Breaking the Ice

Although it seems hard to believe now, Scott Simmons was not the first climate activist in his family. That title belongs to his daughter, Alexa. She was passionate about climate change, the environment and taking care of the Earth.

Simmons, 66, of Windsor, thinks of her often as he organizes events like the 2023 NOCO Climate Meetup at Centennial Park in Loveland, which took place Sept. 16. She died 12 years ago from a genetic disorder when she was 22. He essentially became an activist on her behalf.

Simmons admits he didn’t think much about the climate before Alexa’s struggles. He was a software engineer and traveled the world to help companies build their IT systems. He estimates he has at least seven million airline miles. Flying is one of the worst pollutants in the transportation industry.

Now Simmons spends his retirement acting as the leading force behind the NOCO Climate Meetup. This year’s meetup was the second. He organized the first one last year on a whim, he says, after realizing there were a lot of climate groups in Northern Colorado but little collaboration or cohesion among them. He had his own groups as proof, including acting as the area’s chapter leader for The Climate Reality Project (aka Al Gore’s group) and the organizer and founder of Sustainable Windsor. He works on Alexa’s behalf.

“I know she would be proud of what I’m doing,” he says.

Simmons had 80 people show up for last year’s inaugural event, and at the end of it, many people asked when he was planning to host this year’s event.

With more time to plan this year’s meetup, he brought in four distinguished speakers and offered blocks of time for groups to collaborate and eat lunch together. The speakers were Andrew Cloister, who investigates the oil and gas industry in Colorado for Earthworks; A. Scott Denning, a climate scientist and professor of atmospheric science at Colorado State University; Rep. Cathy Kipp with the Colorado General Assembly; and Greeley’s Patricia Garcia-Nelson with GreenLatinos Colorado, who works with CSU to lead air monitoring programs and address what she calls “environmental racism” in disproportionately impacted communities.

More than 120 people attended this year’s NOCO Climate Meetup. Simmons hoped the break-out events where groups met with each other to talk about specific issues were the most helpful. He believes many smaller issues can be resolved or at least improved with this kind of micro-talk among climate activists about their own communities.

Some of the talk may be over the general public’s head, but Simmons hopes they get the overall message: Every little bit counts. People can make a difference by taking small steps, he says, like eating less meat, staying off airplanes (his own career notwithstanding) and recycling.

He doesn’t have much time left, he believes, both because of his age and because he says the serious effects of a warming climate have already begun. And there’s another reason he’s so passionate about the future of the planet: His granddaughter, Alex, who is named after Alexa.

“The world we leave her will be really unpleasant,” he says, “unless we really work on this together.”