Letter to the editor: Bristol citizens are taking a stand on global warming

The Bristol plaintiffs’ complaint in the case involving a natural gas pipeline and the town of Bristol was upheld on Jan. 28. Judge Arms denied the motions to dismiss the case by the town and selectboard and by Vermont Gas Systems. The court assumes all facts pleaded by the complaint as true. And the plaintiffs raise a novel issue not yet determined by the Supreme Court. The judge’s order allows the case to move forward for deeper exploration.
In the meantime, residents in Bristol are also moving forward, exploring opportunities for meeting our energy needs. What technology and lifestyle practices will create stable energy supply and predictable costs for the long run? How do we keep money circulating locally? How do we stay warm and also protect resources for ourselves and future generations? Environmental protection at the federal level broke down when the fossil fuel industry lobbied to become exempt from the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. Contamination from extraction and transmission is extensive and it’s difficult (or impossible) to contain pollution in a cost-effective way. Now local citizens and regional coalitions are stepping up and working to safeguard our water and air quality.
I’m uplifted these days reading a book I ordered at the Vermont Book Shop called “Drawdown,” edited by Paul Hawken. The top ranking 100 substantive solutions to reverse global warming were identified, measured and modeled. The results tell the story of what could be accomplished in 30 years to help “draw down” carbon from the atmosphere to stabilize our climate. It’s fascinating! Refrigeration is ranked No. 1, tree intercropping No. 17, reduced food waste No. 3, educating girls is No. 6, geothermal energy is No. 18, offshore wind No. 2, rooftop solar No. 10, family planning No. 7, alternative cement is No. 36, mass transit No. 37, industrial recycling No. 56 and heat pumps No. 42.
The history of how solutions were developed is as interesting as the positive global impact and the cost savings. I’ll leave Fritts’ 1884 experiments with selenium for your discovery. I will mention that the impact of “managed grazing” would sequester 16.3 gigatons of greenhouse gas emissions over standard grazing practices. Solar water would have a net cost of $3 billion and net savings of $774 billion. If half the world adopted a “plant rich diet,” No. 4, greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced by 66.11 gigatons (in CO2 equivalents). Reading “Drawdown,” I’m becoming aware that we truly have the ingenuity to heal our planet and generate the energy we need in a cost-effective way. The sooner we make the changes, the sooner we’ll be more secure. And a lot of jobs will be created in the process.
Many of us in Bristol believe by working together with our neighbors we’ll be able to create a safe, affordable and cleaner energy future for ourselves and the next generations. We are concerned that building more fossil fuel infrastructure is neither safe nor economically stable enough to meet our long-term energy needs.
One Bristol project, now in the beginning stages, is a volunteer energy audit team for identifying the heat loss in buildings and next steps. The conversation is expanding to include do-it-yourself projects alongside homeowners, who would then “pay it forward” by joining the volunteers in helping another neighbor. Plugging the holes and insulating the areas where our energy/money escapes could become more fun and affordable in this volunteer neighbor program. Weatherization is the best first step. Once a building’s energy need is lowered, it costs less for whatever energy sources are used.
The legal journey is one way to work out disputes, however, it can be expensive and can cause further division. The legal complaint was a last resort after many attempts at having a vote for broad public input on the controversial gas project. We’d be wise to create a trusted process in Bristol for discussing our differences, learning from each other and developing solutions together. There are many solutions needed these days. It’ll take practice and dedication to work across our perspectives. Likely we’d become stronger as a community, and more flexible and collaborative as individuals, through the process. I’d be interested to hear what other towns are doing to create solutions across differences.
Sally Burrell

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