Coni’s interest in the environment is long-standing. Raised in a small country town, Coni says she had the fortune of having a fantastic science teacher in 7th and 8th grade. “He was the first environmentalist I’d ever met, and his passion for nature was infectious… he was instrumental to me loving and respecting the environment.”
Like most people who enjoy nature, Coni became passionate about protecting it for future generations and became interested in climate change in 2006. “I must admit, I do separate my life a bit into bcc (before climate change) awareness and acc (after climate change, because since I’ve become aware of it, my life and lifestyle has certainly changed.
Starting up a climate action group, however, forced Coni to face her own fears of being ostracised within her community for trying to alert people into action. “No one wants to be labelled as ‘chicken little’,” Coni said. “I initially organised BCCAG because I believed that there were other people who were concerned, so I sought them out and with their help, formed the BCCAG into a non-political, not-for-profit organisation to provide a collective voice for Bayside residents.”
The results were surprising, even to Coni. The group’s first event, a human sign at Sandringham Beach, was a huge success, attracting more than 4,000 people and mainstream media attention. The response was thrilling. “I’ve lived in Bayside for over 20 years. I know my community and I know that they are the type of people who will rise up to a challenge and support their neighbours when needed,” Coni said. “Once we spoke to the local schools and got their support, I knew that the response would be huge, because parents are concerned about the future their children will be facing as a result of global warming.”
“I’m thrilled at the continued interest from all over the world that it has generated.”
Coni says the message for our political leaders is to remember that they hold their positions by the will of the people. “Demands for change are the inherent right and responsibility of citizens in a democracy. Politicians are the servants of the people – if we are not getting adequate leadership in making the right decisions on climate change, then we have to let them know what we want and get them to act upon it.”
And Coni has sage advice for those wanting to get more involved: “One person making changes, such as changing their light globes, reducing water consumption, and using public transport doesn’t seem like a big difference. However, if you can unite a community to tackle climate change by initiating societal change, then the prospect doesn’t seem quite so daunting. Our vision is, if you can shift one community, it will have a ripple effect into others.”
“My advice is to get started right away. Your efforts do make a difference.”