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350Vermont organizes, educates, and supports people in Vermont to work together for climate justice â&#x20AC;&#x201D; resisting fossil fuels, building momentum for alternatives, and transforming our communities toward justice and resilience.
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Welcome to 350Vermont’s second issue of
Climate and COVID-19: A Community Conversation As with the first issue, our intention with this project is to deepen the dialogue around links between climate and COVID-19. We also want to connect Vermont artists with each other and with those receiving and witnessing the work. So much has happened since our deadline for submissions in May. When George Floyd was murdered, the Black Lives Matter movement gained enormous support and momentum. Because of the timing, only a few contributors highlighted the way racial injustice is interwoven with both the climate crisis and COVID-19. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died a few weeks ago, and as we write this, conservative judge Amy Coney Barrett is in the process of being confirmed to replace her, something that is likely to have serious ramifications for both health care and climate change. And voting is already underway for what is shaping up to be the most impactful and procedurally fraught election in most of our lifetimes. Even though most of the pieces don’t address these important developments, they still have direct relevance to what we’re living now. We hope the work in this issue helps you sort through the complications and challenges of the moment with a curious mind, an open heart, and an activist’s spirit. With love and light,
The 350Vermont Zine Team Olivia Fay Box, Lily Jacobson, Marisa D. Keller, and Gail Marlene Schwartz Design and Illustrations: Marcy Kass Questions and comments welcome to: firstname.lastname@example.org © 2020 by 350Vermont
350vermont.org 179 South Winooski Avenue, Suite 201 Burlington, VT 05401
Issu e 2 , FA LL 2020
free fall by Holly Greenleaf...................................................................................................... 1 Now Is Not the Time by Claire Swingle ...................................................................... 2 Where People, Planet, and Pandemic Intersect by Megan Hughes ........................................................................................................................... 4
Cinco de Mayo and Charlotte’s Birthday by Melody Reed.................................................................................................................................. 5
Fixing the Planet by Jana Zeller........................................................................................ 6 Connect the Dots: Coronavirus, Climate Change, and Racial Injustice by Anne D’Olivo .................................................................................................................................. 8
Seasonal Economics by Hannah Laga Abram................................................... 10 Photos by Kate Adams ............................................................................................................. 14 No Justice, No Survival by Nancy Braus ................................................................................................................................ 16
Covid Diary by Marcy Kass .................................................................................................. 18 The Climate Change Fight in the PostCOVID-19 World by Mark Benton ............................................................................... 20 Trump Finger by Matty King ............................................................................................ 22 Be Like a Butterfly by Caitlin Maloney..................................................................... 25 The Mixed Way Things Happen by Tara Allison Santi .................................................................................................................. 26
Three Poems by Monica Filippenko .......................................................................... 28 Let Health and Safety Experts Be Our Guides by Jack Hanson ............................................................................................................................... 32
COVID, Climate, and Culture by Cheryl Joy Lipton .......................................35 Earth Burning by Margaret Blanchard .................................................................... 37 Earth Day 2020 by Kevin O’Keefe ............................................................................... 38 Two Haikus by Louise Brill ................................................................................................. 40
free fall by H olly G reenleaf
the fragility i knew all along came knocking, unknowns rapidly wrapping and wreaking havoc. but who wreaks havoc also weaves magic. let us let go of our hold on control, obsession of creature comfort, making us mindless and dull. let us soften into the debris of our forgotten soul, awash on seven seas but never lost on me. it’s time to get comfortable with discomfort, gather up the pieces, neither push nor pull, let them settle in, fully full. we weave the magic that floats our bottomless boat, we’ve got the heart to fill it right up to the hull, and then some more. we’ve got the love to face all the fears. free fall is fine with me, i’ve got my heart, my soul, my eyes, and my ears. mother, sister, father, brother, most of all, we’ve got each other.
Holly Greenleaf is a lifelong Vermonter with a deep affinity for the people, mountains, and waterways that make up this place. She is an ecological landscape designer, a yoga teacher and student, and an artist living in Burlington.
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Now Is Not the Time by C laire Swingle
But the bigger lesson I’ve learned is that the colonialist mentality of our society, the elegant plunder of our economy, relies on our accepting that low-income, minority people will die so that the upper classes can continue with their lives as usual. We call for the collective sacrifice of workers without ensuring workplace safety measures, while the wealthy stay safe at home. We refuse to change our behavior despite millions of people dying every year due directly to famine and drought and flooding and water scarcity and fires that climate change brings and indirectly from the wars and conflicts and migration and loss of livelihoods that follow because, all in all, we, at the top, are doing okay right now.
Trump said recently, “The one thing that the pandemic has taught us is that I was right.” I’ve actually learned something different. I’ve learned that wasting valuable time when the science is clear means avoidable loss of lives and huge economic damage, both of which are disproportionately borne by specific populations. I’ve learned that how bad the climate crisis gets is still up to us. These are policy decisions, not inevitabilities.
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I’ve learned that when you say that addressing the problem is either too expensive or too difficult, you really mean that you would prefer to continue to maximize profits for the few at “extraordinary socioeconomic and ecological costs to the vast majority.”1 Now is not the right time, you say. Don’t be opportunistic, you say. But COVID-19 did not solve the climate crisis, and we still have only nine years left, so it is still the right time to talk about it. It is the only time we have left. 1
“We’re Not in This Together,” Ajay Singh Chaudhary, The Baffler.
“Exxon Confirmed Global Warming Consensus in 1982 with In-House Climate Models,” Inside Climate News.
Mary Annaise Hegler, Hot Take Podcast.
“We Were Eight Years in Power,” Ta Nehisi Coates.
Why is it self-interested to want to stop all preventable death, rather than only those related to COVID-19? My rage is proportional to the inanity of wasting this rare opportunity to shape a dramatically more resilient society. Instead, you’ve chosen to sink funds into fossil fuels and to allow those funds to be used to pay off debt totally unrelated to the pandemic and completely related to the structural implosion of the Ponzi scheme business model. Did you know fracking has never made a profit? You’ve chosen to push through new fossil fuel infrastructure — pipelines through Indigenous lands despite protests, public land opened to new drilling — that locks us into emissions way past the point when scientists agree that I will not have a future to inhabit. You’ve chosen not to regulate any pollution so industries can emit whatever they want directly into our air and water, at the same time that you ask to be allowed not to pay into the Black Lung Fund during this difficult time for your bottom line. Does that really make more sense to you than using our taxpayer resources to fund infrastructure, jobs, and clean energy technologies to meet the needs of this century while, at the same time, reducing pollution and addressing climate change? Why is that called efficiency when it’s related to business but opportunism when I plead for it? You say you have absolute authority to reopen the economy but no responsibility to test or to prevent deaths, just like you pretend absolute authority over nature but no responsibility to prevent climate catastrophe. If you want to be a “realist” and say, “I accept the loss of lives and the $2 trillion annual price tag to deal with the impacts because I have profited mightily from forty years of ignoring
the science and will continue to do so,” then fine. But at least say that’s what you’re doing. Because there is no such thing as a “denialist.” There is no debate about the science. It is settled. It has been since 1982, when Exxon Mobil’s own internal scientists concluded, that “...a clear scientific consensus has emerged regarding the expected climatic effects of increased atmospheric CO2.”2 If you’ve decided that it is not in your financial interest to save the rest of us, then at least get out of my way. I don’t have the time to re-explain to you why a snowflake in May doesn’t disprove global warming because the clock, it ticks down, ticks down, ticks down, ticks down, ticks down, ticks down, ticks down. What are the similarities between COVID-19 and climate change, you ask? And I respond: why do we have to couch an existential crisis into something that you happen to care about right now? Why can’t we fully express our grief, our anger, our hope in conversations directly about the climate crisis at hand? What are the similarities between COVID-19 and climate change, you ask? And I respond: How I feel watching the people in power sell my generation out. Stop trying to tell me that it’s suicide. It’s murder. And I won’t be complicit. 3 You can lie to yourself, and lie to the world, but you can never force me to lie to myself. 4 Claire Swingle is currently pursuing a master’s in environmental management at the Yale School of the Environment. She is a Colorado native and Vermont transplant and will go wherever the mountains are.
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Where People, Planet, and Pandemic Intersect by M egan H ughes
The global shutdown from the coronavirus has muffled humancaused seismic shudders in the Earth’s crust. The link between pandemic and planet might ripple out in other ways as well. In addressing COVID-19, there may be ways to create jobs and slow climate change as well as save lives. Often novel threats like the coronavirus spring from human contact with wildlife displaced by habitat destruction. Measures to preserve animal habitats could save lives as well as nurture biodiversity. Pollution has been linked to increased mortality from COVID-19. Efforts to reduce pollution would have a double
benefit of saving lives and reducing the advance of climate change. As countries work to recover, stimulus funds could be funneled to support green jobs, local production, and remote work that could have the three-fold impact of providing income, reducing greenhouse gases, and creating a sustainable economy. Ironically, efforts to combat coronavirus and climate change both share the problem of “the paradox of prevention” where preventative steps effective at the societal level result in an impact that can be invisible at the individual level. Solving this conundrum might go a long way to dealing with both challenges.
Sources “How will the world’s COVID-19 response impact the environment?,” Lori Friedman, Phys, 5/12/2020. “These charts show how coronavirus has ‘quieted’ the world,” Maya Wei-Haas, National Geographic, 4/8/2020. “Pandemic side-effects offer glimpse of alternative future on Earth Day 2020,” Oliver Milman, The Guardian, 4/22/2020. “Coronavirus lockdowns have changed the way Earth moves,” Elizabeth Gibney, Nature, 3/31/2020.
“The environmental upside of the virus shows the green way ahead,” Monica Medina and Miro Korenha, The Washington Post, 3/31/2020. “How Coronavirus Could Help Us Fight Climate Change: Lessons From The Pandemic,” David Vetter, Forbes, 3/30/2020. “How air pollution exacerbates Covid-19,” Isabelle Gerretson, BBC Future Planet, 4/27/2020. “Human impact on wildlife to blame for spread of viruses, says study,” John Vidal, The Guardian, 4/7/2020.
Megan Hughes writes on systemic issues through the blog The All Call and was with the Fall Mountain Alliance in Walpole, New Hampshire, when it was active.
Cinco de Mayo and Charlotte's Birthday by M elody R eed
May 5th is Cinco de Mayo and also my granddaughter Charlotte’s birthday. This year she turned six years old during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, which she refers to as “the itis.” Because of the “itis,” an in-person birthday party was sadly out of the question. Her Mom, Charity, had a fun plan. She emailed the neighborhood information site and invited folks to make Charlotte’s Day special by chalking the sidewalk in front of their homes with happy birthday messages. And she also mentioned that Charlotte likes rainbows. The family planned a walk around the neighborhood on the special day at 2:00 p.m. Thankfully, it was a beautiful spring day, and Charlotte was absolutely delighted as neighbors shouted, “Happy birthday Charlotte!” from their porches and driveways. One couple blasted “Over the Rainbow” through speakers; another neighbor had set up an entire tea party photo op, complete with every stuffed animal left behind by her now adult children. Mailboxes were decorated with bows and poster-sized birthday cards, and of course, messages were chalked on the sidewalks all along the way. I heard Charlotte exclaim, “This is the best birthday ever!” as she skipped around the neighborhood.
Rob helped me to keep up with the birthday girl, and we were both moved to tears as the neighbors so enthusiastically made this a most memorable birthday for Charlotte and all of us. Melody Reed is an artist who lives with her husband off-the-grid in Chester. She is a board member of Chester Community Greenhouse & Gardens and member of Mountain Valley Climate Action 350VT.
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Fixing the Planet by Jana Z eller
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Artistâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s statement There is frustration and hardship in recognizing that the COVID-19 pandemic is exposing racial, economic, and social injustice, corporate greed and failed leadership, and that so many people are dying. There is also hope. As a family, we had great moments in the months of the lockdown, and some of the changes we have implemented in our lifestyle are changes I always suspected we had to make in order to help address the climate crisis. We have slowed down, are consuming less, and hardly drive at all. We needed this sudden disruption of business as usual to achieve these changes. We are recognizing that drastic and sweeping measures can be taken and that we have the capacity to change the course of our society. As an artist, I have always been interested in absurd circumstances. Highlighting the absurd elements of a situation can bring humor and astonishment to issues that are serious and full of doom. Sometimes I feel that my little efforts of recycling, using a bamboo toothbrush, and riding my bike whenever possible are absurd in the face of how huge our problem is and how much more the people in other places are suffering from the climate crisis. But like Gretel in my drawing, who despite the precarious tower of obstacles underneath her feet keeps laser focus on her impossible task, I keep going as well, fixing little things along the way. I will always be an optimist. Jana Zeller is a working artist. She performs and teaches puppetry, and has been a painter for most of her life. She teaches art classes for children in her studio. She lives with her family in Brattleboro.
Connect the Dots Coronavirus, Climate Change, and Racial Injustice by A nne D â&#x20AC;&#x2122;Olivo
Where to begin? The start of a thesis, or a summary? So much, so little. Social injustice. The 1% vs. the 99%. How do we change that? We have to take a global perspective. Look at the countries that are succeeding in both the pandemic and climate change. Take New Zealand for example. Led by a female leader who is young, who cares about her people, who is trying to do the right thing in this contrary age. Then we have the USA, led by a male leader who is old, who has no empathy, who does not lead by example, and who is totally contrary. Some say this country is doing better than most, but in what way? Economically? Perhaps for a few, but for how long? Certainly not the best in terms of cases and deaths during the pandemic, and certainly not in our response to climate change. In fact,
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we are the worst country in both counts. The worst in terms of data, the worst in terms of the Paris Climate Agreement, the worst in terms of global cooperation. Since 2016, this country has isolated itself from the rest of the world. What we had previously has been dismantled in four short years. So what does this all mean, and how are COVID-19 and climate change influencing each other? We know for a fact that BIPOC low-income communities are affected by both the pandemic and climate change to the point where their health, their livelihoods, and their very lives are in danger. As an example, look at what is happening in the Navajo nation. The majority have no electricity, therefore no internet, no local healthcare, no insurance, no running water with which to wash their hands, little employment, no decent access to
food except junk food at gas stations. These are the Indigenous people of our country, and yet they are suffering more than the majority from both COVID-19 and climate change. And yet, they are the very people we should look to in order to figure out what steps we should take to save the planet and save ourselves. They respect Mother Earth and all her species, they take only what they need, and they give back what they have taken. That is their way. We need to honor that. Climate change is affecting the COVID-19 pandemic and other viruses now and into the future. It won’t end here unless we make a change at the highest level. We are at the mercy of those who decide policy and budgets at every level of government. We the people can vote for those who represent us and we can use our common sense in everyday decisions at home and in our community to stay healthy and reduce our carbon footprint. Simple solutions like recycling, reusing, renewing, regenerating materials, and supporting a green, sustainable planet would prevent pollutants and other environmental hazards that inevitably lead to new and unprecedented health pandemics beyond what we could ever imagine. The coronavirus outbreak is a warning of what could be if we don’t act.
the internet, social media, global trade, a certain respect for each other’s cultures (at least, as far as popular culture including food, music, fashion, dance, and entertainment). We are on a launching pad. Yes, it is a different world in which we are living than before but… Let’s think about that for a moment. Isn’t that the very point where we need to make a change? Choose: do or die? So let’s make a difference now. Embrace the opportunity that we have and reach across the continents. Here in the U.S. or in other parts of the world, don’t we all want to survive, to enjoy nature, fresh air, clean water, good food, good company? We are all human—let’s care for and love each other and look beyond our differences. That is the best of what we are. Make it so. Anne D’Olivo founded the 350VT node Earth Matters Manchester in 2017, which now has over 250 members. In three short years, the group persuaded seven towns to pass a resolution against new fossil fuel infrastructure and create an energy efficiency policy, pushed the state legislature to ban single-use plastics, and organized rallies in the Northshire region. Anne recently became a Climate Reality Leader and is a professional pianist, percussionist, and singer.
The only hope is that we make a concerted effort to change our leadership, not only here in the U.S., but all over the world. We need strong leadership to persuade communities that we are all in this together and that we need to work together. It is really the only way. Yes, there are social, economic, cultural, and religious barriers. But surely we have gotten to the point in our human development that we can reach beyond all of that. We now have
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Seasonal Economics by H annah L aga Abram
I keep growing my nails out for no reason, just To prove I’m still something Wild. The skin underneath storms
like a Monet painting seen under blurred
Lids, color congealed. Spring too eats herself inside
out, crocus tongue nudging
Between thighs and new moons, interrupted As always, by newsprint. Friend, I swear
if ink spilled from my lower back I still
Could not comprehend so many facts. I don’t mean the numbers, the lives
lost that spread in thick green and pink on the maps,
Or the curved charts and tumbling dollar signs, But that we, apparently, coexist
with this insurmountable amount of ultimate truths.
Truths flat enough to plot on a graph. I don’t know about you,
but my life sure isn’t like that. Birds
Pattern themselves like roiling odes To the sky, a brush of lips under my collarbone
and I’m turned into a quivering spring at high summer.
I’ve heard coyotes teasing the wind in the mountains these past nights. So we’re still awake
shivering in the loud heartbeat of time.
Humble your senses then, and listen. Isn’t this the growth, the longing?
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where are the wells? where are the wells? I don’t remember, do you? those ringing places where singing grows out of the fingers and into toes, the spring signals of raven smooth water where wellness flows — tell me a story. no! wait! slow down, not the one I’ve heard so many times before: that single hero, straight and tall and always alone, carrying glory on his shoulders like some heavy cloak. friend, that story really doesn’t work. it makes us feel so brave when we like a facebook post or send a photo to (imagine it) everyone we know — we’ve begun to call that resistance. though right outside the window that pretends at being sky, the soil is rich with dancing, the wheeling and felt connecting roots of every kind. mycelium reaching through moisture and the tenderness of time feeding difference with contact. slow down your voice friend, your eagerness to know — DETENTE! STOP! WE MEAN IT THIS TIME. SLOW DOWN. slow down, slow down. slow down until you are a spring creek. then slow down more. slow down until you are a ponderosa pine, thick with alluring scent, or a juniper tree releasing pollen into the wind. then slow down more. slow down until you are a rock. or better yet, the soil underneath that rock. slow down until you can feel all of those small creatures moving inside you, reaching and touching, intertwining meaning deep into the dark. down. slow down. down. there is so much motion,
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even when you are sitting still. it sounds something like this. we have been watching the skyscrapers in your mind begin to lean. we have been watching the desire in your skin turn to ash and violence, neglected. we have been watching the wisdom in your spine and foot-soles become paper-thin and squeaky, like a bike thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s out of use. we, wonder of your heart, are sickening with lack of praise. we are all implicated in this dying. because we are all out of practice breathing. what do you mean, you say, am I not always constantly breathing? I could have sworn I learned that. science class. but. breathing does not mean taking air into your lungs, flooding your body with oxygen, exhaling carbon dioxide. that is only half the story. breathing means courting air, this magical-complex-always-moving-substance we live INSIDE, into body, through lungs and hair and blood, transforming it with your contact, the intimacy of your insides, into a gift, a blessing, to the green earth. breathing is relationship, far more intimate and consistently terrifying than any loverâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s touch, but filled with the same indispensable nourishment and unutterable, fathomless longing. slow down until we all start breathing again.
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then perhaps, we will remember the beating riot of dandelions beneath our feet. the sharp hereness of pine needles, the deep language of welling tears this urgency we are living is stuck in our throats and drowning our lungs. our fire may have been stolen but coyote is still among us. can we hold the desert storm in our seed pod collected words gently? learn to treat disaster as an elder in our circle and breathe? transformation is that simple. resistance â&#x20AC;&#x201D; true resistance â&#x20AC;&#x201D; is that hard. as difficult as gathering in handheld communion with a community whose name we only half-remember and trusting that silence enough to draw breath. so tell me a story. about my life this time, and yours.
Hannah Laga Abram is a rising sophomore at Middlebury College.
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Kate Adams Artist’s statement This morning I heard the call of the pileated woodpecker, then a flash of the black and white plumage pulled by the direction of the red-capped head. I grabbed my camera and stepped slowly towards a tree that this messenger had landed on. I steadied the camera body as the lens circled the image and caught glimpses on the memory card, then sank onto the dew-wet grass as the bird hopped onto a decaying maple stump and began to pound into the soggy dead wood. Pieces of bark and wood flew through the air as she twisted her head to choose the location of the next assault that would uncover insects for her meal. The first eruption of the virus news provoked fear and concern, not unlike that which vibrates in my heart and mind when I see the images of earth destruction caused by climate changes caused by human greed and destruction of the natural resources and processes of our Mother Earth who holds us lovingly within her domain. The image of the hen who has conceived, brooded, and hovers to protect her chick gives me comfort. The words of a loving God are visualized for me: “She who dwells in the shelter of the most high will remain secure and rest in the shadow of the Almighty... for She will cover me and protect me with Her pinions and under her wings I will find refuge.” (Psalm 91) I have moved from pandemic panic to a pasture peacefulness on my small Vermont farm where I raise and nurture horses, hens, a rescued puppy, and myself to share with folks who struggle with the stresses of post trauma, differences of attention distraction, illness of addictions. Loss of my teaching income and isolation left me stranded with more time for dwelling in creation with awareness and appreciation. Creation comforts me... creation teaches me... critters delight me with their joy of life. I observe and learn healthy and natural family connections of creation that nurture and sustain. I have learned and seek to learn and practice more of the life-sustaining principles and practices that yield the fruit of life that embraces community, connection that heals rather than the control of greed that ravages. I am retired from teaching in public and private schools, but I am a lifelong learner who continues to engage in curiosity, beauty, and joy in how I care for the earth, critters, and humans and seek the connection of healthy community that respects the gifts given into our care. Much in my life has changed with the pandemic: isolation, financial struggle, how to provide for the animals in my care, seeking safe ways to share resources that may comfort and teach others a new way... a God-given natural way to live. Watching the birds gives me hope. On the farm pond, a merganser hen was teaching a younger one to investigate the man-made wood duck box for a future nest. The domestic hen still knows how to shelter her young and teach them to live in this world. The woodpecker encouraged me to scrutinize, twist my head in new directions, and persist to peck away at the old, searching the sustaining food in the new. I capture a glimpse, observe and ponder, I celebrate the joy of the teaching and beauty and seek new ways to be in community. I find rest under her wings. Kate Adams shares the beauty of creation and her horses as teachers/ healers at Ascutney Mtn Horse Farm, Ascutney.
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No Justice, No Survival How the COVID and Climate Crises Can Pull Us Together or Tear Us Apart by Nanc y B raus
I live in a rural spot in Vermont. While the social distancing has been a challenge, I absolutely cannot say I have personally suffered during this crisis. However, the pain, loss, and challenges of those who have less, live in tiny spaces around the world, are housing-insecure, and continue to suffer from COVID-19 and its aftereffects are always in my consciousness at this time.
These same ignorant and corrupt officials have decided that the U.S. needs to do nothing to create resilience in the face of the floods, fires, extensive heat waves, storms, drought, new diseases, and unknown effects of climate destruction. While visiting a friend in the Netherlands, I was overwhelmed by the intelligence and planning that went into the
The very idea that we cannot come together to protect millions of the most vulnerable citizens from COVID-19, as well as from the climate crisis, makes me very sad and angry. The COVID-19 pandemic is visibly and graphically revealing some of the many ways that the economic chasm between wealthy people and those who are financially struggling deepen during a major disaster. The climate crisis has the potential to create a tremendous societal shutdown causing a much longer disruption of the economy and the social fabric and an even more unequal distribution of wealth. The United States, especially under the current disastrous regime, slashed the entire pandemic preparation budget for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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system of dikes along the North Sea, protecting the flower fields and other critical segments of the Dutch economy. And I realized this could never happen in the U.S. because coastal land is privately owned by the wealthiest Americans. In the largest coastal cities and areas, in the entire dry Western U.S., and all of us are basically sitting ducks. The U.S. spends billions of dollars on reacting to emergencies, with money often flowing to the affluent who are well insured and can afford to rebuild, and into the coffers of businesses with ties to the party in power. And we see that those who are hurt, killed,
and suffer the greatest losses are often people of color, those who already had medical issues, or those who have no cash reserve for even a $250 emergency. Look at Puerto Rico, where many are still suffering. Who is still housing-insecure who lived in Paradise, California?
we need to fight for smart preparations. We absolutely need to work for a more equitable and just society so that when these inevitable climate events happen, we do not let a corrupt government pay off its cronies and let those without any friends in high places suffer yet again.
In Rebecca Solnit’s book, A Paradise Built in Hell, she describes natural and human-made disasters where community togetherness made a huge difference in the outcomes and the memories of survivors. Donald Trump and the Republican party have intentionally created a divisiveness
Nancy Braus is a longtime environmental and justice activist who is currently volunteering for David Zuckerman’s election. She is the owner and buyer for Everyone’s Books in Brattleboro, and has the great good fortune to have grandchildren who love to hike with her.
that is harming the entire country. Countries like New Zealand, with leadership that pulled people together, have COVID-19 under control. In this country, many states are being threatened by Trump-inspired, heavily-armed thugs who oppose any kind of unity in the pursuit of a healthy and safe country. The very idea that we cannot come together to protect millions of the most vulnerable citizens from COVID-19, as well as from the climate crisis, makes me very sad and angry. And it should worry us all, as even in the unlikely event that there is not a second wave of this pandemic, the next crisis is around the corner, and it will probably be precipitated by our lack of willingness to face the climate disaster full on. In the face of a rapidly warming world where changes are moving even more quickly than the scientists’ warnings,
Art on the following pages:
M arc y Kass These times are so extraordinary that I wanted to record them — first in writing, then fleshed out as a visual diary, rewriting as I went. The reason I was able to include the news of George Floyd and the upsurge of racism awareness that followed was because I designed this zine, and so had more time. This piece was a rare effort into synthesizing my painting, drawing, lettering, design, and writing. It’s kind of like a serious comic book. Marcy Kass is a member of 350Burlington and Sustainable Williston.
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The Climate Change Fight in the Post-COVID World Who will come out ahead of the game when the pandemic smolders out? by Mark B enton
I was very surprised to hear that air quality had improved in such a short period of time during the global quarantine last spring — just two and a half months. I know that it felt much longer than that, but two and a half months of quarantine next to one and a half centuries of fossil fuel emissions might add some perspective. NASA says that “…the nitrogen dioxide levels in March 2020 were about 30% lower on average across the region of the I-95 corridor from Washington, DC to Boston than when compared to the March mean of 2015-19.” This is a pretty good example of what was going on in the air around every major metropolitan area in the world last spring. Unfortunately, carbon dioxide levels were still very high. I guess we can’t have it all. When I had accepted that businesses were shutting down and everyone would be staying home for the foreseeable future, it never occurred to me that the climate would show the slightest blip of a rebound, unless we were talking about a year or more of quarantine (not something we want to think about too much). Not being a climatologist, I would have guessed that five years would be necessary to show us any significant
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change — had enough time gone by for me to ask the question to myself. When we do reach a state of “normalcy” in the aftermath of COVID-19, as long as business continues per usual, NO2 levels and other greenhouse emissions will resume their full concentrations, but we will not be able to forget those low numbers from March and April as much as the fossil fuel industry will want us to. As millions of businesses closed their doors
and everyone retreated to their prospective domiciles, many pipeline projects in the U.S. struggled to keep their proverbial doors open. Thriving Pipelines Spread the Virus A portion of the Mariner East 2 Pipeline Project in Pennsylvania found a loophole in the form of a waiver from the governor to override the shutdown restrictions to the project. The waiver claimed that the unfinished site next to the Pennsylvania Turnpike west of Harrisburg raised public safety and environmental issues, not to mention the “necessity” of energy. The same goes for Virginia and West Virginia’s Mountain Valley Pipelines, where work was allowed to continue despite shutdown orders. Similar to the Mariner East’s claim that existing boreholes could collapse, causing future problems. Who needs waivers when you have the president of the United States backing you up? He hasn’t exactly been tightlipped about his intentions for natural gas and oil delivery systems.
This seemed to keep the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines chugging right along during quarantine. Utilities involved even wanted to double the amount of oil that flows through the Iowa portion of the DAPL project despite the order of a North Dakota federal judge to issue a “full environmental review” of the construction. With all of these pipeline projects importing workers to the various sites, locals rightly voiced their concerns about newcomers spreading COVID-19 to their communities. The North Brooklyn Pipeline in NYC didn’t stop production until two days after a worker was infected. They reportedly only stopped after photos of construction workers working side-by-side hit the media. With Indigenous communities already feeling the negative impact of out-of-town-workers employed by Keystone XL and Dakota Access for the past several years, this has been a huge slap in the face. Not only are they dealing with ancestral land infringement, water pollution, and harassment and assault, now they have to contend with COVID-19 containment issues where emergency healthcare is not the most accessible service on the reservation. The pandemic has severely slackened the over-watch of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission regarding standard safety procedures and environmental policy. But really…
especially in terms of the EPA, it’s not like they were doing much of that over the last three years anyway, so not a huge impact there. I’m sure many of you out there are scratching your heads like I am with this big push to finish American pipeline projects. Yes, there was virtually no green opposition in the field and very little government oversight, but oil stocks are dead in the water, just like all the wildlife after Exxon Valdez, Deepwater Horizon, and all the other negligent incidents. Storage facilities are reaching capacity. They can barely give the stuff away. Except for the concept of stockpiling, I don’t get it… especially in the wake of a global pandemic. Not all environmental impacts of the pandemic are benign Speaking of oversight or the lack thereof, COVID-19’s impact on the environment has not all been good. The overseeing and preservation of parks and fragile ecosystems all over the world have also been suspended. This has led to a resurgence of
poaching endangered species and illegal deforestation. Waste has also been a big, big smelly problem. Many recycling and waste facilitation plants have closed operations resulting in severe build-up and overhaul. Organic waste is also a huge issue with restrictions to import fishery and agricultural shipments. I am reminded of the American government voluntarily creating the same volumes of rotting fish, veggies, fruits, and meat during its trade war with China back in the summer of 2018. At least this time, we didn’t have much of a choice. So, as Earth Day approached toward the end of April, green organizations began gearing up for a very outspoken, albeit virtual, celebration. Between hopeful environmental gains and saddening losses, absolutely everyone had to listen this year, but on the morning of Earth Day, as Bill McKibbon of 350.org put it, “A Bomb in the Center of the Climate Movement” was dropped.
M attY King A Gift... A Gift, for those scared of change, resistant to unity, and blind to reality. Crafted from a piece of ash firewood, throughout the evening of November 8th, 2016. Chiseled by hand, finished by spokeshave.
Matty King is a wood and metalworker living in Burlington, currently attending the University of Vermont. Screw Donald Trump. Send any questions/inquiries to email@example.com. Photo by Danny Holman
A Film Against Green Progress “Planet of the Humans,” a documentary produced by the hugely outspoken, left-wing film-maker, Michael Moore, was posted on Youtube. In the past, I have admired Moore’s forthcoming documentaries, speaking out against gun violence, worker and prisoner rights, and the relationship between world powers and “big oil.” Now he was speaking out against renewable energy of all things, questioning its validity and claiming that the green movement has all been corporate propaganda for profiting off of wind, solar, biomass, and other renewables. My immediate suspicion was that Michael Moore had sold out to the fossil fuel industry. So, I sat down to watch and realized that Moore and his colleagues are truly climate change alarmists who believe that as a society we should learn to accept our fate as an unsustainable population and stop lining corporate pockets in the name of green renewables. Okay, so he doesn’t deny the science, but that doesn’t mean that we should sit on our laurels and do nothing… and it certainly doesn’t mean that he didn’t sell out. Perhaps the fossil fuel infrastructure has given up on denying global warming. Now it might be just a last-ditch effort to debunk green energy. “Hey, let’s pay Michael Moore a disgusting amount of money to do it.” This is probably why it was a no-brainer for him to put it up on YouTube for free. “Solar and wind are unreliable. We’ll need traditional sources to fill the energy gap they’ll create. It takes just as much conventional energy to sustain green energy.” Blah, blah, blah. A few statements in the film hold some truth. Sustainable energy is nowhere near perfect… yet. No one has claimed that it would be easy or cheap to make the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy. We simply have to drop our greed and bite the bullet. Besides, renewable energy technology is being updated and improved daily, and the research and findings of “Planet of the Humans”
are ten years out of date. We do recognize the need for fossil fuel consumption in order to have a smooth transitional period, but there are ways to mitigate those emissions. Among some of the new technologies out there, carbon capture is one of the more exciting. “Carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology and managing methane emissions throughout the fossil energy value chain can help meet ambitious CO2 emission reduction targets, while fossil fuels remain part of the energy system,” says Scott Foster and David Elzinga of the United Nations Sustainable Energy Division. It is no secret that Michael Moore is not a Donald Trump fan, but concerning the many voters who were on the fence about renewable energy, and judging by the slough of hate mail Bill McKibben received, this documentary has most likely put a dent in the “Green New Deal” as a Democratic nominee endorsement, giving Trump a distinct advantage in the upcoming primaries. COVID-19 Takeaways for the Environment Let’s get back to what’s really important: what we can do and what we have learned from all this. Studies have found that people who were in areas vulnerable to air pollution, which tend to be on the low end of the socioeconomic ladder, were far more susceptible to SARS, which is basically another coronavirus. The same has been said for COVID-19. It has also been found that these airborne viruses have a proclivity for adhering to large concentrations of particulates from fossil fuel emissions. We could have had a far greater number of COVID-19 casualties if the worldwide shutdown had not reduced air pollution. Let us keep in mind that if SARS could repeat itself in the form of COVID-19, what are the possibilities of this happening again? It is clear what we have to do.
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So, the fight continues. Every time I use the word “fight” when talking about climate justice, it’s always in terms of activists fighting the fossil fuel infrastructure. In the war for our lives against a biosphere that is trying to cleanse itself of its own virus, we have to fight against greed as well. I’ll leave you with a reminder from science fiction writer Kim Stanley Robinson, something that helps me ask and answer my biggest question in this crisis: “There will be enormous pressure to forget this spring and go back to the old ways of experiencing life. And yet forgetting something this big never works. We’ll remember this even if we pretend not to. History is happening now, and it will have happened. So what will we do with that?” Mark Benton is an English language teacher in Hanoi, Vietnam, hailing from the Burlington area of Vermont. Having witnessed the environmental degradation of our biosphere from various viewpoints around the world firsthand, he is very concerned about the future stability of all life on this planet and hopes that the “powers that be” will wake up soon.
Resources “Climate Action Can Help to Fight Pandemics,” Aaron Bernstein, Project Syndicate, May 5, 2020. https://www.project-syndicate.org/ commentary/climate-action-helps-to-fightpandemics-by-aaron-bernstein-2020-05
”The Role of Fossil Fuels in a Sustainable Energy System,” Scott Foster and David Elzinga, The United Nations. https://www.un.org/en/chronicle/article/ role-fossil-fuels-sustainable-energy-system
“Coronavirus and climate: how much impact is the current lockdown really having on our environment?” Jeremy Wilks & John-Paul Ging, Euro News, April 28, 2020. https://www.euronews.com/2020/04/13/ covid-19-and-climate-how-much-impact-is-thecurrent-lockdown-really-having-on-ourenvironment
“Environmental impacts of coronavirus crisis, challenges ahead,” Robert Hamwey, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development , April 20, 2020. https://unctad.org/en/pages/newsdetails. aspx?OriginalVersionID=2333
“Amid COVID-19 Pandemic, Some Pipeline Projects Push Forward While Others Falter Nationwide,” Sharon Kelly, Desmog, April 3, 2020. https://www.desmogblog.com/2020/04/03/ covid-pipelines-kxl-dapl-mariner-east-energytransfer
“US Pipeline Projects Move Forward Amid Covid-19 Crisis,” Fiona McLeod, Earth Island Journal, April 30, 2020. https://www.earthisland.org/journal/index.php/ articles/entry/pipeline-projects-move-forwardamid-covid-19-crisis/
“NASA Satellite Data Show 30% Air Pollution Drop over the Northeastern US,” NASA Global Climate Change, April 13, 2020. https://climate.nasa.gov/news/2970/ nasa-satellite-data-show-30-air-pollution-dropover-the-northeastern-us/
“A Bomb in the Center of the Climate Movement: Michael Moore Damages Our Most Important Goal,” Bill McKibben, Rolling Stone Magazine, May 1, 2020. https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/ political-commentary/bill-mckibben-climatemovement-michael-moore-993073/
“The Coronavirus Is Rewriting Our Imaginations,” Kim Stanley Robinson, The New Yorker, May 1, 2020. https://www.newyorker.com/culture/ annals-of-inquiry/the-coronavirus-and-ourfuture
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caitlin malone y
When making this piece, I wanted to create something that represented nature but also recognized the huge shift that was happening for people as the pandemic progressed. Butterflies are the perfect example of how drastic change can result in something beautiful. We are at a point where I think we could have a great change in our destructive ways as humans, resulting in something beautiful.
I created this piece digitally on an iPad with the Procreate app. If you want to see more of my art, find me on Instagram @awanderingpine. Caitlin Maloney has been combining her love for the environment and art since she finished her master’s degree in ecology a few years ago. She grew up in Maine but now lives in Essex Junction with her family.
The Mixed Way Things Happen or
George Floyd Protests During a Pandemic TA RA ALLI S ON SA N TI Artist’s statement I made this watercolor on June 1st, just as the protests were beginning in earnest. But as I thought about them and the institutional racism the protestors were decrying, I couldn’t help but place them in the even wider context of the havoc coronavirus is wreaking, especially on Black and brown people, and the still wider context of climate change and an increasing environment of uncertainty and fear. In my mind and in the world, all these crises are bound up with one another, all linked through histories and practices of colonialism and extractivism. I painted in watercolors because all the colors bled together— it’s impossible to say where one color ends and the next begins, much like the crises we’re experiencing today. For me, it is a reminder that we cannot address any of these crises without addressing all of them. Tara Allison Santi is a recent graduate of Middlebury College and currently lives in Golden, Colorado. She is studying the changing landscape of climate and environmental education and in her spare time enjoys trying to grow new flowers and playing ultimate frisbee.
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Be the Heart of the Earth by M onica Filippenko
1. Feel how your breathing makes more space around you. Everything is all right, say the trees. I will heal, says the Earth. Humans have changed so much, and so little. Do not worry, time will eventually swallow all of their mistakes. But what about the pain? The Earth is learning. Pain is part of learning. She will eventually transform that which does not serve balance. Pain rises and then fades. The woodpecker drums. The quivering golden beech leaves mark my passage through these heavens. The land lies soft, full of water. It is all an end, and a beginning.
2. What is real? These days, as I walk in the woods or sit in silence, I have been overcome by an even stronger sense than usual about what is truth and what is simply noise. The modern human world is nothing more than a complex construct of the mind. Yes, it is actually happening; yes, it is actually wreaking havoc — but ultimately, it is nothing more than a moment of noise. Noise with devastating consequences, but at the end of the day, only noise. As deafening as it is, and as quickly as it rose seemingly to dominate so much of what is happening on Earth, its volume will diminish, and its facade of control will crumble rapidly. Because it is not real. The forest — the silence there, the presence, the constant embodied interconnectedness, the yielding, the flow — that is real. The stillness of the mind and softness of the heart — that is real. The Life of the Earth, the union of matter and consciousness engaged in an energetic unfolding, in need of no analysis, dominated by no ideology, existing for no purpose other than to simply be — that is what is real.
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I know I will have to navigate the dream of humanity and its consequences for the world as long as I am alive. But it helps to keep sight of the truth, keep my awareness focused and thus my energy flowing into reality, and not let myself be drowned by the petty and grotesque aspects of the human drama. Though the effects of this drama are often unbearable to witness and experience, they will fade â&#x20AC;&#x201D; either as human beings fade from existence, or perhaps as our consciousness collectively awakens. Whenever and however the noise dissipates, the forest will remain. Or if the forest has changed form somehow, the truth she embodies will remain: the Life Force of the Earth, the utter simplicity of Beingness. It watches as we contort ourselves into madness, lost from understanding. It will watch as we inevitably surrender our doomed quest for control, our doomed resistance against the cycle of life. It will be there for our return, whether through physical death or some other form of transformation. It will hold us as we remember what always was, what never ceased being true even throughout all these dark years of our forgetfulness and delusion. As we surrender the false story that holds us separate from the Earth, we will come back into simple Beingness. There will be a flowering of stillness in the mind. Our hearts will heal. The Life Force Energy of the Earth will continue its perfect unfolding, as it has done despite all of our noise, and as it was doing for long before it ever gave rise to humanity. Indifferent to fleeting sounds, the truth is everpresent. The silence of being is eternal. And as eternity flows on, stories within truth, let me bring myself back again and again to Beingness. Let me continually align my center with the energy of the forest â&#x20AC;&#x201D; embodying her. Becoming that timeless wisdom. Let me be the heart of the Earth, and know it.
3. I am listening. For some reason, I am here â&#x20AC;&#x201D; so I am listening. Sun on my skin, windsong and silence. The Earth knows. I am part of the unfolding. One little branch tip, branching, reaching for whatever is deepest compassion and truth. So much is falling apart, so much is hurting. I want to give up sometimes. But I know I have a responsibility to listen as long as the Earth is speaking, which will be always. I have a responsibility to do whatever she says will help to carry love onward through all of this darkness. My duty lies there. My energy lies there. Maybe nothing will be saved, but healing is possible within destruction, even within collapse. The listening will always matter. The carrying onward of love will always matter. All of it â&#x20AC;&#x201D; even if the peace is humble and small, even if the turning of the tide only comes millennia and millennia after I leave this mysterious place.
Monica Filippenko is a mentor in nature connection, an artist, and a climate activist living in the Green Mountains with her partner.
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Let Health and Safety ExpertsBe Our Guides by Jack H anson
April 07, 2020 The coronavirus pandemic and the resulting economic shutdown have caused suffering, fear, and isolation for hundreds of millions of people. There have been some silver liningsâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; the sudden halt to travel and industry has dramatically decreased pollution, which has saved tens of thousands of human lives and allowed ecosystems to bounce back. But overwhelmingly, the impacts of the crisis have been devastating, particularly for vulnerable populations.
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Scientists have been clear from the beginning: physical distancing is critical to slowing the spread of this deadly virus. Although the initial uptake was slower than it could have been, governments at all levels, businesses, institutions, and individuals have responded to scientistsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; recommendations in ways that are unprecedented in terms of their scale and speed. Large gatherings have been banned. Sporting events and concerts have been cancelled. Massive numbers of
businesses shut down, and those that haven’t have switched to a work from home policy. Flights have been curtailed or banned and cruises have been cancelled. In many places, all non-essential travel outside of the home has been prohibited. This unprecedented economic shutdown that has put millions of people out of work. As devastating as this is, public health experts believe that without these measures, the effects of the pandemic would be dramatically worse. The economic shutdown is very painful, but it is what we must do to save lives. We will get through it, together, by continuing to support one another and by continuing to demand that our institutions support all of us. Once we do get through it, we will have a choice to make. What do we want the new, post-COVID-19 “normal” to look like? We must take this as an opportunity to dramatically rethink the way we do things, starting with the ways in which we get around. If we don’t, we will return to a public health crisis whose death toll is shockingly high— and growing. Outdoor air pollution kills 4.2 million people annually. Automobile collisions kill 1.35 million people annually and injure an additional 20-50 million. Extreme weather due to the climate crisis is killing or displacing hundreds of thousands of people each year, and that number will rise dramatically in the coming decades. Air pollution, car crashes, and extreme weather are more familiar, but no less deadly killers, caused in huge part by our destructive, overlyexpensive, unhealthy, and polluting transportation system. But there is good news. Unlike the measures required to battle COVID-19, we can neutralize those threats without hurting people. In fact, by transforming our transportation system we will save
money and time and improve our health and overall quality of life! As in the coronavirus crisis, we must let public health and safety experts guide our policy and decisionmaking. This means reducing the miles traveled by cars and trucks by boosting cleaner forms of transportation such as buses, trains, walking, biking, and carpooling. These changes can be made by adjusting infrastructure, zoning policies, and rules of the road and also through economic incentives and disincentives. If transforming our transportation system could save millions of lives, save money, and improve our lives, then why haven’t we done this already? Because unlike the pandemic, where defeat of the virus triggers a unifying response, fundamental changes to our transportation system threaten those who benefit from the status quo. Of the top 10 of the Fortune Global 500, six are oil companies and two are car companies. The economic wellbeing of these global superpowers rests on convincing us that we each need to spend tens of thousands of dollars each year to get around. This has been true for decades, and these actors have no interest in losing their dominance. They work very hard to ensure that governments and individuals stay loyal to them, and it has paid off so far, particularly in the U.S., where state, local, and federal funding supports car-based transportation at much higher levels than public transit or other non-car transportation. Additionally, the U.S. federal government continues to provide massive subsidies for oil, artificially driving down the price of gasoline and allowing car-based transportation to out-compete alternatives. But that is not our only option. We can move away from a system built almost entirely for cars towards one that treats all modes of transportation—walking,
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biking, public transportation, and automobiles—equitably. In some places, this shift has already occurred with great benefit. Helsinki, Finland, and Oslo, Norway, both recorded 0 pedestrian fatalities in 2019. This did not happen by accident. It happened through deliberate efforts over years and decades. These pioneering cities, among others, made changes without the disruption of a grave health crisis. In some cases, there was strong opposition to change. But once a more equitable transportation
By treating our transportation system like the public health crisis that it is, we could save millions of lives and free up significant amounts of time and money for people tight on both. But unlike the response to COVID-19, we won’t have to sacrifice the well-being of so many in the process. In fact, those with the least will gain the most from these changes. After making it to the other side of our current crisis, that would be a much needed breath of fresh air.
Of the top10 of the Fortune Global 500, six are oil companies and two are car companies. system was put in place, almost no one has argued that they should return to an automobile-based system. It turns out that people like to have safe, healthy, affordable travel options. And they like the positive effect they have on their cities and neighborhoods. During the coronavirus crisis, many people have rediscovered the joy and health benefits of walking and biking. This can continue after this crisis is over, with people using daily walks to get to their destinations. Given that more than a third of car trips are under two miles, that could make a big difference. In Burlington, this shift is already beginning to play out, as streets are reconfigured to allow for higher volumes of foot and bicycle traffic. These changes improve safety by slowing down cars and forcing them to share spaces with other modes of travel.
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Jack Hanson graduated from the University of Vermont in 2016 with a degree in environmental studies. While finishing his degree, he worked full time on Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign. Since then he has worked in communications, political advocacy, and campaign roles. He currently serves on the Burlington City Council, representing Burlington’s East District.
COVID, Climate, and Culture by chery l joy lipton
Look at how much is becoming apparent about how we live our lives. We are in the midst of a global pandemic that has caused great changes in the behavior of almost every individual in the population of 7.8 billion. A minority of our species is carrying on as “normal.” This has resulted in a great many changes, both positive and negative at first glance, but in the end, it has mostly brought to light many of the serious and deleterious flaws in our society, as a species, and inherent in almost all of the varied cultures around the planet. The net result, despite losing and the danger of losing many of our loved ones, includes some positive effects: reduction in pollution resulting from our reduced use of fossil fuels for all
of the transportation of people and goods, as well as production of myriad unnecessary (and often frivolous) goods. Production is reduced to only necessary items. We are shown, now, that a continuously increasing economy is not necessary and is inherently unhealthy. The food production and distribution system, a global, factory production-style system, is broken, and it shows itself to be a poor quality way to feed the population around the planet. Retail spending was down by 8.7% in March. During the Great Recession, it was down 4%. About two-thirds of the economy, the retail industry, has “tanked.” Maybe this is better. We need to figure out a way to live that does not rely upon continuously increasing output and growth, since that model is creating the problem that we face now in our environmental degradation of climate change, global warming, and habitat destruction with its accompanying anthropocenic extinction event that we are in the midst of. Some people are terribly upset about those who are dying from COVID-19, and each individual death of a person who loved and is loved is a very sad and terrible tragedy for all whose lives were touched by that person. But we have been causing the same harm to individuals of other species for a long time, and this harm has progressed to destruction on a grand scale. Just like the impacts of climate change being more devastating to marginalized communities, for COVID-19, the impacts are more serious and more deadly for non-white
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people. Black people are three and a half times more likely to die of COVID-19 than white people, and Latino people are twice as likely to die than whites (Yale and University of Pittsburgh) . Things can’t continue as they have been. Not only must we stop using coal, oil, gas/fossil fuels for our energy needs, but we must stop increasing our energy needs. We have to reduce our energy consumption, drastically and quickly. If we continue to get more done, more quickly, requiring more input, this is not contributing to a reduction of energy usage, but the opposite. We need to slow down. In fact, we must slow down. This time of “lockdown” for COVID-19 has shown what happens when some things do actually slow down — and more importantly, it shows that slowing down is actually possible. Society was galvanized for World War II, and that was voluntary. It’s occurring again, though involuntarily, but showing that things can and do change drastically and rapidly, even when not everything has come to a standstill. The answer is not to cover acres of land with solar panels, nor transform the oceans to wind turbine farms. That would only be a band-aid, and one with bad consequences in other areas like habitat destruction and species disruption and extinctions in the deserts, oceans, forests, mountaintops, all in the name of green energy: wind, sun, mines, etc. We do need to switch to those other forms of power, but that is not an answer alone. We also need to stop using the amount we do. We can do it in many ways and in myriad categories of contemporary life. People are resistant to change because they are accustomed to living the way they do. They work hard and make a lot of money so they believe that they deserve the lifestyle they live. They want to “keep their family safe.” They want that updated kitchen that they can afford. They are busy and to get everything done they need the conveniences. We can go on and on with reasons for the fast, busy lifestyles so many people lead.
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Because of all that, energy consumption is rising exponentially and whether people realize it or not, their quest for a good life for their families and themselves is resulting in another nail in the coffin for those same children they love so dearly. People don’t realize that their tremendous consumption is literally killing off our species. This pandemic, because of many things, is also spreading because of this global economy, overpopulation, and fast pace. It may possibly be the biological check on the population that has been long overdue . Some politicians are saying that we have to think about who we are as Americans. Well, really we have to think about who we are as a species. As humans: Homo sapiens. There are complaints about the urgency of climate action being muddied or sullied by other issues. In actuality, all of these things are interrelated. There are contributions to climate change just about everywhere one looks, and so we must address our behaviors and actions in just about every facet of life and society. Our changes, behavioral and societal, must be multifaceted and intrinsic to our being if we want them to have a meaningful impact. Albert Einstein said in 1939 at the New York World’s Fair, “If science, like art, is to perform its mission truly and fully, its achievements must enter not only superficially but with their inner meaning into the consciousness of people.” This pandemic is forcing the issue, an issue that is long due for attention, full and undivided. Cheryl Joy Lipton is an ecologist, landscape designer, and sustainable living consultant in Chester. She specializes in native plants and invasive non-natives and serves on the Chester Planning Commission. She is also a founding leader of Mountain Valley Climate Action 350VT, of the new nonprofit organization Chester Community Greenhouse and Gardens, and of Victory Gardening in the 21st Century, an online support group also meeting weekly. She is a homeschooling mother working on restoring a solar powered 1850s Gothic Revival farmhouse and its five acres.
margaret M OORE blanchard I created “Earth Burning” after the Gulf Oil Spill disaster. It shows the Earth, Gaia, holding up her hand to say, “Stop! You’re killing me.” With COVID-19, it feels as if individual human bodies, particularly those of people of color, burning up around the globe with fever, are resonating with our planetary body. To paraphrase James Baldwin, it’s “the fire this time” sounding the alarm. A writer, educator, stained glass artisan, and social activist, Margaret Moore Blanchard has published books on intuition and creativity as well as poetry and fiction. Retired from teaching in the M.A. Program of Vermont College of Norwich University, she now considers Montpelier home after living in the Adirondack woods, the city of Baltimore and other places in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. She’s currently involved in support for refugees and immigrants, equal rights for women and people of color, anti-war protest, and climate change issues.
Earth Day 2020 by K evin O ’ K eefe
“…the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”
— T. S. Eliot
We bought our home In Vermont after half a lifetime of passing through Brattleboro on our way to other destinations. We’ve lived here for almost seventeen years. We thought we knew this place — our neighborhood, the people, the town, but the last two months have exposed to us how little we actually knew about our neighbors, our place in the Green Mountains, even ourselves. One of my first attempts at COVID-19 humor was to ask a neighbor who stopped in our driveway to chat about how she was dealing with cabin fever, “Oh, is this your first pandemic?” I was attempting to give her the space to laugh at our new shared reality. Putting aside the pandemic and a financial free fall for a few moments, here are just a few of the silver linings I celebrated this particular spring.
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Every day in the past one hundred and twenty I’ve had moments of beauty sent to me, unbidden, but welcomed. They are quotidian: noticing the open red buds of maple trees, fallen trees that make impromptu balancing acts in the forest, mushrooms and vines grounding weak or older trees, the woodpecker’s latest grotto sculptures, birdsong before dawn, my neighbor walking her horse in circles in the meadow between us, the barred owls calling to each other, mushrooms on an old logging trail, nesting starlings in the cavity of a sugar maple.
My wife, Erin Maile, walked and biked the neighborhood over the course of three afternoons, knocking on the doors of strangers to ask if anyone needed anything and delivering the good news of the newly hatched Brattleboro Area Mutual Aid (BAMA). The smell just after a rainstorm when the ground seemed to unlock itself from its winter freeze and exhale earthy breath for the first time in many months. Salamanders crossing streets in the rain overseen by a gaggle of interested kids and adults. Little reliance on money (none made and little spent), more meditation, more anxiety and uncertainty, more phone calls to truly check in. I’ve been bitching about all the Zoom calls while discovering the possibility of connection through the app. Our neighborhood streets have been returned to the people: walkers, runners, bikers, and baby strollers. This has led to neighbors and regulars who’ve become new friends. In the beginning of COVID-19 there seemed to be a shared sense of survivorship, as if we were on the Titanic but not entirely sure if we were in the water or on a boat.
Asking people, even strangers, how they are and really meaning it. Not since 9/11, when we lived in New York, have we felt that kind of care. There are thousands of ways to bow to the greater glory of nature, even as she shakes off her fevered human tormentors.
Time accordions. Days can feel like a week, weeks like a day. All the sense experiences of nature seemed more intense last spring. The dark of night is darker, the blue of sky is bluer, the rain, rain-ier.
Kevin O’Keefe is an award-winning writer, circus artist, and teacher. He lives in Brattleboro.
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Two Haikus by Lo uise B rill
New Weather Unknownness surrounds As structureless days stretch on Snowed in, but no snow. March 13, 2020
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The Answer So many unknowns Emotional exhaustion What IS the question? April 28, 2020
Louise Brill lives with her partner in Burlington and founded the Vermont OLOC chapter. She thanks Ferron for her haiku workshop at 2017 NWMF, which got her started.