Mixed results in aftermath of Vermont climate-economy discussions

During the summer and autumn of 2017, a series of public discussions spearheaded by the Vermont Council on Rural Development (VCRD) attempted to influence select Vermont communities to adopt climate-change-oriented economic plans.

Lou Varricchio/TNR

Jon Copans, director of VCRD’s Climate Economy Program

Billed as grassroots initiatives, the multi-town discussions got activists and local residents to explore everything from a carbon tax and alternative modes of transportation to abandonment of fossil fuels.

VCRD’s climate-change economy discussions got off to a contentious start in Pownal when some residents felt that the big hand of progressive state government was coming to town with an international green agenda.

Two years after the Pownal climate-economy discussion, Pownal Selectboard member Bob Jarvis still expresses concern and skepticism about the meetings, which ironically, didn’t make much of an impact on Pownal’s town plans.

“Of course that particular effort is over now, but I still assert that this was an example of ‘climate change’ being used for increasing government power and control,” Jarvis told True North in a recent interview.

Jarvis recalled that his concerns, as well as the concerns of other local voters, came from the “Progress for Vermont” report crafted by VCRD. The guide included objectives for “compact and smart growth development” and “a carbon pricing or trading structure for Vermont.”

Bob Jarvis

Pownal Selectboard member Bob Jarvis

“It’s a point of fact [that] the climate economy idea is really a state program, but the VCRD effort was being portrayed here as a grassroots initiative. To me that’s provably false,” he said. “Sure, some local folks joined and still support the climate-economy agenda, but you can always find local people to support a contentious national or international political agenda. So, just finding local people to agree does not mean it’s any kind of genuine grassroots effort.”

Jarvis noted that several residents were vocal in opposing the non-local effort. Some were critical of the fact that standard democratic processes such as open meeting laws, public comment sessions and town-wide voting were being ignored by VCRD.

One of those critics, Melissa Collins, told True North in 2017 she was skeptical of the way VCRD introduced the discussions to local residents.

“We aren’t allowed to vote on any of the initiatives coming out of the program that could change the very make-up of our town,” she said at the time. “They are fast-tracking the program and going all over the state, city by city.”

Jarvis said a couple local initiatives sprang from those discussions “but none of them ever made it to the balloting stage.”

Some Pownal voters who favored the climate economy discussions came away from the effort upset that little transpired, according to Jarvis.

“They lamented that they couldn’t have done more in getting a climate economy plan adopted because people like me opposed it as a government initiative,” Jarvis said. “They like to apply the term ‘provincial’ to folks like me who are wary of the origins of these plans.”

VCRD’s Jon Copans, who led the climate economy discussions in Pownal and elsewhere, has moved on from the 2017 public discussions.

“The way our program is designed,” Copans told True North, “is that we have a one-year commitment from when we kicked off the climate-economy program. … So I have not been involved in Pownal since then. But I was in Middlebury a few weeks ago, and things are mostly in the hands of the local team there and moving ahead”

Copans said that Middlebury had a Town Meeting Day resolution regarding the climate economy initiative that was “probably due to our discussions,” but added it’s now up to local task forces to move forward with plans that may have emerged from the original discussions.

“For example, Pownal Discover, based in Pownal, is a nonprofit group. It emerged after our discussions,” he said. “There was a recent task force pot luck gathering, so things are still underway there.”

But Jarvis says the experience illustrates an ongoing problem with Vermont’s so-called grassroots progressive politics.

“What I find troublesome after all this is said and done is that there are volunteer organizations that are being intertwined with government and organizations with national and international agendas,” Jarvis said. “I think this fact lessens the effectiveness of local volunteering; it should be separated.

“I see that many of the same people engaged (in these activist efforts) are actively engaged in government, too — they are on the selectboard and on local planning commissions. There are now all kinds of pressures on selectboards to relinquish their voice, decision making powers, and control to a new class of hired professionals.”

Some worry that a trend has begun that involves a transfer of power to planning commissions, which are not elected by the people, Jarvis says. For example, Pownal has not elected a new town administrator, and there has been a push to lessen the power of the selectboard.

“These are not good trends,” Jarvis said. “Many of these same individuals want to relinquish the power of local selectboards and see the increase of planning commission power, just as we redefine zoning and other regulations here in Pownal. There doesn’t seem to be a big desire to want to be creative in protecting the liberty of our citizens.”

Middlebury is another town targeted by the VCRD. The liberal community has been supportive of most climate-change efforts at the state and local level. On Town Meeting Day, voters in passed 350 Vermont’s Climate Solutions agenda for the town. Article 9, which was approved 802-237 by ballot voting, asked voters to advise the local Selectboard to send a letter to state legislators and Gov. Phil Scott to support a resolution that asked the state of Vermont to halt any new or expanded fossil fuel infrastructure and commit to 100 percent renewable energy by 2030, among other things.

Copans said the VCRD vision is catching on and growing, even two years after initial town visits.

“The climate-economy group in Middlebury led by Steve Maier and others may start up a non-profit to continue the agenda in the town and Addison County as a whole,” Copans told True North. “They will probably make an announcement about this soon, but it’s not my news to share at the moment.”

Lou Varricchio is a freelance reporter for True North Reports. Send him news tips at lvinvt@gmx.com.

Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Public domain, Lou Varricchio/TNR and Bob Jarvis
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8 thoughts on “Mixed results in aftermath of Vermont climate-economy discussions

  1. The problem I have with climate politics isn’t that the earth may or may not be warming. I suspect it is warming – at least in some places. But to use the phenomenon to justify a specific political/economic policy is dangerous because the policies may be wrong, and diverting precious energy and resources from other more prudent, less politically motivated policies may turn out to be our ultimate demise.

    CO2 is a trace gas. It accounts for 4/100ths of a percent of the earth’s atmosphere. The recent increase in CO2 (from 300 ppm to 400 ppm) is less than 1/100th of a percent of the earth’s atmosphere. CO2 levels have been higher in the past while the planet was colder than it is today. Something isn’t making sense with the notion that CO2 is the cause of climate change. It is, perhaps, more likely that CO2 is a symptom of the earth’s warming, not its cause.

    Now check out the earth’s north magnetic pole. The north magnetic pole has moved almost 700 miles closer to the geographic north pole over the last 150 years. In fact, it’s been moving faster over recent years – about 30 miles per year.

    Why does the magnetic pole move? “The Earth’s physical structure is behind all this magnetic shifting. The planet’s inner core is made of solid iron. Surrounding the inner core is a molten outer core. The next layer out, the mantle, is solid but malleable, like plastic. Finally, the layer we see every day is called the crust.” https://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/earth/geophysics/question782.htm

    Why is the ambient temperature of the artic north warming while other places on the planet aren’t? “Shifts in the core’s rate of spin and the currents within the molten material most likely affect the planet’s field and the location of the poles. In other words, the poles move because the convection in the core changes.”

    I’m not a scientist. But it occurs to me that we’re not considering plate tectonics – you know, the ongoing movement of the earth’s crust, the reason Kauai in the Hawaiian Islands is now west of the ‘Big Island’ where the volcanic activity is today, and why Kauai is, as a result, cooler than it was so many years ago.

    After all, there’s nothing we can do about plate tectonics. There’s nothing with which to make political hay. So, should we be playing around with arbitrarily assigned carbon tax credits that make some special interest groups wealthy at the expense of others. If it were me, I’d put my money in fusion reactors, like ITER in France or Lockheed-Martin’s compact fusion distributed electric generation. Yes, it may be another 20 years before fusion is practical. But what’s another 8 years from the existential 12 year end-of-time frame of the ‘Green New Deal’ – that is anything put a sure thing.

    At least fusion generated power is non-polluting with a sustainable source of fuel. It has the potential to power the entire planet. Perhaps this is why we don’t hear about these things. Not only will politicians be exposed for their attempts to scare the hell out of everyone for more votes, we’ll have a clean, sustainable power source that will disrupt the oil and gas industry, disrupt massive investments in solar panels, batteries and wind farms, and disrupt the carbon tax scam.

    Humankind won’t know what to do with itself in the face of such prosperity. Perhaps that’s why we don’t hear about plate tectonics and fusion. We won’t have to fight for anything – but our sanity.

    Just a thought.

    • It’s always interesting how the climate politics….never get to the problem, but they are rife with a tax being the ONLY solution, that government should run colleges and health care under the guess you’ll get it for free. Like what? What do taxes and free stuff have to do with the environment. Oh that’s right….NOTHING…..but it does conveniently march out the plan for the United Nations, one world love fest where they control all countries.

      Under the so appropriately named……sustainable communities. Pretty clever huh?

      Yeah, because even a person with single digit IQ realizes that America has it going on over any other country on the planet. That’s why everyone wants to be like us and even break laws to come into our country. They can’t call it what it truly is, because people wouldn’t buy it.

    • Hell yea, small fusion plants that can be buried with changeable reactor cores.
      They provide enough juice for a city so 1 per county should suffice. After 10-15
      yrs you just have the company change out the reactor cask and your back in
      business. No fields of black plastic or unsightly whirly gigs covering the mts.
      Just cheap reliable never ending power.

      Or just 1 big one but that couldn’t be buried and would attract the locus leftist
      anti nuke demonstrator whiners who’d be trying to shut it down.

  2. Oh my God, thank heaven for Bob Jarvis. This is the type of man or woman we need in higher office, he clearly can see and understand the con game that is being brought upon our state.

    Don’t Smoke the Astro Turf !!!!! and he has not….

    Unfortunately that fat joint of lies has been passed onto other towns…..probably enticed with LOT tax incentives, grant money, the usual buy ins. He is SOOOO correct about voters losing power. About planning commissions getting more, I”ll add the Regional Planning Commissions are just tools for those who want to enact Agenda 21 (the new world order) aka Sustainable Communities.

    These people are really into the kool aid.

    Vermont has such a systemic problem, it’s honestly impossible for most any normal Vermonter to understand the depth and complexity. Our media is so unbelievably bias and truly run by those in the DNC, 7 Days shares a life with Tim Ashe…certainly no influence. And Vermont Digger, who are their real benefactors? Look at the list….many, many protected by those in Montpelier, many out of state organizations funded by and implementing the plans of…..

    Yeah in our little state.

    There are many others like Bob Jarvis in our state that know what the hell is going on. Many, many of them. We need to lift them up, we need to give them a voice. They need to be constantly in the news, because chances are…they’re solving our problems and telling the truth.

    Kudos to a job well done Mr. Jarvis. Well done, well done indeed.

    • Very well written Neil. As I read this article last night all I could think about was our old town of residence and you current town of residence….Waitsfield. I could never get over how many governing bodies had their little piece of the regulatory pie.

    • “Look at the list….many, many protected by those in Montpelier, many out of state organizations funded by and implementing the plans of…..”
      …he who shall not be named, who has deep deep pockets and has stated a desire to dominate all markets, and ultimately the world. An egomaniac without a conscience who uses the compounded wealth obtained via their misery from those members of the race/religion that he, an actual atheist, purports to be a part of to achieve those ends,

      Because this amoralist creature has tentacles into American government at all–ALL–levels, via organizations under his direct or indirect control, “cui bono” must become primary watch words regarding our legislative and regulatory bodies. It’s safe bet that many of those who are offered or accept “inducements” have no knowledge of the actual source. To how many would it make any difference? Power and wealth are strong motivators.

      Bob Jarvis has shown himself to be very well informed, to the extent that he has gained the animosity of at least one member of the Select Board whose votes, remarks and expressions at the meetings speak volumes. Jarvis’s motion to appoint to the Planning Commission (where he had been serving Ex Officio) an unsuccessful candidate for re-election to the select board was met with her single dissenting vote. Coincidentally, she is one of four freshly elected selectmen (persons?) promoted by a shadowy junta in that small town, of which one member is a “selectperson” who had previously resigned with much flourish but continues to make her presence known by attending meetings to publicly comment.

      Small town politics, where it all begins. Getting informed and involved is not optional if this democratic republic is to survive.

  3. People can believe what they want to believe and that’s fine with me. But as soon as these people start worming their way into controlling our daily lives through more regulations and ill conceived laws, I have a BIG problem with that. This seems to be how the left (democrats, liberals, progressives, socialists, communists) operates. They have this misguided belief that they are all knowing, and that only THEY know what’s best for the rest of is. Maybe they’re the aliens come to save us from ourselves? The reality is, they are a disease that threatens our God given freedoms.

  4. It’s just more and more government control. Socialism is running full steam ahead in this State.
    Just remember at the polls in 2020..

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