My wife, Kate, and I were on our way up to Rutland yesterday and a house on Dorr Drive was displaying one of those seasonal flags: “Welcome Autumn!” with Snoopy jumping into a pile of colorful leaves.
As I write this, early in the afternoon of August 28th, the outside temperature is hovering just south of 90 degrees, and has been there since mid-morning. You can just about wring the humidity out of the air. It reminds me of our time living in the bayous of Louisiana three decades ago. It seems summer is not quite ready to bow out gracefully; Snoopy will have to wait a bit longer.
Welcome to Tropical Vermont.
One can argue ‘til the cows come home about how much, if at all, human activity is contributing to global warming, or what, if anything, we can do about it…but one cannot dismiss the preponderance of evidence that climate change due to the steady increase of average global temperature is occurring right here, right now. It is a clear and present danger.
Personally, I believe we are contributing to it in a very big way, and I am in good company with scientists who are impervious to political winds. Can we do something to stop or slow the trend? I like to think so. I know we have to try. Because make no mistake about it, we don’t have to save the planet…Earth will be just fine without us. It will continue to spin on its axis and orbit the sun just as it did before we were here. Earth doesn’t care; it’s ourselves we need to save.
Perhaps this link should be named “The Three E-s”, for Environment, Energy and Economy because they are all intertwined. Kate and I do what we can to keep our carbon footprint small: We live off-grid in a super efficient post and beam home we helped design and build; we heat with passive solar and about two cords of wood (in a normal winter) burned in our Finnish masonry heater; we are working on a micro-hydro system to help keep our battery bank charged in times of low sun; we grow a few more of our own vegetables with each passing year. In short, we tread as lightly as we can, as do many Vermonters. As has been the case many times historically, the rest of the country can look to the Green Mountain State for examples of how things should be.
Renewable, clean energy projects…wind, solar, and hydro…all in scale appropriate for the surroundings and supported by communities will not only help clear the air, literally, but will also provide decent jobs and demand for materials to stimulate the economy. There are many small hydroelectric sites in Vermont and throughout New England that were abandoned years ago that have become viable again as technological advances make their operation more attractive. When I was still diving, the company I worked for was involved in renewing two of these sites in northern Vermont in recent years. Turbines can now be installed directly at the base of an existing dam instead of running long penstocks downriver to them. This greatly simplifies mitigation of impacts to river flows. It is good for everybody…including the fish.
Water quality is of course another major environmental concern. Buffer tanks or ponds to temporarily hold back storm water runoff to keep from overwhelming municipal wastewater treatment plants during major rain events make sense to me (much the same as flood control dams serve us now). Buffer zones for farmlands to stem runoff from fields entering the watershed also make sense, with the caveat that we must assist our farmers in accomplishing this, not place additional burdens upon them.
Electric and hybrid vehicles, fuel cells, heat pumps, biomass plants, battery banks, weatherizing homes, schools and businesses…or even getting down to the pure basics like public transportation, carpooling, biking and yes, walking all have great potential to better our situation. The answer isn’t arguing about whose fault it is or isn’t…the answer is working towards a goal of leaving the land (and air and water) better than we found it.