Dear planet, dear leaders,
On Valentine’s Day, Thursday, Feb. 14, we will join forces at the State House to proclaim our love for the planet, and to shout out our hopes and requests to our Senate and House leaders. We are families from all walks of life who see the urgent need to make climate action the top priority of all our communities and State House decisions. If we don’t, the predicted climate crisis will prevent all of us from having all other conversations. Climate justice is intricately related to social justice. It is not something out there: We are a part of nature. Saving the planet is about saving ourselves and all that exists alongside us. We can trust that once we fully commit to this enormous task, the rest will follow, including the impetus for more solidarity, more community and inclusion, less division, more equality and economic stability, and less mental desperation leading to illnesses. Joining forces to save ourselves and our planet in an equitable and fair way can galvanize hope and connection.
We have four groups across Vermont participating in our “Mother Up! Families Rise For Climate Action” project. Our numbers are growing because parents are worried, and they don’t just want to watch our leaders say “yes, but ...” We believe there are solutions within and without the State House and simply need to be found because it is that important. During our meet up this January in our Montpelier group, we decided to write a joint letter, to express our love for the natural world here in Vermont, and to plead our leaders to rally, find solutions and also find the money to implement them, in a way that does not leave low-income people behind.
Anthony, 8 years old, decided to come sit with his parents while the other kids were playing, and he partook in our writing effort. This is what he had to say: “What do you love about nature in Vermont? I love snow. What are you afraid of with climate change? Everybody dies because lungs get clogged from pollution. What do you want leaders to do? Make burning fossil fuels illegal.” If an 8-year-old can say these sorts of things, you know that his childhood is being assaulted by the anxiety of what is happening to us and the planet. It might soon become impossible to protect our young children from the awareness that things are falling apart: That is a scary prospect for parents, especially when most young kids are not yet equipped with the tools to digest intense information, the means to act and make a difference. If meaningful action and hope do not pick up soon, our children will soon experience climate crisis PTSD, with the “Post” being replaced by “Present” — Present Trauma Stress Disorder.
Clem loves Vermont’s seasons, lakes and rivers; Josh loves to be able to eat locally and swim in clean rivers; Catherine loves to feel life all around her and to be able to grow her food; Sage loves the fresh and clean air; Terry loves the feeling of being immersed in nature; Joey said that, for him, clean water and fresh snow are two of nature’s gifts to human happiness; Andy loves the peace and solitude that nature offers in Vermont, by contrast to the pace of modern life; Lisa loves the mountains, open space and the cool creeks to swim in the summer; Danielle loves all the wildlife and how easy it is to connect with nature up here; Géraldine loves going on walks with good friends in the woods, and seeing her children come home so bright-eyed after sledding, hut building or fire making; Peter loves how much Vermonters connect with the beautiful state they live in and how many show a commitment to preserve its unique character.
Our fears are diverse and they are real: the increasing rate of tick-borne diseases scaring people away from the outdoors and disconnecting them further from nature; the loss of habitat for wildlife, and further disappearance of plant and animal species; the mass migration to Vermont that might occur, endangering nature further; the pollution of waterways, making swimming a dangerous activity; the pollution and waste of our groundwater supply; floods; weather extremes that will make life hard, expensive and dangerous; storms and climate instability that will make it more difficult to grow food, and will make Vermont inhospitable for birds, animals and insects; losing trees; the impact that climate change as on low-income and vulnerable people; the loss of identity for Vermont if nature, species and water are not protected; the decimate world that future generations will inherit if we don’t figure it out; the death of the human species.
We, too, have a dream — that our Vermont leaders will climb up the weeds and look around for successful solutions the other states and countries have implemented and how they have found the money to implement them. Find creative ways to tax the most affluent and if taxing has limitations, then do what you can and enlist their help in other voluntary ways.
We want our Vermont leaders to encourage constituents and the media to make the climate crisis the number one topic that everyone talks about, so that people will start seeing we are in a state of emergency, and that business as usual is a dangerous proposition.
We want our Vermont leaders to be willing to go beyond what is convenient and comfortable to gather understanding and support for climate-related bills.
We want our Vermont leaders to implement a fair and equitable carbon tax, come together around the implementation of an innovative, green public transit and protect our waterways and ground-water supplies.
We want our Vermont leaders to look at the big picture, invite creative voices to the table, listen to youth, make every Vermonter feel involved in the climate fight, look for solutions that will create jobs for Vermonters at all levels of education.
We would love for Vermont to become known as an innovative hub in the climate fight, tapping into Vermonters’ love and pride of their state, and giving everyone a sense of purpose and belonging in this fight.
As William Hutchinson Murray puts it so eloquently, “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, the Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would otherwise never have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.”
As parents, our commitment comes from looking into the eyes of our children and knowing deep in our bones, that we are responsible for the world we will leave to them. Our commitment comes from watching youth like Greta Thunberg stand up with courage and ask the world to wake up. Vermont leaders, where does your commitment come from? We want you to commit to climate action and justice with all your might, your words and your actions. We want you to make all your decisions according to this mission statement: “Keep fossil fuels in the ground” with the deep trust that our survival and our future thriving depends on it.
Compiled by Géraldine Vatan, Montpelier Mother Up! organizer.