Thoughts on the Future of Vermont
By Elizabeth Courtney*
As the state’s largest and oldest independent environmental organization, the Vermont Natural Resources Council is supported by a loyal membership of 5,000 individuals, families and businesses who care deeply about the Vermont environment and its natural resources. The characteristics that best define Vermont for our members are:
• Healthy, productive, working landscapes of farm and forest lands
• Fresh, clean, abundant water resources
• Vibrant town and city centers
• Strong citizen participation in democratic processes
• An expectation for leadership in environmental stewardship
Over the next 20 to 50 years, Vermont and the world will face significant challenges. At VNRC, we are focusing on three overarching priorities in an effort to help Vermont develop a forward-thinking, solutions-oriented, state-level response to ensure our state remains a prosperous, self-reliant and beautiful place to live, work and play. The three areas where VNRC plans to work shoulder-to-shoulder with our dedicated members and partners to achieve this future are:
One: Stemming the privatization of the world’s water resources. As climate change and a booming world population put increased strain on finite water resources, corporations are recognizing the economic value of water, the “blue gold” of the 21st century. Vermont must be steadfast in its efforts to protect groundwater and surface water resources for the public good.
Two: Curbing the loss of Vermont’s farm and forestlands. As peak oil continues to drive up the price of fuel, Vermont must ensure it safeguards the forests, farms and fields that will serve as sources of food and fuel close to home. Vermont must significantly reduce the number farm and forestlands converted to development to ensure local resources are available.
Three: Combating climate change and achieving energy security. The earth is warming as a result of the burning of fossil fuels. Vermonters must rethink how we will power our lives in a safe and healthy way. Energy conservation and efficiency should be our first line of defense in pursuit of energy security, followed by a mix of renewable and clean energy options.
VNRC views a green economy and energy independence as the two primary priorities Vermont must focus on to realize a bright, healthy and prosperous future for all.
Vermont must move swiftly to grow new jobs based on a green economy in the Green Mountain State. A green economy is one that supports vibrant downtowns interconnected by public transit options, one that fosters homegrown Vermont enterprises like entrepreneurial family farms, one that supports community-owned renewable power alternatives and one where the working and wild landscape supports and inspires its population of conservation minded Vermonters.
Vermont must also move swiftly to develop energy independence. Energy security is as important to Vermonters’ economic security as it is to reducing the greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. Transportation and home heating in Vermont are the largest contributors to those greenhouse gases. Vermont, as a state, should invest in community-owned and community-scale renewable energy, public transportation alternatives and building weatherization assistance to meet Vermonters’ needs.
Each and every Vermonter, or person who loves Vermont, will play a pivotal role in realizing this vision for Vermont; a vision shared by so many. If you share this vision, and you’re not a member of VNRC, please consider joining today — www.vnrc.org. And for all of the dedicated members who have, for so long in many cases, helped VNRC to take significant steps towards this vision, we offer a sincere thank you. We look forward to ongoing collaboration with our members, activists, partners and community leaders to achieve these goals. But, it will take the power of the people to make it so.
*Elizabeth Courtney wrote this piece in response to the Vermont Council on Rural Development’s request for VNRC’s thoughts on the future of Vermont. VCRD is convening the “Council on the Future of Vermont,” including a series of public engagement sessions to better understand Vermonters’ values, concerns, and priorities for the future. Find out more about this process, voice your opinion, and get involved. Attend one of a series of public discussions, starting first with the July 10 session at 6:00 p.m. at the Old Labor Hall in Barre. Find out all the details about this session and this important process at www.futureofvermont.org.