmental practices are front of mind in your day to day life?
Food waste, as well as buying locally and seasonal has become way more front and centre after getting out of the city.
It’s been interesting comparing the different cultural approaches to disposal and reuse of organic waste. Where we live there’s no cohesive approach to food waste so we’ve created a little compost bin & veggie garden on our tiny Juliet balcony. But we see our friends that have restaurants being frustrated that there isn’t a council compost program, as they produce so much organic waste it’s not economically or practically feasible to dispose of their own regularly.
But the ability to buy from the people growing around you has been such a privilege, something that should be way more accessible through policy and investment throughout all of our ‘home’ places.
Are there any initiatives you feel have great integrity that are maybe overlooked?
Food justice is definitely becoming more of a movement but is still left out of a lot of environmental conversations. This is partly because we typically like to focus on ‘untouched nature’, without considering humans into the equation. The industrial agricultural system we have in place actively disenfranchises underserved communities, and remedying this needs to involve thinking about land and people together. We can all play a role in helping to empower people that don’t have the resources to access nutritious and sustainable food.
What is something you recently heard/read/saw that shifted a perspective you held?
We - just like a lot of people - have been feeling really helpless with what feels like a constant tyrant of horrible environmental and social news, that basically make it seem like our world is collapsing.
But Ruby recently read this incredible book about matsutake mushrooms called The Mushroom at the End of the World that argues our current state of precarity – created by crisis’ like climate change and the pandemic – can be utilised to reshape the world and demolish the repressive systems in place. This is basically because precarity fosters creativity aka resourcefulness to find innovative solutions we wouldn’t otherwise consider.
So we are trying to channel that idea into Climax Community with a perspective that is a little bit more hopeful.
What is your intention behind Climax Community? What do you hope to share?
Our intention is to share the beauty of the natural world with our communities, hoping that this will foster a deeper understanding, care and ultimately action to preserve planet and people.
Through the stories (essays, videos etc.) we publish on our website and content created for organisations, we aim to translate scientific information and the ‘feeling’ of the natural world into digestible, emotive material.
While our workshops - that teach practical and creative skills - seek to improve self-reliance through collectivism, opposed to the individual interests and outsourcing that prevails in our society.
Plus we have a monthly book club, which along with our workshops will be hosted in Byron over this Australian summer. So hopefully we’ll get to meet some of the wonderful Foile fans that have been sweet enough to read this interview!