Mnookin: Local Climate Activism

Jul 21, 2017

Now that many in the federal government have become engaged in climate change denial, real climate leadership will have to come from somewhere else - like the courts, non-violent direct action, and strong political will at state and local levels.

And one advantage of living in a small state is that seemingly small actions can make a difference.

In Brattleboro, local climate activists organized a postcard-writing table at a recent gallery walk so passers-by could demand bold climate action now - like state mandated renewable energy goals, weatherization subsidies, carbon pricing, divestment of Vermont state funds from TD Bank, and an overhaul of our transportation system.

Nearly one hundred and fifty postcards were mailed off, mostly to Governor Scott, but others to the State Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy, as well as to members of the Brattleboro Selectboard.
Climate activists, myself included, then attended the next Selectboard meeting and when shown postcards received by Selectboard members, were told the postcards had an impact.

The cards - plus our presence at the meeting - reminded Selectboard members of their own accountability for finding climate solutions that can be enacted at the local level, like the ban on single-use plastic bags that passed three to one last Town Meeting Day.

In another example of impactful local action, Daniel Quipp, co-founder of 350 Brattleboro, created a visual representation of nearly two million pounds of carbon emissions for the Selectboard, as they were deciding to purchase seventy seven thousand seven hundred gallons of heating oil for the town.

Using a 26-foot tape measure to represent one side of a one metric ton cube of carbon dioxide, he explained that this heating oil purchase would release 775 of these cubes.
It reinforced the recommendation from the town’s Energy Committee to invest “in a cleaner way to heat our buildings” in the future.

Local climate activists were pleased when Governor Scott joined the U.S. Climate Alliance, a group of states dedicated to upholding the targets set in Paris, but they know words alone aren’t enough.

Vermont’s own climate goals - like 90 percent renewable by 2050 - are even bolder than those agreed upon in Paris. But taking action toward these goals, as well as mandating them through legislation, is still urgently needed.

Because if the federal government won’t act on climate issues, the rest of us have no choice but to lead the way.