Vermont Vision: Notable state figures take a look ahead to 2013
By Kevin O’Connor
STAFF WRITER | December 31,2012
Dave Paczak Photo
The sun rises over Vermont’s Green Mountains, signaling a new day and, this Tuesday, a new year.
Jan. 1 brings a new calendar — and, for many Vermonters, a new chance to work for a better hometown, state, nation and world.
This newspaper asked a range of Green Mountain State residents — leaders and laborers, activists and artists, economists and environmentalists, scientists and spiritualists — to share their hopes for communities small and large this new year.
Here’s what they’re wishing for:
writer in residence, Middlebury College
More stringent restrictions for gun ownership, especially of powerful assault weapons. A nation whose laws and behavior (nationally/internationally) reflect the things we say we really value. Relief to the dear people of Syria, whose children and caretakers are also being massacred, and to people everywhere who await a rebirth of wonder and justice. At the end of my Christmas letter this year, I quoted Mother Teresa: “In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love.” Maybe that is my truest hope: that each and everyone find many opportunities in 2013 to do small things with great love.
outgoing executive director, Vermont Human Rights Commission
That we can transform our world away from a culture of violence, fear and intolerance of those different from ourselves. This effort must start in each of our hearts. We then need to outwardly express that change in each of our communities, then our state, our country and, finally, worldwide. We cannot go on exploiting the least among us, pillaging the planet and threatening our very existence by building (and deploying) more and more terrible weapons and proliferating more and more wars. We must cease the overheating of our fragile and precious atmosphere. If we don’t change, our children will inherit a far less bountiful and beautiful planet than the one on which we were born and raised.
director, Rutland Free Library
Dignity for all living things, combined with genuine respect for differences. A little pixie dust wouldn’t hurt, either.
Dr. Alan Betts
atmospheric researcher, Pittsford
That Vermont will introduce a carbon charge on fossil fuels to fund the long-term costs of building resilience to climate change and rebuilding after weather disasters.
executive director, Paramount Theatre, Rutland City
For our bruised nation: freedom from anger and divisiveness, a rebirth of compassion for those less fortunate, a brain wash of our broken discourse and a profound absorption of the brilliant dictum forwarded by the one and only Samuel Beckett: “That which is not love is fear and fear alone...”
political science professor, University of Vermont
As an unrepentant democrat (note please the small ‘d’), I continue to wish that the trend (that began nearly 100 years ago) to remove decision-making from the towns and cities of Vermont will be reversed. The citizens of small towns like my hometown of Newbury that raised me and Starksboro where I have lived for over 40 years are certainly more capable of governing themselves in their town meetings assembled than distant aggregates of representatives in Montpelier and especially Washington. Information technology has made localism possible once again. Democracy awaits.
poet and playwright, Wolcott
That we will all commit ourselves in 2013 to living on less: less and less and less. It’s right there in our heritage: use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without. And don’t forget the “do without” part especially.
syndicated food writer, Calais
As a world, we take serious steps to address climate change. As a nation, we adopt stricter gun policies that respect the Constitution and the needs of hunters. As consumers, we take steps to achieve “food sovereignty” for all. As humans, we have more face-time, less Facebook.
Dr. Harry Chen
state health commissioner
For all Vermonters to take an active role in your own health and that of your family. Make healthy lifestyle choices and celebrate the benefits they bring. Start a family tradition of hiking, biking, snowshoeing or skating; take pride in growing your own vegetables; join a sports team, yoga class or walking group; achieve that long-held goal of quitting smoking or losing that extra 20 pounds; enjoy cooking with your kids, making healthy dishes that taste great. Being healthy doesn’t just happen; it’s hard work, but you are not alone. There’s lots of help out there and it pays dividends that are priceless.
co-author, “Slow Democracy: Rediscovering Community, Bringing Decision Making Back Home,” Middlesex
For conversations among neighbors who don’t necessarily see eye-to-eye — conversations characterized by open-minded listening, honest reflection and civility. Practicing respect begins in our communities, and it will spread from there.
Rabbi Michael Cohen
author and faculty member, Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, Manchester
May this coming year be the year when we all admit that the world’s climate and environment, our home and source of life, are going through changes that must be addressed if we hope to leave a world for our children and grandchildren that will provide them with the conditions to grow ample and variety of foods. If we decide to avoid and not address this reality we are simply turning our backs on them.
executive director, Vermont Council on Rural Development
For Vermonters to commit to support the working landscape, advance green economic development, confront global climate change and invest their personal and collective resources to realize the best of our collective values and make Vermont the national leader in building a sustainable future.
vice president, generation and energy innovation, Green Mountain Power
My hope for Rutland is unity. To achieve that we will need incredible collaboration and coordination, two ingredients that can be difficult to create when the chips are down. But as a nonnative but adoptive Rutlander I see so much good, such a great spirit and a tremendous opportunity to return the city to greatness.
co-author, “Greening Vermont: The Search for a Sustainable State,” Montpelier
That the trauma of recently experienced, bankrupting weather events and the sheer logic of Bill McKibben’s “Do the Math” tour will combine to awaken this nation to the true costs of burning fossil fuels. And I hope this awareness will cause the American people to rise up and demand of the Congress the passage of an income sensitive carbon tax, designed to lower fossil fuel usage — without unduly burdening lower income citizens — and raise revenues for the research and development of affordable, efficient and clean alternative energy sources.
artist/educator/activist, Rutland City
That the renewal of Rutland, already in progress because of the efforts of many who care, continues. I hope downtown is vibrant; that there is a dedicated effort by police and all residents to eradicate the drug traffic and related crime; that the arts and recreation continue to thrive; that government has effective leaders who can help to make our city a model one; that schools continue to teach skills for today’s world; that our hospital continues giving good care; that churches and nonprofits remain active; that there are more partnerships to promote community service; that we have more events that bring people together; and that anyone who wants to work is employed and making a good salary.
To all: Sterling health for mind and body. It’s up to you, but from there, you’ll be about all set.
author, “Duct Tape Parenting: A Less Is More Approach to Raising Respectful, Responsible and Resilient Kids,” East Middlebury
That one mom or dad who is at odds with their child, whether they are 4 or 14, experiences a moment of grace where their heart is filled with tenderness and they fall in love with their child all over again. When that happens enough times, the world will finally experience peace.
executive director, Vermont Historical Society
That all Vermonters will continue to cherish the state’s rich heritage and enjoy the many opportunities we have to experience it.
social justice activist, Bennington
To inspire others to join in the push for the closing of the Hancock Drone Base located near Vermont in DeWitt, N.Y. Killing kids in Afghanistan with drone strikes from a base so close to us does not make any of us safer. When a child is killed we never know what contribution to humanity that child would eventually make ... a cure for cancer, maybe. The world will be a better place when we learn to love the children of Afghanistan, and all children, as much as we love our own.
coordinator of the Great Hall/founder of the Gallery at the VAULT, Springfield
Participation in the arts can be one of the catalysts for change. A powerful combination for transformation is when art and history combine. This has happened in Springfield in the former Fellows Gear Shaper factory — now known as 100 River Street — that houses the Springfield Medical Center and Great Hall public art showcase. A section of the Great Hall space has been dedicated as a history corner. It is my hope that this corner will expand to encompass the history of the machine tool industry in Springfield.
executive director, Vermont League of Cities and Towns
That all the peoples of the world may someday be blessed with the same ability to govern themselves that Vermonters have had for more than 200 years. I also hope that Vermonters’ appreciation of how fortunate we are to have these rights and this power is reinforced by witnessing the people from across the Middle East, northern Africa and elsewhere who are fighting and dying for what we have.
organizer, Rural Vermont, Montpelier
To see a thriving Montpelier downtown featuring local entrepreneurs, artisans and restaurants with local flavor while simultaneously feeding the needs of all income levels. I hope to see Vermont continue to grow and develop a sustainable community-based food system without the use of genetic engineering and is economically viable for all. I wish to see that the country will learn from recent climate-related tragedies and seek ways to transition society to lifestyles based on community and local control rather than what benefits Wall Street. I hope to see a world that thrives on the ethnic and cultural differences that has existed for centuries instead of the current path that is exploiting people and the planet for profits and power.
Vermont poet laureate, Newbury
It would be nice to fix the world, but as state poet I’ll concentrate on Vermont, wishing upon her a slew of new green jobs. Paul Costello and colleagues, incidentally, are doing noble work in this respect at the Vermont Council on Rural Development (http://vtrural.org). My reason for such a wish? We are bleeding our dearest resource: our next generation.
founding director, Rockingham Arts and Museum Project
That downtown Bellows Falls — like an Italian town, with a municipal tower (torre) and a canal that makes us the Venice of Vermont — continues its wonderfully organic cultural and economic evolution. We are more than a Brigadoon and open 24/7 with great shops, eateries and architecture. Come visit us.
environmental author/activist, Ripton
My hope is that every college and university in Vermont — led by my own beloved Middlebury — will divest their holdings in fossil fuel companies and thereby help lead the increasingly desperate fight against climate change.
executive director, Pure Water for the World, Rutland
There is a line in a wonderful song, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.” My hope is that each of us dig a bit deeper to find greater peace, acceptance and contentment in our hearts and in our lives. If we all do that, then there will be greater peace in the family, the community, the nation and eventually the world.
manager, Northshire Bookstore, Manchester
That we can all gain a better understanding of our shared humanity — that, fundamentally, we all want the same things for ourselves and our children. From that, generosity and compassion can grow.
executive director, Strolling of the Heifers, Brattleboro
That the people of Vermont will continue to be an inspiration to the nation in terms of our strong commitment to sustainable living and resilient communities, including support for our farmers by using healthy local foods.
Here’s to protecting our world in 2013 — that we finally realize that if want snow in the winter and maple syrup in the spring, we must all acknowledge that climate change is real and truly push our leaders to create vital and bold steps to using alternative energy. Why are we even talking about oil anymore? I want my own windmill on my property and affordable solar on my roof.
president, Green Mountain Power
At a time when we are still recovering from many challenges and tragedies — Irene, Sandy, Newtown — I remain hopeful and optimistic about our ability to come together to build even stronger communities and a healthier environment, especially here in Vermont where we have a deep sense of community. These events must serve as reminders of the importance of bringing our best selves to the task of tackling social, environmental and economic challenges.
Curtiss Reed, Jr.
executive director, Vermont Partnership for Fairness and Diversity, Brattleboro
That all Vermonters find the moral courage to build inclusive and equitable communities free of prejudice and discrimination. Moreover that adults who work with children model social justice in courageously conspicuous ways.
doctor/founder, Vermont Health Care for All
Divine intervention at the congressional level to allow the state of Vermont to apply for waivers to do single payer in 2014 instead of 2017. Our health care system is imploding and I fear if we wait until 2017 it will be too late.
director, Vermont Center for Ecostudies, Norwich
That each one of us resolve to take greater responsibility for care-taking our unique natural heritage. Whether that involves planting a native tree, drinking “bird-friendly” coffee, igniting a young person’s passion for nature or influencing conservation policy, we all have a role to play. We’re living in a time of great vulnerability and change — we must all act together to avoid the “ecological cliff.”
resource coordinator, Good Samaritan Haven, Barre
That we will find the courage to have frank conversations about the issue of poverty and look for effective ways to address it.
That we don’t allow ourselves to be satisfied after the horrible event in Newtown, Conn., with what we think is a “quick fix” for the senseless violence we’re seeing in our country. I hope we take a long, hard look in the mirror and think about the many ills in our society that might have contributed. My additional hope for Vermont is that we take the same approach to growing our economy. It’s not about a feel-good fix that someone can put his or her name on. It’s about finding real solutions that will give Vermonters real opportunities.
Dr. Jilisa Snyder
clinical director, Brattleboro Retreat’s Anna Marsh Behavioral Care Clinic
The power of generative connection, the felt realization of how much more similar we are than different, that we all struggle to create meaningful lives, and that a direct recognition of our vulnerabilities can be what strengthens us. We need to dispel the myth that individual strength is related to not needing others. My hope is that we cease the stigma of mental and psychological health care and treatment. For us to see clearly that our health is reflective of mind and body, and that as a society we place our attention and resources toward this reality.
owner, Bartleby’s Books, Wilmington
We hope that people keep reading!
author, “The Meditative Gardener,” Dummerston
I hark back to Reinhold Niebuhr’s prayer aka the Serenity Prayer: “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” May I find the serenity that allows me to accept the unfolding of life, moment by moment, just as it is. But this acceptance does not allow me to do a spiritual bypass, and just say, “Oh, well — that’s just the way things are.” May I find the courage to change the things I can or to work towards change, even if that change doesn’t happen in my lifetime. And may I find the wisdom to know the difference between acceptance and indifference.
president, Castleton State College
For kindness, compassion and serenity among all people, treating each other as we would members of our own family, recognizing that in the beginning, and in the end, we are all related. Whether religious beliefs lead one to the story of creation, or scientific discoveries lead one to the theory of evolution, the truth remains the same: If we go back far enough, tracing back all of our family trees, we all began together, and we are all related for eternity. We are all connected, from Rutland to Dublin to Newtown to Jerusalem to Washington to Damascus to the Jersey Shore to Castleton to Rome to Rwanda to everywhere in our world, forever in a cycle of shared humanity. We are one.
owner, Taylor Farm, Londonderry
For a reshaping of our global values. We as a society have been so privileged and consumptive — it is time to evaluate what is really important for the well-being of our planet and our species. We need to convert all of our energy usage, production practices and farming techniques to sustainable practices. We need to reduce and then eliminate our dependence on fossil fuels. We need to be less wasteful and recognize the limits of our resources and, above all, we need to be respectful and appreciative of one another.
co-author, “Greening Vermont: The Search for a Sustainable State,” Montpelier
That policy types the world over will begin adapting our financial system to the reality and limits of a finite planet. Currently, our system lets debt in all its forms (public and private, not just government debt) grow faster than we can grow the means of paying it back. The solution? Stop letting banks create the money supply by creating debt, which they do through fractional reserve banking. The alternative is to have the government — “we, the people” — issue all of the money that circulates in the economy. It would help balance the federal budget, smooth out the boom-and-bust cycles, and would be a solid step toward adopting a sustainable economy.