MONTPELIER — The stark reality of climate change for future generations was the theme of the annual Mother Up! Day at the State House on Thursday.
Organized by 350 Vermont, the event featured parents and their children lobbying lawmakers to do more to combat climate change and make it a top priority by supporting several bills this session.
Speakers at a news conference included several mothers, and Lt. Gov David Zuckerman. There was also poetry and singing. The generational climate activists gave a presentation to the Climate Solutions Caucus and delivered “Love Letters from Mother Earth” to all 180 lawmakers.
Event organizer Abby Mnookin said she was the mother of two children who was working with 350 Vermont to organize, educate and support Vermonters to work for climate justice.
“I am here as an individual and I’m also here as a parent, and my children are 7½ and 3½ and so much of the work that I do is rooted in my deep love for them and a belief that all of our futures are unknown and we must do what we can to act now,” Mnookin said.
Mnookin stressed 350 Vermont’s support of the four Rs — reform, resist, reimagine and recreate — were designed to steer a path away from fossil-fuel use and new infrastructure and build solutions “for the health and safety of our collective future.”
Mnookin added, “We need to act now and that’s why we’re here and that’s what we hope our legislators hear from us.”
Montpelier resident Rebecca Dalgin described a grim fear her son, Adiv, 2, might face in the future.
“The thing I am most afraid of is that he will see climate-related armed conflict here in Vermont and he will have to decide what side he is on,” she said. “It is painful to know that this is already the reality right now for other children unprotected by the privilege Adiv and I have.
“I’m here giving a speech because I can’t bear the thought of a planet no longer livable for all of us. But in my baby’s lifetime he may have to do something far more dangerous than be on the side of justice,” she added.
Dalgin’s call for justice included affordable health care, a livable wage, safe housing, reparations for slavery, respecting indigenous sovereignty and welcoming migrants.
She also called on legislators to support climate change bills that include: the Vermont Green New Deal (S.311) that would tax the top 5% of Vermonters to raise $30 million over five years for home weatherization and renewable energy programs, encourage the use of electric vehicles and improve public transportation; No New Fossil Fuel Infrastructure (H.51); strengthening the Global Warming Solutions Act (H.688) that would mandate the state’s carbon-emissions reductions.
“Legislators, set precedent for the unprecedented,” she added. “Let’s change what is politically possible.”
Heather Buckner, of Royalton, made an impassioned plea on behalf of her two-month-old daughter who slept soundly nearby.
Buckner contrasted the joy of motherhood with the deep despair of a parent in the age of climate crisis.
“Will she be able to know the magic of the world’s wonders? Will she have access to clean water and abundant food? Will she be forced to endure disaster, war and tragedy?” Buckner asked. “I am here today because my daughter’s future is at stake.”
Buckner noted that the world’s most vulnerable people were the least responsible for climate change but would suffer disproportionately.
Buckner also appealed directly to Republican Gov. Phil Scott — who had signaled his opposition to the regional Transportation Climate Initiative and the Global Warming Solutions Act because of its impact on rural economies and low-income people — to “step up and be a real leader.”
Like Swedish student activist Greta Thunberg, who has inspired students to skip school to protest climate change, Bruckner said they were doing so out of necessity.
“Our children’s future depends on it,” she added.
Climate activist Hannah Morgan, of Plainfield, was in tears for much of her speech about concerns for her 1-year-old son, when writing about her hopes and dreams for him in a baby journal, but stricken by the fear of stark predictions for the planet.
“What do I hope for your future, my little baby?” she asked. “I hope that you will get to live to adulthood. I hope that you will get to experience deep snow. I hope that you will continue to have access to enough food and medicine and you will never want for clean water or shelter.
“What dire things to write to a newborn and yet we are living in dire times,” she added.
“I will say, very clearly, as a farmer, we are seeing the effects of the climate crisis affect farming, year in, year out, particularly (in recent) years,” Zuckerman said. “But it’s a clear trend of more extreme-weather events, more intense rain, longer spells of dry, earlier impacts of some of the insects that are problematic for our crops.”
Zuckerman also noted meeting a family at a farmers market in Burlington and a comment their daughter made to him about her fear of climate change.
“She said, ‘Myself and a lot of my friends are thinking we’re probably not going to have children,’” Zuckerman said.
Urging more action, Zuckerman added: “The scale of the problem has not at all been matched by the scale of the solutions being presented by the administration.”