Deb Markowitz


Deb Markowitz is the Director of Policy Outreach at UVM’s Gund Institute of Environment, and she formerly served as Vermont’s Secretary of State and as the Secretary of Vermont’s Agency of Natural Resources.

Recently, I was alarmed to hear that a middle school girl was being harassed by a teenage boy who leaned out of the window of a car to yell - "brown people don't belong in this country. Get out!" After it happened the second time, her father reached out to the community to help identify the offending teen. And I can easily see how he would be concerned for his daughter’s safety.

At the start of every legislative new year the governor speaks to a joint session of the House and Senate to describe his priorities for the legislative session. This is a formal speech marked by carefully crafted remarks designed to inspire.

In recent days, my social media feed has been filled with posts with the hash tag “Me Too” - reflecting a movement that began ten years ago when Tarana Burke, an African American woman, wanted to bring attention to the problem of sexual assault in vulnerable communities. This time, “Me Too” caught fire when an actress sent out a tweet, telling about her encounter with movie producer, Harvey Weinstein. She urged women who’d experienced sexual harassment or assault, to put "Me Too" as their status to show the world the magnitude of the problem.

It’s not hard for Vermonters to relate to the photos from Hurricane Harvey; families on rooftops waiting for rescue; roads, passible only by boat; cars and houses, completely washed away. It was just six years ago that Tropical Storm Irene destroyed communities across our state.

Last week my son Ari turned 22. He’s a good kid, but as most mothers do, I worried about him as he grew into a young adult. I remember the summer when he turned 14 and we discovered that he and his friends had been sneaking into the city pool after hours. We talked with him about respecting public property and the dangers of drinking and drugs. We also talked about what to do if he ever happened to be approached by a police officer. I felt confident assuring him that if he responded to authority with respect, he would be treated fairly.

It seems like every time I turn on the news there’s another story about the Russian investigation, possible leaks of classified information, denials, explanations, and alternative facts. This comes after months of environmental rollbacks, healthcare cuts and attacks on basic civil rights.  It’s getting hard to bear!

Like most Americans, I take it for granted that I won’t be poisoned when I brush my teeth. When I walk the dog, I don’t worry about breathing polluted air. When I eat my lunch I feel confident that I’m not being poisoned by the packaging, or by pesticides on my apple. When I go to bed at night, I don’t worry about the next storm, like Irene, because I know our communities have the information they need to plan and respond effectively.

Two weeks after announcing significant cuts in funding for climate programs across the federal government, the Trump Administration released an executive order to roll back Obama Era climate policies.

For more than 200 years, Vermonters have come together on or around the first Tuesday in March to elect local officials, vote on budgets and discuss the important issues of our time.

Vermonters count on the Environmental Protection Agency to help us protect public health and our environment. Who is in charge can make a big difference.