Jon’s work in video evolved out of a path of community activism with recovering alcoholics, homeless families, and Southeast Asian refugees. In 1987, he launched a weekly English as a Second Language TV program and a monthly newsletter that was published in four Southeast Asian languages and English for newly arrived refugees. His efforts to document the cultural life of ethnic communities struggling to preserve their traditional identity then led to working on ethnographic museum exhibits that displayed his videos of Mexican and Southeast Asian traditions. He also produced a weekly TV public affairs program for the Hmong (a hill tribe from Laos) that presented programs on traditional culture, on role models, and on current issues.
Currently he is focused on producing environmental educational videos to nurture support for restoration efforts. By presenting ecological principles with engaging visual images, these videos can inspire viewers to go into nature with a deeper awareness of the interconnected web of life. In California, disputes over water usage often pit one region against another and is frequently characterized as a “fish vs. farmers” struggle. He is working on a video that revolves around the life cycle of salmon that could be useful in these discussions by showing the connections between several regions of California. He also feels it’s important to visualize the pre-contact California natural world with its unimaginable abundance and the ways that Native Californians resolved disputes between downstream and upstream groups. He hopes that when we come to realize the enormous natural wealth that was here and have more awareness of the dynamic ecological forces at play in our region, we might begin to develop the commitment to heal our environment. By becoming more engaged with the natural world just at our doorstep, we can act with more wisdom and appreciation of nature’s wonder.