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Spirit in Nature to hold annual meeting Feb. 21

RIPTON/MIDDLEBURY — Spirit in Nature, a local nonprofit that has developed a series of “interfaith nature paths” on 75 acres of Middlebury College land in Ripton, will hold its annual meeting on Sunday, Feb. 21, at 4 p.m. in the Ilsley Library downstairs conference room.
After a very short business meeting, the time will be devoted to the presentation of two awards termed “Eco-Spirit.” The citation reads: “The Eco-Spirit Award is presented annually to persons whose lives are illuminated by their appreciation of the beauty, mystery, and preciousness of the natural world. They are dynamic role models who engage us in debate, and urge us to explore the implications of our behavior during our present global environmental crisis. They lead us to a path of hope for the future of all life and nature on earth.” Bill McKibben was the first recipient in 2001.
This year for the first time, the award goes to an organization rather than an individual, the Sunday Night Group at Middlebury College. Started by Bill McKibben and some Middlebury College students in 2005, the group successfully advocated for the college to go carbon-neutral by 2015 and has continued a climate activist presence related to a number of environmental issues including the Keystone Pipeline that President Obama recently decided against. The SNG meets at 9 p.m. every Sunday night that the college is in session, hence the name.
Three years after the founding of the Sunday Night Group, SNG alumni, along with Bill McKibben, founded 350.org, the international climate activist group that is partially staffed by SNG alumni. The Sunday Night Group has been active for over 10 years at the college, in the community and elsewhere like Washington, D.C., vigorously promoting environmental awareness and rallying support for earth-friendly policies, actions and lifestyles.
Middlebury Professor of Economics Jon Isham attended the 10-year celebration/reunion of the SNG held at the college last year. “What I can do as a faculty member is provide a certain kind of support just by encouraging them to try things and not get frustrated,” Isham said. “But the best part of SNG is not only that its 100-percent student conceived, but it remains 100-percent student run. And that’s exactly one of the many reasons it’s so effective. I guarantee you some of these ideas will see fruition,” he added.
Diane Monroe, faculty in Environmental Studies at Middlebury College, will present the award and Bill McKibben will make brief remarks via video recording.
This year an additional Eco-Spirit Award will be presented posthumously to Alex Wylie who died of ALS in November. Wylie worked for many years with the Vermont Land Trust conserving farm land. She was involved in conserving over 750 farms totaling over 200,000 acres. Al Karnatz of the Vermont Land Trust, a long-time colleague of Wylie’s, will present the award. The monetary award will go to the ALS Research Fund at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.
The meeting is open to the public and all are invited. Refreshments will be served.

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