At climate change conference, Sanders leads call for action
By Eric Blaisdell
STAFF WRITER | March 17,2013
Jeb Wallace-Brodeur / Staff Photo
Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., speaks with high school and college students Saturday prior to hosting a global warming conference at Montpelier High School.
MONTPELIER — It was fitting that on a day devoted to talking about global warming, a makeshift parking lot at Montpelier High School was a mud pit by 1 p.m. in the middle of March.
Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., hosted a conference on climate change Saturday at Montpelier High School. Around 400 Vermonters heard from Sanders, state officials, students at the University of Vermont and climate author Bill McKibben about what may happen to the planet if something is not done to curb climate change.
“Global warming is not only real, it is terribly real,” Sanders said. “It is the planetary crisis of our time. If we don’t get our act together, this planet will only get worse.”
He added, “We have a moral responsibility, not only to ourselves, but to our kids and grandchildren and great grandchildren.”
Sanders said he fears that 70 years from now people will look back and say, “Why didn’t they do anything when they had the chance?”
Burlington native Steven Sahr moved to Vermont from New York two years ago. He attended the conference, he said, because climate change is “the issue of our time” and he is glad to live in a state that takes the issue so seriously.
“It’s so much larger than anything else,” he said. “Wars can be fought between one country and another, but this involves everyone (on the planet).”
Ashley Oldham, of Burlington, said climate change is such a pervasive issue that every facet of society needs to work towards a solution. The steps that people can do to help out don’t have to be major ones.
“If everyone does just a little bit, then it really makes a big impact,” she said, adding people can walk somewhere instead of drive, or they can recycle.
“These tiny little differences that don’t impact your life very much do impact the environment quite a bit, if so many people do it,” she said.
During the conference, UVM students showed projections of what Vermont’s climate will look like toward the end of the century, if steps aren’t taken. One slide showed the state having a climate closer to that of Tennessee around 2070.
Williamstown resident Beverly McKay has seen first-hand the truth to that. She said 20 years ago she could plan on her garden ending at the end of August after a hard frost. That frost doesn’t come any more.
McKay said snowfall has dramatically diminished since she was a kid and there are no more heavy snowstorms in March.
To do her part, McKay said she is planning on putting up a solar array on her property and moving from an oil burning furnace to a high-efficiency wood burning furnace.
There are those who say that climate change does not exist, or that the ways to combat it do more harm than good. Outside the high school Saturday, a small group of people held signs protesting the conference.
Elizabeth Golden-Pidgeon of Shoreham said people like that should respect what the science says, as they do in other instances.
“You go to your doctor and expect him to tell you how to cure something and you go to a scientist and ask him how to solve (climate change),” she said. “It’s the same thing.”
With so much doom and gloom presented at the conference about the state of the planet and what people can expect if energy consumption and waste continue as they have, some might think all is lost. But Golden-Pidgeon isn’t panicking.
She said people have to be thinking “What can we do?” and try to be positive about the solutions.
“We have to be optimistic or we’d all just go shoot ourselves,” she said.