Congratulations to Chris Dowsett this weeks Climate Community Citizen of the Week!
Chris is our first winner from south of the equator – being from Australia. We met Chris on-line after checking out his cool website and learning about the excellent work he has done both at home in Australia, and also here as he is currently living in Southern California. When we pushed on the question of growing up in Australia, Chris sent us the following photo!
Chris also was nice enough to provide a little background on himself – how he bacame interested in climate and environmetal issues, and the work he is involved with…
I’ve been interested in the environment ever since my 5th grade teacher madeus all visit a rubbish tip. You probably couldn’t get away with that these days but in the 90s teachers were taking their students off to rubbish dumps all the time. At least they were in my school. From learning about the trash piling up, I went on a crusade to change the world and help the environment. Of course, not many politicians were listening to 10 year old’s back then. So I decided to take a different approach. Instead of sending letters, making phone calls and harassing my local councilor – I decided to plant a tree. If no one would listen, I decided to just go out and do something.
I grew up recycling, throwing my orange peels into the backyard and making ‘hide outs’ in the trees. I was lucky enough to grow up in Buderim, Australia, which is a beautifully green part of the world. We ran through rain-forests, jumped off waterfalls and ate Macadamia nuts from local trees. You might say I was the modern day Huckleberry Finn – without the overalls.
Then I grew up, and spent most of the last 10 years traveling the world. I finished a Social Science degree in development at the University of Queensland before heading to the UK to work for the UK government in statistics. While I was there, I was lucky enough to work on some sustainability research and planning for the future of things like UK transportation and development. I also finished my Masters in Social Science in the UK.
I picked up the green flag again with a conservation trip in Thailand. There I helped sick and endangered turtles. Fishing in the area has taken it’s toll on the turtle populations around the islands there but there are strong conservation efforts working to protect endangered turtles.
From there I went to the Gambia, Africa, to help build a school and develop a local well for the community to draw water from underground reserves. We used completely local supplies and recycled resources in building the school. And the well is a testament to modern engineering as it draws water far more effectively with less waste than any of the older wells in the area.
I was also lucky enough to help a small local Welsh charity called The Joshua Foundation organize a conservation trip for hundreds of UK teenagers who had raised thousands of dollars for the trip. We traveled to regional areas of Queensland, Australia, helping cut back Lantana, clear paths and restore waterways clogged by rubbish and debris.
More recently, I’ve been working with a range of local non-profits here in Long Beach to help the environment. Every couple of weeks, I head down to Seal Beach to help clean up rubbish washed down through the rivers and onto the beach. The rubbish piles up, particularly after the rain, so volunteers are needed to help clean the beach and make it safe for local beach goers. I also help clean wetland areas in Seal Beach and Huntington Beach as a number of groups are trying to bring back the local marsh and native flora to restore habitats for a range of animals.
In addition to volunteering, I’m working on a ‘free food trees’ program, growing lemon trees and orange trees in my backyard to help local families provide healthy, free fruit. And I’m also about to start a tree growing project with succulent plants as a way of educating and informing people about the need to be water wise – particularly in southern California. Being from Australia, a country struggling with drought, I’m especially sensitive about being water wise and I’m hoping to help local communities work to reduce the amount of water they use. The plan is to give out a succulent plant to school children to care for along with a fact sheet about water use and ways to save water.
Interesting fact: Australians use, on average, about 180 liters per day. In Europe, the average person uses 200 liters. In the US, the figure is nearly 400 liters per day.
Other than that, if you can’t find me volunteering, I’ll probably be working on my next ‘green’ project to increase my own sustainable living. A couple of weeks ago I built a rainwater collection system complete with a tap and hose to water the garden for around $30. Somehow I managed to time the project so it finish 1 day before California was covered in rain. And now I’m building a raised garden bed to start growing my own veggies and fruits. All of which are made from as many recycled products as I can find and all are made as cheaply as possible. I think that there are a lot of ‘green’ resources out there for people to improve their own footprints but the price tags often turn people away. So I’m on a quest to be sustainable without breaking the bank balance.
What’s next? I’m not sure – but you can find out more at www.socialchitchat.com
Congratulations again! We wish Chris the best of luck – and keep up the great work!