Jose Cano is a photographer, conservator and activist. He speaks with Jonty Dine about his latest venture, a community hub looking to be at the forefront of the fight against climate change.
Jose Cano stood on a beach in Thailand and looked out across a sea of plastic and rubbish.
The Spanish native saw then how the actions of people were having a huge impact on the world.
He had arrived there for a different cause – to create the “Life Home Project” with a group of volunteers.
The organisation worked to create safe shelters for women and children living with HIV/ Aids, fighting discrimination, stigma and the lack of health resources.
“This was the most important and life changing period of my life, as it allowed me to experience how best to enact social change from a not-for-profit organisation perspective,” he says.
Jose was named Honorary Consul of Spain in Phuket, receiving the Cross of Knight and the Order of Isabel La Catolica.
However, he left Thailand with a different mission in mind. It was here where Jose realised the extend of the environment’s exploitation.
He saw we were “destroying the Earth” and was inspired to try and change this.
It is a feeling that he carried with him when he arrived in Nelson in 2008 and one that permeates his latest project on Haven Rd.
Jose has worked in the fashion industry, an aid worker and as a photographer. But for past several years he has thrown himself into climate activism.
His passion for conservation has taken him all around the world and even saw him land a spot in a prestigious workshop run by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore.
He has made it his mission to spread the knowledge he has picked up and reduce the damage we are doing to our planet.
In that vein, Jose has recently restored what was formerly a seafarer’s chapel, a haberdashery and a café and transformed it into an ‘Earth Hub,’ which will act as a focal point for climate change action.
The hub, at 235 Haven Rd, is open to all members of the community wanting to learn more about the crisis.
The activist says we need to take the ideological elements out of the conversation and bring it back to what it is.
“It’s not about opinions, it’s not a partisan issue, it’s basic science.”
With global temperatures rising, Jose says governments must make financial commitments to reduce the effects of this shift.
“We need to decide between something bad now, or something much worse later on.”
Jose says the effects of climate change are already being seen in the region in the form of cyclones, fires and droughts.
“These are not isolated events, they are events that are telling us: ’Hey, get ready’.”
With a 98 percent consensus from the world’s leading scientists, Jose says denial is no longer an option.
“Most of the population know the truth, it is real, and we have to act.”’
Jose wants Nelson to be a pioneer for sustainable cities.
He is also a prominent photographer, having published a series of photographs about environmental issues but is perhaps most renowned for his underwater shoots with ‘mermaids’.
Jose has a custom-made tank in his home which he submerges himself in along with a model for what he describes as the ultimate serendipitous shoot.
His work was featured in an exhibition titled ‘Aqua Ingravitas’ at Parker Gallery, which included a silent auction to the benefit of the Nelson Women’s Refuge.
Following his move to Nelson, Jose has been involved in a number of actions focused on solving the climate crisis.
He has now created a centralized location for his fellow activists to meet, plan and act.
Jose says Earth Hub will also act as a place to share knowledge and for anyone who wants to know more about the climate crisis, to learn.
Within the hub lies an extensive library of climate change material as well as vegan recipes, documentaries and workshops.
Earth Hub will have an official opening on July 18 from 5.30pm.
To book your spot go to https:// www.earth-hub-nelson.org/