Some folks would have us think that because Vermont's CO2 emissions are low relative to other states, our work is done and all is well. We can rest on our laurels and let all the "real" offenders take on climate change solutions. We're so green we don't need to do anything further.
Really, after the warmest year on record?
The Vermont I hold dear to my heart is like an island community — well defined borders with a deep community spirit where you can bump into someone you know when and where you least expect to. Where we can interact with our elected officials because we are a small state and they are accessible. Where, as neighbors, we have reputations to uphold and can be held accountable for our actions. Where we have reverence for the natural environment.
We're a great state. But Vermont is not an island. It seems we have forgotten that we are connected to the states immediately around us as well as being members of the global community.
It's not just about us — about our little old Vermont and what's the minimum we should do to respond to climate change. Climate change is real and it's here. It's time for some heavy lifting, time for all hands on deck. When Irene struck, we came together to help one another recover from the disaster. Irene brought out the best of us — as natural disasters often do. Climate change is just another disaster, although be it, not natural, and without intervention, terminal.
It is high time we come together — stay together — and participate in the world around us — help thy neighbor, make the world a better place, do whatever we can — no matter how small the impact may seem — to repair the environmental damage we have done to our planet. Those that can help make a difference, should. It brings to mind the adage, "Think globally, act locally."
Progress does not come easily, or without sacrifice and expense. We wouldn't have had rural electrification, or the interstate, or cell phone connectivity if we weren't willing to compromise for the greater good. The world around us is changing quickly and requires our active participation to find real solutions.
I often hear these days, from the discontented, that our leaders in Vermont are doing everything they can to make our lives worse — from lining their own pockets, raising taxes, advocating for health care solutions, advocating for renewable energy, and on and on. Hogwash. Generally they are working hard for what they understand to be in our best interests — our interests as a state, as a member of the regional community and the global landscape.
I am reminded of JFK's inaugural speech in 1961, when he said "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country". I ask these folks who are against wind, against solar, against accepting that addressing climate change comes with a cost no matter how you look at it — "What are you actually doing to help our State combat global warming, to have a positive effect, to ensure that our planet survives?"
For the record I am a committed environmentalist — I have reverence for nature and the natural landscape. However, I feel an urgency now and am willing to make necessary compromises. I hope that here in Vermont we can find the best way forward using best practices. Yes, I am willing to give up some hilltops and view sheds for what I consider the greater good — life on earth.
I'm worried that in the naysayers model of the world we might have a "clean environment" — pristine and natural, no solar arrays, no wind turbines — but we would also have to face the destructive impacts of climate change left unchecked. We would face increasingly severe storms, devastating flooding and millions of climate refugees because of our inability, at this moment in time, to take responsibility for our children and grandchildren's future — to move gracefully beyond the position of "not in my back yard."
Arthur Berndt is co-owner with his wife of Maverick Farm, Chair of the Governor's Council on Energy & the Environment, and Trustee of the Maverick Lloyd Foundation. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.