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Students lead climate strike in Rutland

On Friday, thousands of Vermonters — led by young people throughout the state, the nation and across the globe — joined in a multitude of global climate strikes, walking out into the streets with signs and banners calling the community to recognize the harmful effects of climate change in cities and towns.

In Rutland, they were walking in — to the 77 Art Gallery at 67 Merchants Row, where artists, activists, families and friends gathered to create climate-focused works of art, hear speakers, share food and swap ideas for modifying their everyday lives to be more ecologically sustainable.

Organizer Dave Coppock said the event idea was started by the 350.org Rutland Node in an effort to align Rutland with the rest of the world and stand in solidarity.

“This was our attempt to create a space, especially for youth,” Coppock said. “Express yourself, feelings and concerns, anything to do with the climate.”

Volunteer and organizer Liz Filskov said while she understands shifting lifestyle methods can seem like a difficult transition, the moves can start small: composting food waste, for example, to cut down on the amount of trash they put in landfills.

“Transitioning to a refillable water bottle, preferably one made of metal,” Filskov said. “Being aware of your consumption and buying things that will decompose. Baby-wipes, dryer sheets, things like that don’t break down. Humanity has exceeded its capacity to recycle plastic.”

Parents came with their children and painted flowers, trees and outdoor scenes, while massive chalkboards were scrawled with rainbow messages of hope and urgency inside the building and outside its door where passersby stopped to leave their messages.

Atmospheric researcher Dr. Alan Betts, of Pittsford, said the United States and the rest of the world doesn’t have a choice other than to transition to renewable energy sources as the effects of climate change continues to have drastic effects on the environment with rapid decrease of Arctic ice, intensifying storms and subsequent decimation of biological systems that previously kept Earth’s environments balanced and consistent.

“We are burning 50 million years worth of fossil fuels in 100 years and dumping it all back into the atmosphere fast,” Betts said.

Across the city, the auditorium in Rutland High School filled toward the afternoon with the school’s environmental club, administrators, fellow students and teachers, many of whom held signs saying “Make the Earth Great Again,” and “I am the Lorax, I speak for the Trees.”

After a presentation by the Environmental Club’s faculty adviser Jody Sabataso citing Betts’ work and that of Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, the students walked out of school to the flagpole with their signs while classmates shouted “Go Environment,” and other words of encouragement from school buses.

Surrounding the flagpole and hoisting their signs, several teachers briefly laid on the ground across the roadway in protest, while Giovanni Falco, co-president of the Environmental Club called his classmates to action.

“We are the future voters, politicians, activists and scientists,” Falco said as his classmates hoisted their signs higher. “We need to speak out against things we know are going to create social and economical hardships for us.”

World language teacher Marsha Cassel bolstered her students before closing the gathering with a haunting message that the students took solemnly with them.

“It’s about being uncomfortable,” Cassel said. “It’s about sharing. … It’s not just about today. It’s not just about next Friday. … It’s happening. You can make it a little better, but it’s almost too late because we messed up.”



Hundreds turn out for climate protest in Montpelier

MONTPELIER — Hundreds of students and residents gathered in the Capital City Friday for the Global Climate Strike.

The event kicked off a weeklong call to action for students to skip school to march, protest and commit acts of civil disobedience to demand political and civic leaders respond and act to combat climate change. Similar events were held Friday around that state, the country and the world. The effort was sparked by Greta Thunberg, the Swedish student who left school in August last year to protest outside the Swedish parliament. Thunberg, who testified before Congress on Wednesday, has since been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and traveled to America recently by a zero-emissions sail ship.

Hundreds of people descended on Montpelier Friday morning and met at Montpelier High School. They then marched down Memorial Drive, shutting down the busy road for a few minutes during rush hour, before turned onto Main Street chanting slogans such as “You can’t eat money, you can’t drink oil” and “One people, one planet.” Those in attendance held signs that said “Our house is on fire,” “There is no planet B,” “I stand with Greta” and “Don’t let the future melt.”

The protesters then gathered in front of City Hall, where they shut down Main Street for over an hour. There was singing, chanting and speakers of all ages.

City Clerk John Odum was the first to speak. Odum’s office is in City Hall so he said he didn’t have to travel far to attend the event.

“I’m not going to stand here, even with this group, and tell you climate change is the only issue. Racism is an issue, sexism is an issue, homophobia is an issue, transphobia is an issue, poverty is an issue and fascism is an issue. But I will tell you that there is no issue more important than climate change,” he said.

Odum said his generation had been trying to deal with climate change, but had recently hit a wall, hinting at the current presidential administration. He said he had apologized to one of his kids for not being able to do more, but his child told him he was sorry for Odum because they had made strides, hit a wall and must feel badly about it. He said his child was right.

“We screwed it up. Your turn. We’ve got your back. Let us know what to do, and we’re there, but step up,” Odum said. The protesters then laid down in the street for a “die-in” form of protest showing bodies as a symbol of the destruction that’s coming if something isn’t done about climate change. Others drew chalk outlines of their bodies.

Shyloh Wonder-Maez is a senior at Montpelier High School. Wonder-Maez said she was proud and honored to be taking part of the protest with those unified in the cause.

“I just want to say that we all have power in our actions. Each person has power in every decision they make every day. You have the weight of the world in your hands, but together it becomes a little less. And here we are showing together that we believe we can make a difference. And you can,” she said.

Wonder-Maez said people have power as consumers. She said those with power in high positions are just figureheads of all of us and Friday’s protest shows them that people want change.

“And they have to listen. They can’t not listen to us. We are the people,” she said.

Once the speakers were finished music was played and the protesters danced in the street and waved their signs and flags.

For a full list of events taking place around the state throughout the week, visit https://vermontclimatestrike.org/events/list/.



Paul Alan Bruhn
Vermont mourns a protector of its history

Many across the state spent Friday mourning the death of a man whose life’s work was preserving Vermont’s history.

Paul Alan Bruhn, executive director of the Preservation Trust of Vermont for nearly 40 years, died Thursday of heart failure, according to the organization he helped to found.

The Preservation Trust of Vermont is a nonprofit group founded in 1980 that has worked to preserve numerous historic buildings across Vermont, such as the Vermont Marble Museum in Proctor, Pierce’s Store in Shrewsbury, the Old Stage Coach Inn in Waterbury, and many more.

“Paul’s legacy is, he worked to create space and shelter for community to happen in Vermont,” said Meg Campbell, easement program director for the Preservation Trust, in a Friday interview.

Campbell, who worked with Bruhn for 18 years, said he traveled all over Vermont working with communities to keep their heritage intact. “I mean, all over the state. It’s extraordinary, actually,” she said. “He did it with such humble dignity. It was never about Paul, it was always about the people of Vermont.”

Those who now manage the places the Preservation Trust has protected said it would never have happened without Bruhn’s effort.

Sally Deinzer, manager of Pierce’s Store in Shrewsbury, said Bruhn was with them in August celebrating the store’s first 10 years as a co-op.

“He was looking wonderful, and that’s why for me this was such a shock,” she said. “He was talking about another good couple of years.”

Pierce’s Store opened sometime around the Civil War years, 1860 to 1865, Deinzer said.

“The Pierce family bought the store in the early 1900s, First World War period, and ran the store as the community general store until 1993 when the second generation, the remaining member of it, turned 90 and said, ‘I’ve done this long enough, I can’t keep doing it.’ But she knew how important the store was to the community. Her name was Marjorie Pierce,” Deinzer said.

Pierce wasn’t the only one who saw the store’s importance. Somehow, she made contact with Bruhn and he readily saw what she did. Pierce died in 2001 and turned over ownership of the store to the Preservation Trust on the condition the group would find someone to run it as a general store.

“So after Marjorie died and the Preservation Trust took ownership of it, then they updated the infrastructure, new roof, plumbing, heating, septic, all that stuff, and then they put out a request for proposals for someone to come forward to operate the store,” said Deinzer.

That someone was a “very naive group of Shrewsbury residents,” Deinzer said, she being among them.

The planning phase took about a year, she said.

“In that period I was probably talking to Paul every day,” she said. “And there were times when I was just so overwhelmed, he was able to just listen and say ‘Have you thought about this?’ or just say ‘Yeah. I get it,’ and he’d calm me back down.”

Bruhn had a wealth of practical information on how to keep the store running, she said. He seemed to know everyone in Vermont, or at least knew how to reach them. Deinzer said she has no doubt people will carry on without him, but right now his loss is being keenly felt.

“It’s emptiness,” she said. “Who do I turn to? He taught me so much, and I just hope we learned it as well as he taught it. There’s nobody who has his knowledge.”

Bruhn was also instrumental in the preservation of the Vermont Marble Museum in Proctor and the creation of the nonprofit that currently manages it.

Vicky and Bob Young are members of the Vermont Marble Museum Board of Directors.

“Paul felt this structure, and the history of Vermont incorporated into this building, was a treasure that simply could not go away, so he undertook the fundraising to make is possible for the Preservation to acquire the building and part of the collection and archives of the Vermont Marble Co.,”Vicky Young said .

Bruhn then reached out to the Youngs for their support.

“He was the driving force behind it from the Preservation Trust, he worked very hard with state and federal authorities to get it pulled together, to get funding for things like renovation work that needed to be done in the building over the past several years, he was the driver of all of this,” said Bob Young.

When Tropical Storm Irene caused historic levels of flooding across the state in 2011, one place that was damaged and saved by the trust’s efforts was the Old Stage Coach Inn in Waterbury. John Barwick, the inn’s owner and manager, said Friday it was Bruhn and the Preservation Trust of Vermont that wrote a grant proposal that got the inn the funds it needed to get up and running once more. He said floodwaters damaged every car in the parking lot, and inundated the basement where most of the inn’s infrastructure was kept.

“He certainly had a feel for restoring landmarks all across Vermont,” Barwick said of Bruhn.

Right around the time he helped found the Preservation Trust, Bruhn was working to preserve Round Church in Richmond, said Neale Lunderville, chairman of the board of directors for the Preservation Trust. The church is depicted in the group’s logo.

“His life’s work was the foundation of PTV, so he will always be with us in that way,” said Lunderville. “His values, his character, are written into all the projects and people he’s been a part of for 40 years. Our goal will be to find a leader who can build off Paul’s great work. We have a succession plan we’ve worked on as a board. Today we’re really focused on remembering Paul and all the great work he did.”

U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said Friday in a statement that news of Bruhn’s loss hit him and his wife, Marcelle Pomerleau, hard.

“He is one of the finest Vermonters I ever worked with, and one of the dearest and best friends we have both had, and we loved him,” Leahy said. “His work on historic preservation is equal to the work that anyone has ever done for the State of Vermont. Those countless success stories are preserved in brick, mortar, stone and wood across our state.”

Bruhn was Leahy’s first chief of staff.

“I watched with pride when Paul received an award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and we both had the same message: Historic preservation is not a cost for saving the past, but a wise investment in the future,” Leahy said. “Paul felt to his core that we Vermonters have a rich legacy defined by our people, our history, our downtowns and village centers, as well as our iconic barns and covered bridges. Now he is part of Vermont’s legacy. We’ll never see another like Paul Bruhn.”

The Preservation Trust of Vermont posted Bruhn’s obituary to its website: bit.ly/0919PaulBruhn.



Photo by Jon Olender  

A group of Rutland High School students participate in a planned Vermont climate strike Friday afternoon at the school.

Photo by Jon Olender  

Weeds or art?

Aquatic vegetation begins to turn color and change with the seasons Thursday along the west shore of Lake Bomoseen in Castleton.

GMC items auctioned off Friday afternoon

POULTNEY — Hundreds of Green Mountain College items were sold at auction Friday during an online event to raise money for maintaining the campus while it’s for sale, including the iconic kaleidoscope that once stood on the lawn of the Surdam Art Building.

Some of the items went to alumni, including one painting, “Through the Trees” by alumna Julia Loretta Taylor, that alumna Samantha Boras bought for $80.

“I was expecting to pay a lot more, and set my maximum bid fairly high,” Boras said on Friday after she won the painting. “Julia was one of the first people I met at college. She was right across the hall. Her art just became a part of my experience at college, as one of the first fine arts majors I met. She was always drawing those beautiful trees everywhere.”

Boras said she had a dream in which she stole the painting and felt a subsequent deep need to rescue it from the auction,

“I’ve always loved her work and after all these years, somehow those trees still feel like home,” Boras recalled. “It’s so sad. It’s like letting go of this last shred of hope that Green Mountain would be a place that I could go back to.”

Alumnus William Eaton spent $150 by early afternoon on a pair of Gunloacke Oak Lounge Chairs, lot 0098, and was waiting to hear on several other items.

“I’ve been looking for a good reading chair, and I think they’ll be great for that,” Eaton said.

Eaton said he also bid on an original art piece from former art instructor Richard Weis, though he knew his early submission would end up dwarfed by the afternoon and said he hoped someone in the GMC community was able to take it home.

“One item I really wanted was 0182: Inlaid Music Cabinet,” Eaton said. “Which I was willing to spend probably more than I should, but my final bid didn’t go through in time. I sang in choir and took a bunch of music classes while at GMC, and it was one of those pieces of furniture that I always saw while in Ackley and appreciated, so seeing it up for bid and having such fond memories, I needed to bid on it. I’m a little irritated my last bid didn’t go through.”

The college also listed academic desks, electric guitars, Persian rugs, pianos, sculptures, old books, clocks, china and jewelry, and Duane Merrill auctioneer Adam Demasi said they expected most if not everything to be sold.

“There were also a lot of art pieces depicting the college campus and the buildings I wanted, but they went for more than I could afford,” Eaton said. “I’ve always appreciated older buildings and art work depicting it, and having a piece of art that shows the campus would have given me a lot of pride for how nice the school campus is.

After that, I’m still waiting on some of the memorabilia and souvenir bids to come up. ... Plus, I may be able to get a picture or two of the buildings.”

Eaton said having a piece of GMC to hold forever and making sure the school, its history and its culture lives on was important. He said he hoped it helped those still grieving the closure of GMC.

“I think alumni and other community members being able to get a piece of the college to bring home and make theirs will help with people moving on from the schools closure,” Eaton said. “And for fun, I’m hoping to bid for 0426: Ca. 1900 Photo Portrait Of Chas. H. Dunton. I don’t have any particular memories of the portrait, but part of me just thinks it would be funny to have a portrait of one of the presidents.”

Boras said she attended one of the Rogue Alumni reunions recently to say goodbye, and to collectively grieve with her fellow alumni about the loss of a place they called home.

“I found this Welsh word that really describes it: “hiraeth” (which does not have a direct English translation but conceptually describes the feeling of missing something or missing home),” Boras said. “Nothing really prepared me for this bittersweet feeling of loving a place and time that no longer exists.”

Duane Merrill Auctioneers was contacted on Friday but could not be reached for comment.



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