Some environmental goings on

When I woke up this morning to crisp air and sunshine; first, I thanked God that I don’t live in Buffalo; then I reflected on the fact that in barely the time since my grandfather was born we have managed to screw up the planet so badly that it may never  recover.

Of course that rather melodramatic framing of big-snow-before-Thanksgiving was largely a product of having spent yesterday steeped in forums on environmental challenges.  

In the morning, I accompanied departing Enosburg Rep. Cindy Weed to the UVM hosted Legislative Policy Summit on Climate Change.  We did a little election post-mortem on the drive, and I will share some of that in a later diary, but my takeaway from symposium sessions was to hope and work for the best, but plan in any case for the worst.

We are no longer looking at that magic ceiling of 350 parts per million that just a few short years ago still represented an achievable limit.  Now it’s 500 parts per million and, with characters like climate change denying SenatorJames Inhofe holding the controls, it seems less and less likely that the EPA will be given funding necessary to pursue even the insufficient limits agreed upon by President Obama in his recent pact with China.

The Summit was a great opportunity to learn how the State of Vermont is girding itself for the challenges that lie ahead, so my choice was to attend workshops re: planning for impacts on vulnerable populations and understanding Vermont’s Climate Assessment.

The Climate Assessment is a project of the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics and the University of Vermont, with contributions from a number of partners, including the Agency of Natural Resources.  The VCA is sort of a tool box for building a 3-dimensional understanding of climate change as it impacts our little state.

Vermont is the first state to undertake such an assessment.  After an introduction to the VCA resource by Gillian Galford,  ANR Secretary Deb Markowitz shared her perspective on how this new resource can be used to shape Vermont’s path through the unfolding climate challenges that lie ahead.

I realized that I have never before had the opportunity to listen to Secy. Markowitz when she was not campaigning for office.  That is a real shame because I discovered an energetic, articulate, highly intelligent agency head who is still passionate about her commitment to the environment but nimble enough

to make the practical case that could recruit even some doubters.

I was impressed and wondered later to Cindy where that Deb Markowitz had been hiding in the 2010 gubernatorial campaign.  Certainly, others had seen it even when I had not.  The serious money was on Markowitz in the early days of the primary race.

You’ve got to wonder if having her public persona micro-managed by campaign strategists didn’t have the opposite of the desired effect, muffling her authentic capability with a lot of over-disciplined message control.

She often sounded canned in those stump speeches, and even a little doubtful.  That is not what I heard yesterday.

I think she could be our next governor.

But I digress…

In the afternoon, Cindy and I returned to St. Albans to attend the two hour public meeting held in the Bliss Auditorium by the EPA and the State to discuss  new TMDL  standards (Total Maximum Daily Load) for Lake Champlain and how those standards might be achieved.  David Mears, commissioner of the Vermont Dept. of Environmental Conservation was on hand to anchor the conversation.

It was encouraging to see the auditorium packed to the hilt, and that the audience was engaged and respectful. There was none of the blamesmanship that has occasionally erupted at meetings where regulatory issues concerning the lake have been discussed.

In fact,  the most recent blue-green algae bloom was so threatening to lake home owners, farmers and the local economy…all contributors to the problem… that everyone seems to be getting on board with the idea that discharges must be strictly regulated.

So all in all, it was a mixed-news day with the overarching message that inaction to protect the environment from human impacts is no longer an option.

About Sue Prent

Artist/Writer/Activist living in St. Albans, Vermont with my husband since 1983. I was born in Chicago; moved to Montreal in 1969; lived there and in Berlin, W. Germany until we finally settled in St. Albans.

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