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Climate Change and Town Meeting

Nearly three-quarters of Americans now agree that global warming is a real thing. But a recent national survey also found that a majority would not be willing to spend $10 a month to address climate change.

Many local voters may be among those who wouldn’t be willing to pay extra, even to help stop this looming catastrophe. The good news is that there are many things, free of charge, that we can do to make our voices heard about global warming.

One of those good things is on the ballot in Middlebury next month.Voters will be asked to join 38 other Vermont towns in calling for an end to new fossil fuel projects in Vermont.

There are two resolutions on the Middlebury ballot. The first asks the select board to write state officials and call for:

  • No more new or expanded fossil fuel infrastructure
  • Adherence to the state energy plan to achieve 90% renewable energy by 2050 for all people in Vermont
  • Working to ensure that the transition “to renewable energy is fair and equitable for all residents, with no harm to marginalized groups or rural communities.”

Approval of the other, related resolution would put Middlebury voters on record in favor of:

  • Weatherizing town buildings and schools, while installing rooftop solar panels on town and school buildings
  • Reducing overall energy use without compromising quality of life
  • Encouraging practices that “build the soil carbon sponge to cool the planet and mitigate flooding and drought.”

Citizen petitions with over 350 signatures — many more than required — put these valuable resolutions on the Town Meeting ballot. These are nonbinding, advisory-only measures.

But they would be one more message to local and state officials that we won’t stand by helplessly as climate change destroys the Vermont we all love: bringing more violent and expensive Irene-style storms; freeze-and-thaw cycles that hurt our economically vital ski industry; unpredictable weather that vexes our farmers and maple sugar operations.

Calling for an end to new fossil fuel infrastructure is an essential step toward where we need to go, and quickly: generating enough renewable energy to “decarbonize” the sources that power our world.

The world won’t turn on what Middlebury voters decide when they vote by Australian ballot on Tuesday, March 5. But the context of the resolutions is significant.

The measures were placed on the ballot by dedicated volunteers. If the resolutions pass Middlebury will join four other Addison County towns — Bristol, Cornwall, Monkton and Lincoln — in approving similarly worded calls for action.

The statewide campaign has been organized by 350Vermont.org, an affiliate of the international organization, 350.org. The latter got its start at MIddlebury College over a decade age. Several young college alums joined author Bill McKibben in creating what is perhaps the leading global group focusing on policies to slow climate change.

Each of these little steps — passing a resolution, forming organizations— didn’t at first accomplish much on its own. But they helped launch a global effort to avoid the worst of global warming. Passing these resolutions will be one more step on the journey to do Vermont’s share to protect the planet.

Ahead of Town Meeting, you can learn more at a public panel next Monday, Feb. 28, at the Ilsley Library in Middlebury, 7-8:30 p.m. Panelists will be:

  • Liv Herdman, an oceanographer and climate scientist who will speak on sea-level rise, storm surge issues, and extreme storms
  • Ashley Bolger of 350Vermont.org, with background on resolution)
  • Molly Anderson, a Middlebury College, professors, speaking on agriculture and food issues
  • Jack Mayer, MD, MPH on the health effects of climate change
  • A student from the college’s Sunday Night Environmental Group offering a student perspective.

Many of us recognize the urgency of doing something about climate change. The resolutions on the Middlebury ballot next week offer one simple way to send a signal that we expect our state officials to help lead the way.

Vermont’s history and its role in growing the climate movement have shown one thing again and again: When we speak together and demand political action, our little state can have a big voice in shaping a better future.

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