Since President Trump was inaugurated and Republicans obtained control of Congress, there has been heightened concern over future environmental policies. In response, advocacy groups are intensifying their grassroots organizing. Wednesday night, a coalition of Vermont groups held a webinar with Senator Bernie Sanders to discuss how to move forward on environmental issues without the support of the federal government.
The webinar “Moving Forward on Climate Without D.C.” examined ways individuals and groups can take action to stem climate change when little or no action is expected from Congress or the White House.
Vermont Natural Resources Council Energy Program Director Johanna Miller told viewers the catalyst for the webinar was the sobering reality of a new federal administration. “One that disdains science and promises to roll back our international commitments to climate action as well as fails to see the significant economic opportunity in transforming our fossil fuel powered society to a cleaner, greener more just energy system. This webinar is aimed at focusing us on the opportunities and the obligations to act at the local and state level more so now than ever.”
Vermont Independent U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders joined the webinar from Washington. He reiterated his belief that the great environmental crisis is global climate change. “And it breaks my heart that we have a president who does not care about the issue. And that we’re just going to have to work around him. And that’s what our job is in Vermont and what our job is in the 49 other states in this country.”
Sanders noted that scientists have been warning of the heat-trapping consequences of CO2 going back to 1917, citing Alexander Graham Bell. He said if the world was not dominated by big money interests the debate would be over. “However we have a major political party whose policy is to ignore science. That calls climate change a hoax and Republicans in Congress are working overtime, right now, to roll back important environmental regulations.”
Sanders encouraged the nearly 1,000 people viewing the webinar, saying Vermont will continue to make a difference. “Giving up and living in despair is not an option. I will continue to fight for bold solutions here in Washington. But much of the progress that will be made over the next 4 years will be done at the state and local levels.”
Vermont Public Interest Research Group Executive Director Paul Burns reinforced the senator’s belief that states will have to be the leaders in environmental policy and Vermont will be prominent. “If there is to be resistance and if there is to be real progress in this country in the next few years, and I think that there will be, then we must recognize there is only a small handful of states who are in a position to really lead. And Vermont is one of those. We’re in a pivotal place in history right now and people across the country are looking to places like Vermont. People are counting on us to act and we have a responsibility to do so.”
The coalition of groups that plan to work cooperatively on environmental issues include the Vermont Natural Resources Council, Vermont Public Interest Research Group, Vermont Conservation Voters, Rights and Democracy, Renewable Energy Vermont, Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility, the Vermont Chapter of the Sierra Club, Vermont Interfaith Power and Light, and 350VT.