It is the reason that the First Amendment protects the right to peaceably assemble along with the freedom of speech. Throughout our history, marchers for women’s suffrage, workers’ rights and civil rights have proven the power of peaceable assembly by winning change in the streets. Literally one step at a time, with one march after another, we, the people, led where elected leaders had once feared to tread.
For many marchers, shoe leather is wearing thin since the election of Donald Trump.
We’ve stepped out for women’s rights. Impromptu airport assemblies helped courts find courage to strike down the discriminatory immigration ban. We’ve called on our president to disclose his tax returns as he promised to do and as his predecessors have done since the ’70’s. And last weekend, people around the world stood up for science in the age of “alternative facts.”
This weekend, we are called into the streets again for the People’s Climate March.
When the main march planned for Washington, D.C., was announced, I started making travel arrangements and reserved some couch space with a D.C.-based cousin. With a Republican president and congressional majority hell-bent on denying the scientific consensus showing how disastrously human activities are changing the climate and an EPA administrator hand-picked by the fossil fuel industry, I figured that our nation’s capital was the best place to peaceably assemble in support of solutions to the greatest crisis facing life as we know it.
But then, I changed my mind and decided to stay home.
I am grateful to those who will, at great personal expense and effort, carry the message from Vermont to the federal government’s doorstep this weekend. I hope they are joined by masses from throughout these United States. Upon reflection, however, I have realized that policymakers here in Montpelier also need to see a clamoring crowd demanding bolder climate solutions at the state level where we have the greatest chance of leading by example. My motivation for marching in Montpelier instead of D.C. grows in part from my experience working in the clean energy sector that is powering our economy and the effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Sadly, Vermonters’ ability to harvest clean energy from the wind is under threat from an unabashedly anti-wind governor and arbitrary draft wind regulations proposed by the Public Service Board. The board seeks to impose sound limitations that are virtually unattainable and are not imposed on other much louder technologies, such as automobiles, motorcycles or airplanes, or other industries like the construction trade the governor has profited from. The rules go well beyond what public health studies show is necessary to protect the public. If adopted by the board and approved by the Legislature, the wind sound rules will essentially ban installation of new wind turbines in Vermont. With the fossil fuel industry’s allies fighting from a federal power base to keep clean energy down, now is the wrong time for an allegedly green state like Vermont to turn its back on wind power.
Across the globe, wind power is safely and effectively helping wean other countries off of fossil fuels. Earlier this year in Scotland, a rural country known for its beautiful mountains, wind turbines provided more electricity than the country needed for four days in a row. China’s embrace of wind energy, which has increased in that country by 13 percent since 2015, is helping the world’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions reduce its reliance on coal. Even in traditional fossil fuel states like Texas, wind energy production is on the rise. More Americans are now employed by the wind industry than by the coal industry.
Increasing wind energy production is an important part of climate action here in New England where our electrical grid is still dominated by fossil fuels. Because of the way modern gas- and oilfired plants work, grid operators can tell the fossil fuel plants to dial down when carbon- free, stably priced power from wind is available to replace fossil-fuel power. The more wind we harvest in our region, the less fossil fuels we have to import with pipelines and burn into the oversaturated atmosphere. For years, Vermont towns like Lowell, Georgia, Milton and Sheffield, have done their part to reduce fossil fuel use by hosting wind projects, reaping annual economic benefits from those projects all the while
For these and many more reasons, I will be marching for climate solutions in the streets of Montpelier this weekend with the words of the great protest anthem on my mind:
The answer is blowin’ in the wind!”