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Activists to lawmakers: Cut carbon emissions now

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04/19/2007

 By Erin Post

Some came bearing handmade signs that made the message clear.

 "Global warming is here. What can you do about it?" scrawled in red letters -- a thick, dark triangle emphasizing the 'you.'

"Planet Over Profit," read another.

"Say Yes to Humanity," popped up in the back of the crowd.

Others came pushing strollers with children bundled up against the chilly, damp April afternoon, braving the weather for a photo that sends a clear message from organizers to lawmakers: The time for action on climate change is now.
 
Currently posted on a website called Step It Up 2007, a photo of Valley residents joins hundreds of others snapped in towns and cities across the country on Saturday, April 14, deemed the National Day of Climate Action by Step It Up.

Organizers are united in their call for Congress to cut carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050.

According to an Associated Press report, over 1,000 groups nationwide staged events for the National Day of Climate Action. In Vermont alone, rallies and activities were held in dozens of towns including Montpelier, Burlington and Waterbury.

In The Valley, a panel discussion at the Big Picture Theater Saturday afternoon highlighted how global warming stands to affect ecosystems and habitat in the mountains of Central Vermont.

That discussion, along with a slide show and film, kicked off a week of activities in The Valley revolving around climate change and the environment.

The Stark Mountain Foundation, the Green Mountain Club, the National Wildlife Federation and the Mountain Institute sponsored Saturday's events.

National Wildlife Federation Education Manager Liz Soper, trained by Al Gore to present the slide show featured in the movie <MI>An Inconvenient Truth<D>, discussed statistics and projections from scientists regarding how human activity is affecting climate.

The slide show highlighted retreating glaciers, heat waves in Europe and the increasing intensity of hurricanes and other storms as some signs of a changing climate.

In Vermont, she said, this shift could affect everything from the ski industry to alpine ecosystems to maple sugaring season.

"So many people come to this part of the world to see the wild nature," Soper said.

Local communities are taking action to conserve energy and explore green technologies, she said, pointing out the Montpelier Energy Initiative, an energy action resource team in Hardwick, and the Burlington Climate Action Plan.

The Green Mountain Club, headquartered in Waterbury Center, plans to build an energy efficient visitor center to replace a building destroyed by fire in 2003, said education coordinator and facilities manager Peter Antos-Ketcham to the crowd at the theater.

Some features of the building include a passive solar system, composting toilets, and a well-water-cooled air conditioning system.

The club hopes to break ground on the building in the spring of 2008, he said.

Middlebury College student Emily Adler has been working with Mad River Glen and the Stark Mountain Foundation to institute a carbon offset program at the mountain. Skiers will be able to help fund green energy initiatives by purchasing credits to offset the carbon their vehicles emit traveling to the mountain.

University of Vermont professor Jonah Steinberg, also a program officer with the Mountain Institute, discussed his work in mountain communities around the world. He pointed out that mountains hold spiritual significance for many cultures, a connection that may help activists motivate new groups of people to get involved.  

"We have to highlight what we're seeking to protect," he said.

Following a screening of <MI>The Great Warming<D> on Saturday evening, Valley residents spoke with the film's director, Michael Taylor, and Middlebury College professor John Isham.

For more information about Step It Up 2007 or to view the Mad River Valley's "Action Report" and photo, visit www.stepitup2007.org.

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Grace Potter fundraiser rocks the house

On April 15, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals performed a benefit event, raising $2500 for the 'Seven Days for the Earth' event and environmental programs at the Big Picture Theater.

With a Nor'easter roaring through The Valley and snow accumulating exponentially, organizers of the charity event, entitled "Planet Blues," expressed their concern for the dangerous road conditions facing drivers.  Talks of canceling the show were discussed as the phones rang off the hook with the same question, "Is the show still on?" Claudia Becker, the owner of the newly renovated Big Picture Theater, felt that it was too late to call off the much anticipated return of the Nocturnals to The Valley and insisted that the show should carry on.

Just as opener Lowell Thompson and his band took the stage, lights began to flicker throughout the theater and the crowd of 150 who weathered the storm. Power remained on during the change of bands and the opening numbers of Grace Potter and the Nocturnals.

Moments after the band's seventh song, the lights flickered one final time and the room darkened. Without pause the band got up from their respective instruments and headed to the front of the stage -- unleashing an improvised acoustic show where drummer Matthew Burr grabbed an accordion, bassist Bryan Dondero grabbed his mandolin, and Scott Tournet and Grace Potter strummed their acoustic guitars with voices projecting so the room could hear. Much to the band's surprise, there were cheers instead of grunts in the pitch-black theater as Potter yelled into the air, "Looks like we're going to have to get even closer and play a real acoustic set!" The crowd huddled around and for the next hour, with the help of candles spread throughout, the band reached into their old catalog of music and played all the sing-alongs they could remember, inviting opener Lowell Thompson up for their renditions of the Rolling
Stones' "No Expectations" and "Willin'" by Little Feat.

The band then left Potter alone on stage for her a capella intro to "Nothing But the Water," Potter apologized in advance, "I guess I'll only be able to sing the intro to this song since we've got no power for the electric part...." As Potter sang a rousing version of the band's trademark the crowd swayed and became quiet. Just as Potter reached for the last few notes of the song, the lights flickered on and the power re-ignited the sound system back into working order.  The band had just enough time to rush back to their instruments as Grace sang the final few lines of the intro.   

The power stayed on and the acoustic section of the show came to an ending. The band flew through the remainder of their electric set leaving the stage, only to be roared back on by the crowd.

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