BIPOC members accuse Climate Council of racial ‘tokenism’

By Rob Roper

The first meeting of the Vermont Climate Council of 2023 erupted with frustrated members of the BIPOC community accusing the council of racial tokenism.

Judy Dow, a Vermonter of Abenaki descent, serves on the Agriculture and Ecosystems Subcommittee of the Climate Council, though she is not a member of the Council.

Dow is also the executive director of Gedakina, a multigenerational organization that supports Indigenous youth, women and families across New England. She has been deeply engaged in the Climate Council’s work since its inception and is frequently outspoken about matters of social justice and the council’s failure to live up to its obligations to marginalized communities under the law.

Vermont Natural Resources Council

Judy Dow

During the public comment portion of the full Climate Council’s Jan. 9, 2023, meeting, Dow called out the members for not listening to voices from the BIPOC community. She accused committee schedulers of deliberate foot dragging and said council leaders were reneging on promises to discuss topics important to BIPOC communities (particularly the future of biomass generated electricity ash the Moran and Rygate power plants). She also said materials were deliberately being excluded from the Council’s upcoming report to the Legislature.

Joining Dow was Ana Mejia, an organizing director at Rights & Democracy, who repeatedly accused the Council of treating BIPOC members as “tokens,” and asked why out of 23 official council members (at least three of the 23 seats are currently vacant), there were zero representing the BIPOC community.

The Global Warming Solutions Act calls for the Senate Committee on Committees to appoint seven members to the Council, the Speaker of the House to appoint eight, and the Governor’s Administration to supply eight.

None of the Senate appointees come from BIPOC communities. From the administration, only Dr. Harry Chen, interim commissioner, Department for Children and Families, comes from a BIPOC community. Regarding the speaker of the House’s appointments, of the four seats filled, none are from BIPOC communities, and the other four have been left somewhat inexplicably vacant since Nov. 1.

More to the point of Dow and Mejia, of those eight House appointees, only three chose to step down at the end of their terms on Oct. 31. Five asked to be reappointed. The speaker reappointed four of them. The fifth, Dr. Lesley-Ann Dupigny-Giroux, a professor of climatology in the Department of Geography at the University of Vermont, who is Black and was the only BIPOC House appointee, was not reappointed despite her request, for reasons that have not been made clear.

(Note: As of Jan. 10 at 6:00 p.m., Dr. Dupigny-Giroux’s name appeared on the Climate Council’s website as a member. This writer sent an email to both the speaker and Dr. Dupigny-Giroux to clarify the situation. Though neither responded to the inquiry. As of Jan. 11 at 3:00 p.m., Dr. Dupigny-Giroux’s name has been removed and the seat listed as “vacant.” This story may be updated when minutes and video of the Jan. 9th meeting are made public.)

Rob Roper is a freelance writer who has been involved with Vermont politics and policy for over 20 years. © Copyright True North Reports 2023. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of Public domain and Vermont Natural Resources Council
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8 thoughts on “BIPOC members accuse Climate Council of racial ‘tokenism’

  1. If we all get the same climate why does the bipoc’s need special treatment?
    How about we just get rid of all the climate hoax committees and live under the constitution of Rights for ALL, not special rights for some.

  2. Quantify bipoc. Lots of mixed race folks out there. Frankly all of us. This needs to be cleared up if we’re giving special rights and privileges to certain people.

  3. If a member is not reappointed despite their request to stay on the committee the reason should be given unless the individual requests privacy. In that event the individual should make their feeling clear to the public themselves.

    There should be NO quotas required for any committee membership.

  4. Rights and Democracy, an Astro turf Marxist organization imported from the south side of Chicago..

    best to where you snake boots at this board meeting

  5. When the serpents turn onto themselves. The eruptions between groups of liars and deceivers is God’s work and there is more to come. Isaiah 59 7-8 Their feet rush into sin; they are swift to shed innocent blood. They pursue evil schemes; acts of violence mark their ways. The way of peace they do not know; there is no justice in their paths. They have turned them into crooked roads; no one who walks along them will know peace.

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