By Guy Page
Tuesday night’s Vermont Climate Council virtual public hearing at which white people were not welcome to join or participate was cancelled at the last minute due to “Zoom security issues,” the Vermont Climate Council director told registrants in an email.
The meeting was designed “as a dedicated space for people who self-identify as Black, Indigenous, and people of color,” explained Jane Lazorchak, Director of the Vermont Global Warming Solutions Act for the Agency of Natural Resources, in an email to registrants at 5:01 pm Wednesday. The BIPOC-only public hearing has been rescheduled for next Tuesday.
“We have designed this space in order to center the needs and perspectives of a set of communities that faces disproportionate risk from climate change. The purpose of this meeting is to hear specifically from Black, Indigenous, and people of color about feedback on actions being considered by the Climate Council and Sub-Committees for the Vermont Climate Action Plan,” Lazorchak said.
Still, a public meeting that excludes people by race doesn’t sit well with Levar Cole, a black farmer and Chelsea selectboard member.
“I would be offended if whites were excluded from the public hearing,” Cole wrote to Vermont Daily Chronicle yesterday. “In the 1830s, The US House passed a resolution (gag rule) barring/automatically tabling all debate on slavery and then renewed it in several subsequent sessions. That gag rule was a “Safe Space” for Planters. Encouraging participation in the aspirations and actions of our republic by folks who were not allowed to fully participate in the past is one thing, but implicitly or explicitly excluding anyone from debate based on race or ethnicity is what we war against. I don’t get the safe space. Are we trying to right the wrongs of segregation and exclusion or recreate them under a new banner?”
The full text of the Lazorchak email is printed below:
Thank you for registering to be a part of the BIPOC Affinity Public Meeting for Vermont’s Climate Action Plan on Tuesday October 5th from 6-7:30 pm. We had to cancel the meeting at the last moment due to Zoom security issues, and extend our apologies to those who did not receive a timely notification of cancellation, and to all for the inconvenience that this has caused.
We are writing to let you know that we are rescheduling this session for next Tuesday October 12th from 6-7:30.
This session was designed as a dedicated space for people who self-identify as Black, Indigenous, and people of color. We have designed this space in order to center the needs and perspectives of a set of communities that faces disproportionate risk from climate change. The purpose of this meeting is to hear specifically from Black, Indigenous, and people of color about feedback on actions being considered by the Climate Council and Sub-Committees for the Vermont Climate Action Plan. We will be asking the same questions and going through the same process as we have in other in-person and virtual public input meetings. We ask that people who do not belong to the above categories refrain from joining this meeting to give us the grace to create the space needed for this critical work.
If you do not identify in any of the above categories, you are welcome to join the Public Input Meeting tonight Wednesday October 6th from 6-7:30. The zoom link is here. For those who signed up out of interest in BIPOC perspectives, but not necessarily to share your own lived experience as a BIPOC person, we thank you for your interest and want you to know that the summarized data from this session will be shared with the Climate Council, the Sub-Committees and will be publicly available on the Climate Council website.
If you would like to join us for the rescheduled meeting on Oct 12th, please register here:
Register in advance for this meeting:
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting. This session will be co-facilitated by Sarika Tandon of Rise Consulting, and Kiah Morris. Rise Consulting is partnering with Climate Access on the public engagement for the climate action plan, and Kiah is a former Just Transitions Sub-Committee co-chair and is now engaged with the Council as a consultant in helping apply an equity framework to the proposed actions.
Guy Page is publisher of the Vermont Daily Chronicle. Reprinted with permission.