Op/Ed

Editorial: A new column explores why/how ‘climate matters’

ANGELO LYNN

In Vermont, most of us accept that climate change is real, has profound impacts on our lives and the lives of our children and grandchildren, and should force us to change our daily practices. We all know we should be moving away from fossil fuel use as much as practical, moving toward renewal energy consumption, and reducing energy use at every opportunity.

But do we put what we know about climate change into practice?

I can answer for myself and acknowledge that I don’t. Almost a decade ago, we were early adopters of putting solar panels on the south-facing roof of the Addison Independent’s building. It works great. The investment was paid off years ago, and now we have reduced energy bills for this building. I’ve invested in community solar in the Northeast Kingdom because my home location isn’t suitable for solar; and we’ve invested in heat pumps where practical.

But I still drive a gas-guzzling Jeep Grand Cherokee, telling myself I need the space to haul magazines for delivery, and the tons of gear I consistently keep in what is my work vehicle. I’ll be the first to get an electric Jeep GC when they make one, but I haven’t gone electric yet. Nor have I been as diligent as I should have on weatherproofing all aspects of the Addison Independent building, or several other things each of us could do in our lives to reduce fossil fuel usage. I suspect some of you are in similar situations. We try; but we could always do more.

In today’s issue, we introduce a series of columns titled “Climate Matters.

Let me be upfront to say that the column’s purpose is not to lecture about the coming climate change crisis. We assume you know that. Nor is it to make anyone feel guilt for not doing enough, nor superiority for going beyond. From a political perspective it is nonpartisan, though clearly the issue is political in that all parties and all Americans must have awareness if we are to understand and address one of the most important issues of our times.

To that end, the intent of the column is to share with our readers a variety of views on climate from many different perspectives. Several of the voices will be from those living closest to the land — farmers and foresters, others will hail from the business community, professionals, homeowners, those retired and those just getting started. It’s a good mix of perspectives, all of which are from a local perspective, which make these columns unique to Addison County.

We invite your voices and responses through letter-to-the-editor and social media as the column runs each week through the year.

Will Stevens, a vegetable farmer from Shoreham, former state legislator and selectboard chair, introduces the series through his unique perspectives on his vegetable farm. In the 40 years he’s been farming he has kept meticulous track of weather patterns and conditions of the soil to help him be the most productive farmer he can be. As the climate changes, he has no choice but to adapt to the new conditions. His tale of that experience and how he views climate and its constant change is as thoughtful as it is intriguing.

Here’s a snippet: “I’ve also noticed longer seasons. From 1985 to 1994, half of our first fall frosts came in September and half in October. In the 27 years since, the only September frost we’ve had was in 2020, and many recent ones have come in the third week of October.

“Pests that simply weren’t here in the early ’80s have become commonplace in Vermont. Swede midge, leek moth, spotted cucumber beetle, spotted wing drosophila, Japanese beetle, marmorated stink bug and spotted lanternfly, are but a few. Some suggest that their appearance may not be directly linked to climate change, but that debate is less important to me than the fact that their existence makes overall management of the farm more complex and expensive: they’re here now, and we need to adjust. The bottom line for me is that the “New Normal” simply means that there is no “normal!”

And later in his column, he writes: “While climate change has affected our production approach, our production approach can also microscopically affect climate change, and it is that latter thought that keeps me going. Accepting that change is upon us (as it always has been) means our response to change must be as integrative and forward-looking as possible….

“Most of the plants and food we produce (from spring bedding plants to fall storage crops) are used within about 15 miles of our farm. This outcome aligns with our management objectives and personal interests. Our relatively short “food miles” model has a lighter environmental impact, and provides additional community benefits such as greater food security and resiliency, closer relations between consumer and producer, and productive working lands. I think that these are compelling, if quiet, reasons for combatting climate change.”

And so this series of columns begins. We hope you spend 5-10 minutes each week poring over these thoughts of your friends and neighbors, and in the process gain a better understanding of “climate matters” — and the importance of the issue to each of us.

Angelo Lynn

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