Vermonters have a long, sometimes storied, sometimes notorious, history of working on our land. In the latter category we have, among others, the sheep boom of the early 19th Century that left vast forests converted to pasture; the near-clearcutting of the entire state during the lumber (and wood construction) boom of the later 19th; the complete trashing of our waters by riverbank industries; and our modern-day violations of the Clean Water Act, caused in large part by agriculture and inadequate public water treatment.
Throughout it all, Vermont has been a working landscape with a tenuous, inconsistent relationship to the environment. Fortunately, we never found exploitable resources like coal or precious metals or oil. Also fortunately, the population has remained small enough that we’ve never been able to damage the environment beyond its incredible ability to regenerate.
But whether we were engaged in massive sheep farming, clearcut lumbering, industry, dairy farming, or shopping malls and subdivisions, the one constant is that we live in a “working landscape.” We have often celebrated that fact. And indeed, long-familiar aspects of the working landscape — even if they cause environmental degradation — are cherished parts of our way of life.
Myself, I’m looking forward to the next evolution of Vermont’s working landscape: the integration of renewable energy, the creation of a closer-to-home energy supply, the diminished dependence on fossil fuels and on massive “renewable” sources elsewhere, such as Seabrook Nuclear and the destructive hydro projects in northern Quebec.