Even the most jaded observers couldn’t have imagined what a wild ride 2017 would be, thanks to a certain president whose last name rhymes with “dump.”
I mean, who predicted all those white-sleeved dresses that Melania wore last year? Did anyone foresee that at a meeting of the world’s leaders where everyone else strode to a photo shoot to prove their vitality, Melania’s husband would ride there in a golf cart? And who, other than a few permanently wounded middle-aged Alabama women, knew about Roy Moore’s preference for 14-year-olds?
With those surprises in mind, I offer a few predictions about what the new year will bring. Each prediction here is followed by the likelihood of whether it will come true — thereby making it possible to be wrong twice about one prediction.
1. UVM Health Network administrators will admit they are grossly overpaid and will cut their own salaries in half. Meaning CEO John Brumsted would make “only” $1 million a year. Likelihood the salary cuts will happen: Zero. UVM administrators have been feeding at the trough for way too long to have any idea how obnoxiously inflated their salaries are, at a time when thousands of Vermonters go without healthcare because they can’t afford a simple visit to the doctor.
2. Every dairy farm in Vermont will go out of business. Likelihood: Very low, but increasing with each passing year.
3. Vermont’s conventional dairy farms will all go organic. Likelihood: Also very low, but rising once we get to fewer than 100 dairy operations in an increasingly globalized market where conventional Vermont dairy can no longer compete.
4. Lake Champlain will be restored to the jewel it once was, rather than a home to milfoil, cloudy water and enough fertilizer to blow up the State House if left on dry land. Likelihood: Low, but also increasing as more dairy farmers realize organic milk may be their only hope.
5. State Ag subsidies will no longer support conventional dairy and will be used only for organic dairy and non-dairy agriculture. Likelihood: Zero, since elected officials in Vermont appear to be living in the 1950s when it comes to agricultural planning. They also remain terrified by the putative political might of fewer than 1,000 dairy operations.
6. The Grift, one of Vermont’s best bands, will score a #1 hit with their timeless rendition of “Sweet Caroline.” Likelihood: Low. Neil Diamond would never give them the rights to record it.
7. Sen. Bernie Sanders will talk to a reporter from 7 Days. Likelihood: Low, since Bernie appears to be harboring a permanent grudge against 7 Days and hasn’t talked to anyone at the paper for nearly three years. If the state’s press corps had any sense of solidarity, the second question every reporter asks the senator would be: “Why do you refuse to talk to one of Vermont’s most influential media outlets?”
8. Snowboarding will become Vermont’s preeminent outdoor sport. Likelihood: Not gonna happen. Boarding is a wonderful way to get down the mountain. But its popularity is slowly fading now that manufacturers have developed skis that are almost as fun to turn as snowboards.
9. Middlebury College will admit that it really isn’t a “carbon neutral campus” after all, despite a prominent banner proclaiming that status. Likelihood: Extremely low at an institution where green is a major part of the brand. But the word “campus” applies to carbon neutrality only if you count not only the main campus but also Breadloaf and all its trees.
To get to “neutral” the college apparently gave itself credit for the carbon that all those trees around Breadloaf are sequestering — even though the college never planned to do anything with those trees but look at them. Middlebury may continue to green itself with its commendable environmental policies. But actual neutrality this year is an impossible dream. Especially given the college’s refusal to divest out of fossil fuel investments, and its regrettable embrace of carbon-heavy, fracking-obtained fossil fuel from Vermont Gas.
10. Gov. Phil Scott will admit he’s had it all wrong about wind power in Vermont and will reverse his stance by calling for widespread adoption of clean wind energy. Likelihood: Zero. While Scott has made some of the right noises about climate change, he appears to believe that words alone — rather than actual clean-energy policies — are all that’s needed to fight the carbon pollution that threatens Vermont’s skiing, maple sugar and tourism industries.
11. Gov. Scott will make no more public statements about how climate change could be good for the state. Likelihood: High. The governor proved to be a national embarrassment —and clueless about the suffering that climate change has already caused many Americans — when he said last month that climate devastation elsewhere in the U.S. could help Vermont’s economy.
12. Democratic gubernatorial candidate James Ehlers will squeak out a surprise victory over Scott this November. Likelihood: Low. Some other politically suicidal Democrat may yet take the party’s nomination away from Ehlers. And Ehlers isn’t well known despite his longtime advocacy for clearing up Lake Champlain. Besides, Scott remains popular even after he stumbled through his first legislative session as governor – a stretch that saw him take more positions on educational funding and cannabis reform than there are teats on a cow.
Happy New Year, everyone. It’s going to be another wild ride.
– 30 –