Editorial: ‘Biggest issue of our times’

Just over a dozen years ago, Ripton environmentalist Bill McKibben staged what was billed as the first climate change march in the nation right in our backyard. The march started at the Robert Frost wayside area in Ripton as more than 100 people listened to brief opening comments before walking to the Middlebury Green for more speeches and lemonade, and then on to Addison Independent columnist Greg Dennis’s home and yard for that first night’s campout, dinner and more conversation.
He shares that recollection in his column in this issue and observes what has changed since that first march. He also uses the column to draw attention to the launching of another climate walk this Friday, April 5 at 10 a.m., starting in Middlebury. Called Next Steps Climate Solutions Walk, it is sponsored by 350 Vermont and “will focus on the many climate solutions that have grown in Vermont since 2006 — and all that remains to be done.”
On the front page of this paper is a story by reporter Christopher Ross about middle-schoolers at the North Branch School in Ripton who are grappling with climate science. The courses stress data and scientific evidence, and emphasize the difference between facts and “beliefs.” But in teaching the course, the school has found what researchers have termed “ecoanxiety.”
“One thing we’ve learned is that kids, the more they know about climate change, the more anxious they get,” said North Branch director and head teacher Tal Birdsey. Not to be deterred, the school is using that inherent anxiety “as a fuel to move forward,” Ross writes, noting that the students will walk the first leg of the five-day Next Steps walk this Friday. Some of those students shared their thoughts about climate change with the Independent. It’s an interesting perspective from 8th- and 9th-grade students, and well worth a read.
For readers more convinced by changes they can see, Ross covered a talk by Tom Rogers, a biologist with the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department last Thursday, also in Ripton, in which Rogers notes the dramatic impact warming weather will have on the state’s “wild places and the creatures that live in them.” The “flagship” species, Rogers notes, is moose overcome by ticks, but he also cites examples of bears wandering around in winter because snowmelt and freak winter rainstorms fill their dens with water; fir trees inching higher; and massive storms changing the landscape. In a best-case scenario, Rogers says, summers in Vermont by the end of this century will be more like they are today in Huntington, West Virginia; and if nothing (or very little) is done to curb greenhouse gas emissions, they will be more like today’s summers in Huntsville, Alabama.
Think about that for a minute, and try to imagine the impact.
Finally, Ross also writes a review of McKibben’s latest book, “Falter,” also about climate change and which comes 30 years after McKibben’s first book on the topic, “The End of Nature.” It’s an important book and a worthy review.
We note these four stories in today’s paper to focus your attention on what many are calling “the biggest issue of our times.” We hope you’ll read each with the interest they deserve. We also encourage you to join Friday’s climate walk for any part, be it the first speeches at 10 a.m. on Middlebury’s Green, then for a single block or two of the walk, a speech or two along the way at various stops, or for the entire five-day, 53-mile journey to Montpelier. Ross will be on the walk for all five days, and will file reports along the way on the Addison Independent’s Facebook page, as well as on Twitter and Instagram. We invite you to take part in the journey through his eyes, and through the eyes of his 13-year-old daughter, Vivian, who will be accompanying him. For more information on the march visit 350vermont.org/nextsteps.
Angelo Lynn

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