As a resident of Vermont and a student intern with the Vermont Public Health Association, it was distressing to learn that some Vermonters believe that because our state is small, our efforts to combat climate change are futile.
If smaller communities use their size as an excuse to remain stagnant surrounding climate issues, we will achieve little success; in psychological terms, the bystander effect will block action. Only through collective action will the human race overcome the existential threat of climate change.
Vermont, though small, does have a substantial population, and that population does have an impact on the environment. The individual and collective actions of well over 600 thousand Vermont residents contribute significantly to atmospheric, plastic, and water pollution.
Initiatives and laws spearheaded within Vermont can be vital steps in addressing the climate crisis and could serve as a model for other states. According to state Rep. Martin LaLonde’s 2022 end-of-session report, almost a quarter of Vermont’s funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) are going towards climate change investments. Vermont is a leading state in this category, choosing to aim for a “green recovery” from Covid-19; by doing so, mitigating future public health risks created by climate change. When looking at Vermont’s efforts to combat climate change, it is necessary to note that global climate action starts locally. Just as a machine cannot function if it is missing small but essential parts, it is unrealistic to believe that global solutions to climate change will emerge without the participation of all regions, large and small. The actions that Vermonters take to address this global threat are as crucial as those of any other state in solving this issue.