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By Dotty Kyle
Here we sit – in Eden, if we really want to admit it. The Mad River Valley is a truly special place, where caring, creative, intelligent people choose to reside, where multigenerational Vermonters have found a supportive environment to keep their family farms and longtime businesses.
What are our thoughts about The Valley's future, specifically due to climate change?
Talk with a cross-section of Valley-ites and you'll find a host of ideas. Some of us think that we're so smart, we'll be at the front of the global initiative for transitioning to a fossil-fuel-free economy. Others believe that if we simply allow "the market" to function as it always has, we'll be just fine. Then there are the technology supporters who believe that our future lies in innovation and new technologies that will save us all from the ravages of a warming planet.
And therein lies the conundrum that faces us all. If we agree that the future is upon us – a lot faster than we had all expected – what is it that we can all agree on, and work to affect, going forward?
The Warren Energy Committee is currently wrestling with some of these questions. What is our role? What can we do locally to help mitigate some of the obvious problems that are coming down the pike? In fact, what are the problems that we agree upon?
A big question lies in our use of fuels and electricity. One of the answers is that we do not have an energy problem as much as we have a consumption problem. The truth is, there is currently enough fossil fuel energy "out there" many times over which, if we used it, would certainly destroy the planet as we know it. Are we willing to change our lifestyles to save our long-term survival, or are we focused on the immediate benefits of the comfortable lifestyle afforded by cheap fossil fuels? This is in no way a plea for a return to prehistoric times, living in a cave, lighted by campfires, as some would have us believe.
Conservation is one of the most available "low-hanging fruit" initiatives promoted today. In Vermont, with our frigid winters and aging housing stock, "buttoning up" is a no-brainer. Efficiency Vermont has a yearlong program to encourage and enable Vermonters to learn about, and engage in, low-cost ways of saving heating dollars and reducing one's carbon footprint. Efficiency Vermont's Home Energy Challenge helps middle-class homeowners take advantage of rebates. Efficiency-certified contractors are on board with the program. There is also a special initiative for low-income Vermonters to insulate and otherwise get their homes into winter-worthy shape. Do It Yourself Workshops are currently being offered for homeowners to save even more on the work that needs to be done to save on heating expenses. A win-win for homeowners – and there's a program for those who rent.
Environmental activism is important, too. Are we willing to say NO to the industry which is dominated by oligarchs who are looking solely at amassing of wealth, or do we want to leave our children and grandchildren a world which resembles that in which we grew up? As Einstein said; "Thought without action is a crime." Choosing silence and the status quo is not an option. Education is critical if we want to speak truth to power and defend our voices with facts. Letters to our legislators are important. We need to drown out the noise generated by those who seek to mislead us.
What is it that we value? What are ready to do about it?
Kyle lives in Warren.