No time to tip-toe

Here’s a question to ponder: Can Americans afford to tip-toe gingerly into the future, or are we being flung headfirst into an era of rapid change and the challenge before us is to react as proficiently and studiously as possible to position ourselves for a more secure future?
For better or worse, the latter seems to dictate the times.
• Climate change is upon us and scientists keep shortening the window of opportunity to right the wrongs we’ve done.
• Cells of terrorists striking randomly across the globe have replaced the threats of world war, demanding fleeter forces and real-time intelligence as our defense.
• Rapid transformation of the global marketplace, fueled by the Internet and the lightning-quick pace of today’s developing technology, mean that nations must constantly push their capacities for advanced education, training and improved skills to stay among the world’s economic leaders.
• The cost of fossil fuels — both monetary and harm done to the atmosphere — make it more necessary than ever to reduce our dependence on coal and oil and develop new sources of cleaner energy.
• The twin threats of famine and a growing shortage of fresh water to serve the world’s booming population must be met to avoid human calamities that will inevitably prompt regional clashes if not successfully confronted.
• An increasingly partisan political environment sparked by increasingly zealous and narrow-minded leaders who play more to extremism to motivate their niche followers than appeals to the majority — all of which is fueled by extremist commentators on radio and television.
With those thoughts in mind, it’s encouraging to be part of a state that is unafraid to take leaps of faith forward, confident in our abilities as Vermonters to find successful outcomes.
Gov. Peter Shumlin has set the state on a path to embrace a more cost effective approach to health care; he is pushing us toward renewable sources of power; he’s championing measures to keep Vermont at the head of the pack in education, while also accelerating the push to get broadband capability into every home in the state.
Contrast that with what’s going on at the national level where Republicans reject the very need to reform the current health care system even as costs skyrocket by two and three times inflation each year; or refuse to address the nation’s insatiable appetite for oil — preferring to let it run wild and feed increasingly risky extraction operations (a short-term solution at best) rather than promote conservation and alternative fuel sources; or to reduce education spending even though they rail against the declining performance of our schools; or the preference to cut taxes for the wealthy while reducing services to the middle class as a way to rein in deficit spending.
Or, more specifically, contrast Vermont’s approach with the recent move by Gov. Christie of New Jersey to pull that state out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which was set up to generate incentives to support efficiency and renewable projects throughout the Northeast. “RGGI is something to be proud of and to embrace, not something to raid for short-term budget gains — as has occurred in some states recently — or to reject for political gain,” Gov. Shumlin said last week. “We cannot deny the impact of greenhouse gas emissions on our planet; we should not abandon our responsibility to future generations who count on us to do the right thing. I believe we must redouble our efforts to reduce our impact on the climate.”
It is no small thing to lead by doing what you know is the right thing for the long-term, even though in the short-term it may be more costly. And in today’s world we have no time to tip-toe around these pressing issues by employing political shenanigans designed to delay action, instead of resolving the problem. Vermonters can be grateful that we live in a state willing to embrace the critical issues of the times, rather than dodge them, and lead with imagination and hopeful determination.

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