MONTPELIER — Hundreds of climate activists marched the streets of Montpelier on Tuesday, braving sleet and rain just to urge lawmakers to take action against global warming.
In all, they had traveled over 65 miles, starting in Middlebury.
The primary organizer was 350Vermont, joined by Sunrise Middlebury, Sunrise Burlington, Vermont Youth Lobby, Root Social Justice Center Youth 4 Change, and EnACT.
“During the journey of over 60 miles, walkers highlighted the climate consequences of the build-out of the Vermont Gas pipeline, while also celebrating and promoting examples of climate solutions,” said a statement from 350Vermont.
They arrived on the Statehouse steps singing songs and chants, and flooded the hallways with fists raised. They took turns reading out their core beliefs in the main lobby.
“Please protect our soils and remember that we are on stolen ground,” one person said.
“Please preserve winter in Vermont,” said another protester.
Yet another said, “Please support bills H.51, H.175, and S.66.”
H.51 and S.66, now in the House Committee on Energy and Technology and the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, respectively, would “prohibit the construction of fossil fuel infrastructure in Vermont.”
H.175 aims to “prohibit the exercise of eminent domain by utilities for purposes of fossil fuel infrastructure.” It also is in the House energy committee.
Zac Rudge, spokesperson for 350Vermont, told True North that the 65-mile journey was helped by supporters from local communities who provided temporary lodging.
“We stayed in churches, we stayed in town halls, we stayed in people’s homes,” he said. “Each community we went to provided a big potluck, which was amazing. Most of the communities we visited along the way centered around particular resistance against fossil fuel infrastructure.”
He noted Bristol and Hinesburg, which have been engaged in political resistance to a natural gas pipeline.
Julie Macuga, 350Vermont’s extreme energy organizer, issued a statement calling for a ban on all carbon-based energy infrastructure. This would include pipelines.
“Legislators are not acting swiftly to pass a ban on new fossil fuel infrastructure or other policies commensurate with the crisis at hand,” she said. “It can’t wait till next session.”
Ripton resident Bill McKibben, a co-founder of 350.org, also made comments blasting lawmakers for not doing more.
“People shouldn’t have to walk all the way across Vermont to get action on climate,” he said, adding that lawmakers “have essentially been climate delayers.”
Leif Taranta, of Middlebury, did the entire walk from start to finish and took on a role as spokesperson for the march. He was asked by True North about the higher costs for green energy alternatives.
“The idea behind the Green New Deal is that it should not be a burden on any person, especially on low-income people, especially people of color and indigenous people,” he said. “These people have already been burdened by the systems we are living in, and the transition away from fossil fuels should be done in a way that helps people instead of causing extra burden on them. So we are really urging this in an economically just way.”
Wind and solar power continue to get 30 percent federal tax credits and they often need state mandates to nudge power utilities to take on the higher costs. Taranta said it’s better to pay more than face climate change.
“On a wider scale of it being expensive, I find that it’s a tricky argument because climate change is going to be expensive and the damage of climate change is going to be expensive, both infrastructure-wise and also just human health-wise and in terms of the agricultural costs that will come from a warming climate,” he said.
“So it’s really, do you wanna put the expense into creating a better world that works for everyone, or do you wanna pay later and have a disaster?”
Another big renewable push discussed by marchers was home weatherization. Heather Stevenson of 350Vermont told True North about that initiative.
“It’s gonna bring in jobs. It’s gonna save money, because, of every dollar we spend on fossil fuels, 70 cents goes out of state,” she said. “I think we should be spending money on Vermonters.
“When we do weatherization for a home, it saves that homeowner $500 which they are then spending on their local economy and child care.”