By Duane Peterson
The American government has officially reversed course on protecting us from climate change. National security is the central priority we expect from the federal government, so this is truly alarming, for our nation and our planet. But despair is not an option. There are actions we can take as individuals to fight back and make a difference.
It is scientifically accepted that we humans are changing the way Earth’s climate works. The results are disrupting the weather patterns that have driven human development for thousands of years. Like other inland settlements, our forebears here in Vermont built towns in river valleys to benefit from scarce flatland and abundant hydropower. Superstorms like Sandy and Irene are devastating those valley communities. Vermont’s own state forester predicts there will be no sugar maples in the Green Mountain State by the end of this century. Some children born today will see the end of our glorious fall colors.
Against this painful backdrop, the United States and countries throughout our world united to take action. The U.S. enacted our own Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon pollution from power plants and strengthen the shift to renewable, American-made energy. Many of us thought we should have gone farther, faster — given the threats to our economic, environmental and social well-being. But we were finally on a course of decisive action.
Now those remedies are in the trash heap. Generations to come will ask, what were we thinking?
So while activists wage battle in Washington and we wait out the return of sanity to our capital, there are things we as individuals, families and businesses can do to make a difference. American history is rife with movements led by the people who forced the dramatic change which the times called for.
The core concept is easy: burn less fossil fuel.
Our addiction to fossil fuels is nutty. Someone in some faraway land risks his life to unearth materials that took hundreds of millions of years to compress deep below the surface. It’s brought above ground, shipped half a planet away, and delivered to our doorsteps. That’s when we burn it in the open atmosphere, wrapping a harmful blanket around our precious earth.
Igniting less of this stuff is the key. Happily, we know how to burn less — while actually strengthening our economy and improving our quality of life.
Many of our homes and buildings burn a lot of fuel. There are lots of ways to button up our structures that save money while protecting the climate.
Shipping food across the planet requires the burning of tremendous amounts of fuels. Buying foods grown locally skips that atmospheric damage while driving the local economy of our neighboring farms.
As Vermonters, we can build our own, new energy economy, and no one in Washington can stop us. Electricity generated from the sun is plentiful, clean and perpetual. Already, nearly one in 25 Vermont homes are powered by solar. Over 1,500 Vermonters drive electric cars. They’re fun to drive, with all that off-the-line torque. And electricity as the fuel costs a fraction of what burning gasoline does.
It’s understandable to be saddened by the chaos in our nation’s capital. But Americans are not now and never have been powerless to effect the change we seek. Our individual liberty to take personal action is among the things that actually makes our country great. It can feel overwhelming. But you can take a single step on the clean energy revolution. It feels good to convert despair into action. And collectively, we make a difference. Join us.
Duane Peterson is co-founder of Vermont solar company SunCommon.