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The Valley Reporter
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Waitsfield, VT 05673
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Living lightly in The Valley

By Bob Ferris

He said it was going to happen and it did. In his 2005 film An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore said the U.S. automobile industry would crumple like a crash-test dummy. Okay, I did add the crash-test dummy part, but his point still holds. So what else did he say? And how much of it is coming true?

On April 30 at 7 p.m. at the Big Picture Theater in Waitsfield, Valley residents will be able to find out the answers to the above questions when Gore-trained speaker Dee Gish from Sharon will present an updated version of the PowerPoint presentation that formed the backbone of this award-winning film. It will be interesting to learn what has happened on the national and global scene since that movie broke.   

While it will be great and essential to hear Dee's broader perspective, and I urge attendance, we should also take time to look at the local changes. What has happened here? And the answer to that question is: Lots.

Looking back it is hard to think of a time when energy and climate change were not core topics of discussion in The Valley. So much has changed since 2005 in terms of people's knowledge of and acceptance of climate change. It seems so very long ago that many of us joined Bill McKibben on his long stroll to bring awareness to the issue. And then there were the first Step-It-Up events in 2007 and the initial conceptualizing of the Valley Futures initiative, which likely grew out of the notion that help on a lot of these issues, including climate change, was not coming from state or federal helping hands. 

MOMENTUM GREW

Then the momentum started to grow. The Step-It-Up-2007 and Earth Week activities led to the formation of the Carbon Shredders running in parallel with the formation of the Valley Futures Network. The Carbon Shredders mushroomed with town resolutions calling for 10 percent reductions in energy use by 2010, the formation of eco-teams, a plethora of YouTube videos, and a trip to the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. 

And with the winter winds of 2008 not too far in the offing, Yestermorrow, the Vermont Energy and Climate Action Network, Efficiency Vermont and the Carbon Shredders (emboldened by their recent recognition on the floor of Congress) put together the Button Up workshops to help their neighbors save money and climb on the energy conservation wagon. Whew -- a lot of work in a short time.

With winter making us antsy, the Valley Futures Network, Carbon Shredders, Efficiency Vermont and others joined together again. This time under the guise of the Vermont Community Energy Mobilization project some Valley heroes stepped up to the plate and got trained as energy mavens. And the group of 20 or so intrepid volunteers did energy visits -- essentially mini-energy audits -- on more than 60 homes in The Valley. Your friends and neighbors contributed hundreds of hours of volunteer time to screw in free compact fluorescent light bulbs, look at the guts of home heating units, encourage the disposal of harvest gold and avocado refrigerators, and chant the "insulate, insulate, insulate" mantra.

And just when you thought it was safe, the Valley snowball is still running with group upon group coming together on this set of topics. The most recent one (where we started at the top of this piece) began rolling down the hill with the Valley Interfaith Council who wanted to do something about global warming on or about Earth Day. Soon they were joined by the Carbon Shredders who along with the Rotary are providing financial support for the April 30 event. And they were joined by the Valley Futures Network, the Chamber, the Friends of the Mad River, American Flatbread ... well you know how this goes. 

So come join us at 7 p.m. on April 30 at the Big Picture Theater for "Living Lightly on the Earth: Your Future, Your Hope." The event is free and the café will be open. Hear about new developments. Sign up to be part of an eco-team.  Come and have fun with your neighbors. And check out the Channel 44 schedule over the next couple of weeks because you might see some familiar Valley faces shredding carbon like only we can.

Bob Ferris lives in Waitsfield and is a cofounder of the Carbon Shredders.

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