The power of one – that was the mantra of my friend Michael who has just died.

Michael was someone who saw early the devastation likely to be caused by climate change. We had numerous conversations, often over a couple of whiskies, about what was likely to happen.

These conversations began in the early part of the noughties. We were both keen to do the self-sufficiency thing as much as possible. We talked about getting 20 acres, animals, crop rotations but in the end settled for a more modest vision in Wanstead.

This amounted to growing as much as possible of our own food. Initially, Aileen (Michael’s wife) and myself developed a patch in their garden. Potatoes and tomatoes were among the early crops. Later, Michael, took a more hands on role ( he never did stop those potatoes coming back though). I got an allotment in Redbridge Lane West growing veg down there and in my garden.

Michael developed his back garden plot, installing several raised beds and a magnificent greenhouse, where he got the seedlings going. He also majored on tomatoes, growing a whole number of different varieties. Michael loved his time in the garden – it was a passion he wished he had discovered earlier in life. He enjoyed clearing the weeds in a methodical way – something I could never understand.

The fruits of the garden labour were used in all sorts of different dishes developed in the kitchen. Michael used to make some fantastic soups, which if you were lucky enough to be passing, went down beautifully with a bit of his home made bread.

Beyond growing your own, Michael and Aileen did their best to cut emissions. Photovoltaic and solar panels were fitted to the roof of their house. Insulation was fitted.

Michael was pretty hardcore in being a witness for action against global warming. He gave up flying and driving.

He had seen the future, if humanity continued down its ruinous track. There was a need for a real retrenchment, a look at how we lived, maybe a step back to look at things, how they used to be – simpler times, when less of the planets resources were being quite as voraciously destroyed.

So Michael and Aileen very much walked the walk as well as talking the talk on how to counter the climate destruction. It was somewhat alarming that what we had seen and predicted all those years ago has over recent years come down the tracks much more rapidly than ever foreseen at that time.

Now, sadly Michael has left us. I’ll miss his wise words as well as those at times rancorous debates. He had an immense thirst for knowledge, which he would then pass on to others. He provided ongoing tips about how to live a more sustainable, less destructive life. A relatively recent piece of advice related to not using tea bags because of the plastic contained in them.

Michael also debated on social media with those who often opposed any idea of living more sustainably. At times it was frustrating but no doubt he helped change a few minds.

Michael always stressed the need to take action first yourself - the power of one, then the movement for change would grow.

He will be much missed by all those who knew and loved him. He had wise words, passion and genuine kindness for all around him – a really eco-warrior, who it has been a pleasure to call a real friend over many years.

RIP Michael.

  • Paul Donovan is a Redbridge Labour councillor for Wanstead village and blogger. See