Editor’s note: This commentary is by Lynn James Edmunds, a lifetime resident of Wallingford.
Vermont is our home. We love her four seasons, her mountains, her time honored traditions and rural way of life that binds us to her.
Settled mostly by farmers, our ancestors endured hardships of life in the Green Mountains to pursue a better life. They were a determined people of strong will and keen sense of awareness, able to predict the weather or a season simply by observing their surroundings, always adjusting and changing course to secure a better tomorrow. There is an old saying that kind of sums up Vermont: “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute, it will change.”
Vermonters have always been very adaptable to their surroundings, always willing to work hard to better their existence or help their neighbor in time of need. We take pride in our ancestors’ determination to succeed, and we are grateful they sought no other purpose beyond a more prosperous life for everyone. Their expectations were realistic — they recognized there were things they could not change, so they focused instead on the needs of the day to make life better for tomorrow.
Today as we move forward in pursuit of “global climate solutions,” we should keep in mind that activism and subsidy alone will not garner the trust of Vermonters that might otherwise be supportive of pursuing such goals, precisely because they imply force and manipulation is required to achieve them. This concept is contrary to Vermont’s tradition of working side by side to build a better life together.
Contemplating action in 2020, over 80 of our legislators have formed a Climate Solutions Caucus while hailing climate strikes and bold climate action to save our planet from an implied crisis. Vermonters are a frugal, hard-working people that will tackle any problem they must, but where is the imminent or obvious climate crisis in “our world of Vermont,” and how will subsidizing a global movement for other parts of the world help Vermonters contend with today’s shrinking standard of living, especially when that subsidy siphons off our capacity to remain strong and vibrant?
Vermonters are depending on our legislators to understand our plight. The Transportation and Climate Initiative” (TCI) is eager for Vermont’s commitment and participation in an agreement that would levy a carbon tax on gasoline, propane and fuel oil — all necessities for a rural state where people must commute to work and endure cold winter months. But this will remove dollars from our pockets at a time when we need more dollars to offset our affordability crisis, which is, in part, perpetuated by numerous subsidies already in place and entangled in our daily lives and monthly billings.
There are many agendas incorporated in global climate solutions, all seeking our dollars. But who do they benefit, and do our legislators truly understand they are charged with identifying agendas of appropriate priority for Vermonters?
If our ancestors have taught us anything, we must be aware of our surroundings and be flexible enough to adapt to the challenges we face. So, doing anything to further jeopardize affordability for Vermont workers would seem to be the last thing our legislators or governor should want to entertain.
Those who stand to gain most by subsidizing these agendas of climate crisis have a vested interest in developing a carbon tax, and they refer to it as “a negligible fee having less impact than typical market fluctuations” — but let’s not forget, these increases are in addition to, and on top of, the market prices we already pay.
However, these subsidies we are asked to finance merely reflect lofty goals and speculation that reach beyond our borders and far into the future. They confiscate our immediate future and yield no return beyond a promise that may never be realized even by future generations.
When it comes to agendas of investment, we must know for whom the bell tolls: Vermonters or developers?
Vermonters are more than willing to roll up our sleeves and work together on climate solutions that are sensible, affordable and that can be measured locally in the short term for accountability. But joining TCI would hobble us to the desires of a coalition, thus limiting our flexibility and ability to react to changes in circumstance, such as things like an introduction of new technology.
Vermonters recognize priorities to benefit Vermont must be balanced by the realization we will not save the planet by destroying prosperity in our world of Vermont.