The warmest March in Burlington’s recorded history is happening. The frigid, snowy winters that thrilled me when I first moved to Vermont at age 17 have become mild and bare, almost disingenuous. What with the recent warm rains, nowadays Vermont seems to experience less of a winter than a “springter.”
I don’t know about you, but I don’t need any more climate change wakeups. Two separate “100-year” floods in 2011 did more than change the course of Vermont’s rivers — it changed the minds of a lot of climate skeptics. In 2012, a critical mass of Vermonters are dead serious about reducing the harmful impacts our energy choices have on public health, the environment, and our local economy.
Obviously, it’s not enough for people to simply be aware of the problem. We’ve also got to act — and right away — if we’re going to get out of the mess we’ve made for ourselves. And that’s where things get complicated. Or at least that’s what many in big industry, government and media are telling us …
The reality is, the way forward for Vermont’s energy future is as clear as a Green Mountain headwaters stream. There’s already near-consensus among informed and concerned Vermonters for conservation, efficiency, and community-scale renewable energy, such as solar, small wind, and micro-hydroelectric.
What does widespread Vermont opposition to Vermont Yankee, Canadian tar sands, natural gas fracking, biomass power incineration, Hydro Quebec, and Lowell Mountain Wind have in common? A Vermont-bred distaste for wasteful, destructive, and expensive industrial-scale energy production. Every day, more and more Vermonters are raising their voices in unison to demand that our state Legislature stop greasing the skids for giant — often out-of-state — industrial energy corporations, which are effectively strangling our local, Vermont-scale energy economy.
Community-scale energy is democratic and local. Industrial-scale energy is top-down and is often in the hands of a few faceless national and international conglomerates.
Community-scale energy ensures that the individuals reaping the greatest benefits of energy production are also shouldering the burdens. Industrial-scale energy forces the greatest impacts on those communities that often use the least of the energy — usually low-income or communities of color — while much of the energy is sent elsewhere.
Community-scale energy can bolster local economies and provide jobs — without threatening Vermonters with lung disease and cancer, worsening climate change, or degrading forest and riverine ecosystems.
Vermonters are not “against everything,” as many in big industry, government and media would have us believe. Vermonters want solar photovoltaics and solar thermal. Vermonters want residential-sized windmills. Vermonters want micro-hydroelectric projects that don’t require new dams. Vermonters want ground-source geothermal heat pumps.
What Vermonters don’t want is the same old crap industrial-scale energy corporations have been pushing on us for years.
Of course, it’s not going to be enough to just switch over to a few solar panels and call it a day. To make this work, we’re also going to have to cut our energy demand by radical conservation and efficiency measures and by taking a hard look at the way we live our lives.
But the first step is obvious: community-scale energy for all Vermonters.
Josh Schlossberg lives in East Montpelier.
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