Climate Reality Education: One Woman’s Mission to Create Lasting Change
Oct 03, 2018 05:37PM
By Nicole Miale
Daphne Dixon grew up in California and her early experiences in a region prone to earthquakes, wildfires and drought shaped her mindset as an environmentalist and activist. “You know how when you make popcorn, some of the kernels start popping much earlier than the others?” she asks. “I was an early popper when it came to environmental causes and sustainability. I have been consumed with the importance of this since I was a girl.”
Since making Fairfield County her home in 2000, Dixon has built—with the help and support of various partners along the way—several green organizations and enterprises under the umbrella of a non-profit called Live Green CT. For many years Dixon organized and held Green Drinks networking events and then the Live Green CT festival, which ran for five years in Norwalk. She is still producing events but now they’re educational events designed to help Connecticut towns meet ambitious sustainability development goals.
“Live Green was always about raising awareness, but we didn’t have a true educational initiative,” she explains. “Now we do and it has been so rewarding. We are finding ways for people to come together to effect change and learn how we can integrate the Global Sustainable Development Goals into local, metric-driven community programs.”
This year’s first event was the Regional Conference on Sustainable Development, held at New Canaan’s Grace Farms in February. Dixon says, “It was just amazing to have 250 people attend, plus over 100 more on the waiting list. That was a real eye-opener in terms of the appetite people have for the information.” Dixon held three follow-up events this year to create more opportunities for interested individuals to learn. Those events focused on specific topics such as plastic bags, banning fracking waste, zero waste living and an alternative fuel transportation forum. “There is no doubt that people want to play a part in making positive change,” she says. “In most cases they just don’t know where to begin.”
Live Green unveiled this year its Start in Your Own Front Yard pilot program, designed to support one task of one goal from the Paris Treaty signed in September 2015. Goal 14 is to eliminate land-based litter. “The Treaty is big, lofty and a challenge,” says Dixon. “What we have learned is that it’s equally as important to break the big goals into simple tasks people can implement and feel good about. That’s what we were aiming to do with the pilot. I’m really excited about the way it has gone. Through the clean-up efforts of over 75 community volunteers in Fairfield, we collected, counted, weighed and categorized 1,000 pounds of litter that would have otherwise gone down the storm drains. That is making a difference.”
The program is scalable, has metrics and creates positive change. Since the clean-ups tracked where the litter was found, they were able to provide the information to the Public Works Department in Fairfield and have more receptacles placed in areas where a lot of litter was found. Subsequent clean-ups found less litter in those areas, demonstrating immediate positive impact. The pilot program was so successful that a wider initiative will be launched in January 2019 in Fairfield as well as other communities in Fairfield County.
“Some people believe that individual actions don’t matter, but they absolutely do,” Dixon says. “Every volunteer who came out and picked up a beer can, coffee cup or cigarette butt made a positive contribution. Every individual action makes a difference.”
She recently attended the Climate Reality Conference headed by Al Gore in Los Angeles, California. Only 50 people attended his inaugural training. The training Dixon attended was the 39th and 2,200 people were in attendance. That is the kind of effect she would like to see in our area and she is willing to lead to make it happen. “I am available to anyone who would like me to come and present on the Climate Reality topic,” she says. “I am aiming to present 25 of these by the end of the year. The presentations can be scaled from 15 minutes up to an hour to accommodate a variety of schedules. I am excited to help people learn more about what humanity is facing and the ways we can solve the climate crisis.”
In January, Dixon will become the Southwestern Coordinator for Clean Cities, a national network of local coalitions and stakeholders working to advance alternative fuels and advanced vehicles. Dixon is also planning three Regional Conferences on Sustainable Development in 2019: in California, the Midwest and Boston. Dixon is actively building a coalition of people to provide education and leadership in towns across the country; she says she would love to have a “Start in Your Own Front Yard” initiative in every town. “All it takes is one committed person to make it happen,” she says. No one knows that better than she.
Interested local readers can start by participating in the Start in Your Own Front Yard initiative or even bringing it to their town. Connect with Daphne Dixon at [email protected] For more information about specific events, please visit LiveGreenCT.org.
Nicole Miale is Publisher/Managing Editor of Natural Awakenings Fairfield County/Housatonic Valley, CT and Natural Awakenings Greater Hartford. Connect at [email protected].