Ridgeline destruction: What do we tell the kids?
AP File Photo
Wind turbines generate power at the Searsburg Wind Power Facility in this 2005 photo.
I have talked to my own children about the importance of conservation and preservation of our natural world since they were old enough to accompany me outdoors. In the past, I volunteered in our local elementary school for the Environmental Learning for the Future (ELF) program for a number of years. And at the Montessori preschool where I currently teach, we incorporate appreciation for nature and conservation of resources as part of our daily interaction with our immediate surroundings. In a recent “Growing Up Wild” training workshop I attended, the trainers emphasized how important it is to teach kids how habitat preservation is a vital component for the future of a sustainable natural world in our state.
I also have been actively involved in efforts to raise public awareness about ridgeline destruction to our Vermont mountains. As an environmentalist and a teacher of young children, I am angered at the injustices. And I feel a need to apologize to the kids who want to absorb what we offer them, while we search for proactive solutions without possibly thinking things through well enough to foresee the consequences and impacts. We operate with mixed messages through which the children must sort.
At the least, we are contradicting the message of appreciation and preservation of our Taconic and Green mountains and our natural resources. At the worst, we are wasting time fooling ourselves into believing we’ve served climate justice. As supposed adult protectors of both children and of voiceless creatures and resources, we are allowing certain financed politicians, certain published authors and climate scientists to marginalize our voices, ignore our questions, fear-monger and attempt to render the public incapable of critical thinking.
Ridiculous accusations and dismissive labels are what Gov. Shumlin is now using to attack Vermonters: He calls folks he won’t listen to “CAVErs” or “Committee Against Virtually Everything.” If he thinks that acronym covers concerned Vermonters, it proves he’s not listening at all. Further, what is he trying to accomplish here by belittling and dividing Vermonters? Aren’t our children listening, too?
I am not against everything. Proactively, I’ve been saying that we could all be teaching the next generation to love and respect our delicately balanced ecosystems and our human part within these. We could be showing them how to connect with the cultural heritage and history of our “vert mont” state. We could be instructing them on how to simplify and enjoy simplifying; how to return to values that reinforce personal and sustainable choice-making. We could be showing them how personal accountability for our “little corners of our world” are very empowering steps, in a world that constantly markets to us how to think.
We could be showing them how to work together to solve pressing issues in meaningful and fruitful ways. We could teach them personal, pivotal choice-making that can change the course we humans are on — by celebrating the ideas of reduction, and responsible consuming, and forging satisfying connections to the land around us.
In addition, we should not allow the governor to marginalize our valid concerns about destroying intact ecosystems and fragile, shrinking habitat connectivity. We should not let him and his “echoes” try to ignore our questions about his agenda versus truly sustainable solutions for our state; but alas, he is an artful dodger. We should not be lulled into believing we can practice passive support of “green” energy.
The complication of passively believing that all renewables are inherently good simply because they are deemed renewable is doing a distracted disservice to the future of our state and the sustainable future I think most of us would agree we hope is possible for our children.
The folks in Lowell and at Georgia Mountain have paid a heavy price, with their mountains.
But their children and ours will still have to figure out how to solve issues about fossil-fuel dependence and carbon emissions. When the utility/industrial-scale wind developers have blasted and developed their projected miles and miles of Vermont ridgelines and the installment processes of these inefficient hulks are harming wildlife, destroying carbon sinks, damaging water quality, affecting quality of life (and so, then, health) for folks who live, sleep and grow up within their proximity, affecting property values (and so, then, tax bases) and we pay higher utility costs to the power companies — we and our children will still be left with the carbon dioxide emissions issue to solve. As Lowell activist Steve Wright said, industrial/utility-scale wind (on ridgelines) is the dirtiest of dirty power. Explain that to (y)our children for what they will be handed down.
First tell them, we’re going to help pay for the destruction and waste. We’re going to be charged more for the power. The power might equal a certain portion of the local demand, but it is not needed nor is it used by local demand. Further, the agenda is to label (in name only) ourselves green in Vermont; as having a certain statutory goal of 20 percent in-state renewable energy by 2017 and to then sell the renewable energy credits to utilities in other states. The buyers will meet their own in-state renewable portfolio standards. This double-counting results in the exact opposite outcome of what the public expects. By selling the renewable energy credits to another utility, a wind project is explicitly permitting the buyer to continue emitting carbon dioxide.
All this destruction and waste and distraction from real and healthy solutions, for no emissions reduction. All this in a state where we could learn to reduce and conserve and preserve to effect some immediate shifts. All this in a state that has a low carbon footprint, compared to that of the nation. What for are we permitting this ineffective and destructive distraction from sustainable solutions to environmental justice issues? What for? For a more stable and sustainable future for our children?
We should be critical thinkers now. For our Vermont and theirs.
Vanessa Mills Holmquist is a resident of Pittsford.