Tag Archives: Bill McKibben

We Are Just Way Too F***in’ Polite Around Here

Painting by Marc Adornato. See note below.

When, in a previous post, I called on Seven Days to fill its vacant “Fair Game” position with a skilled reporter/observer from outside Vermont, I got a response via Twitter that essentially said that #vtpoli is too “insular” for an outsider to penetrate. (Can’t find the tweet now; apologies to the tweeter.) My response to that would be “Exactly!” Vermont’s politics are far too insular. That’s precisely why we need someone from elsewhere who hasn’t internalized all that insularity and/or has too many friends in the bubble. Someone with the perspective that allows them to see that the emperor has no clothes.

We’ve got a really good example of that insularity going on right now. Last week, the state Public Utilities Commission issued a ruling that wasn’t at all surprising, but that defied common sense. The three-member panel rejected a proposed solar farm in Manchester on esthetic grounds.

This, despite the fact that we’ve got to go all-out in our efforts to mitigate climate change, and that Vermont is doing nowhere near its share on the renewable front. Also despite these facts:

  • All the relevant local and regional bodies approved the project.
  • No one, aside from a handful of NIMBY neighbors, objected to it.
  • The developer went above and beyond the call of duty to minimize esthetic impact.
  • The PUC’s own “aesthetics consultant” said the array “would not have an undue adverse effect on aesthetics.”

So it was a stupid decision that strikes a significant blow at renewable development in Vermont. But that’s not what I’m writing about here.

The subject of this sermon is the almost complete silence from those who ought to be outraged by this ruling: the Vermont Democratic Party and The Usual Suspects in the environmental community. Where was the tsunami of protest?

The answer is, we’re way too polite and insular.

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Matt Dunne loses his biggest environmental booster

For those who thought I was making a mountain out of a molehill, here’s your Monday morning wakeup: environmental activist Bill McKibben has withdrawn his endorsement of Matt Dunne for governor. He’s shifted his support to Sue Minter. The news was broken today by Seven Days’ Terri Hallenbeck.

This is big in two fundamental ways. First, obviously, McKibben is the planet’s number-one climate change activist. His endorsement of Dunne was effectively an environmental seal of approval.

Second, McKibben was an early and enthusiastic supporter of Dunne — indeed, he encouraged Dunne to run for governor, presumably because he thought that Dunne was the best candidate to continue Vermont’s renewable energy push. As recently as last Wednesday, McKibben co-signed a letter to the Addison Independent endorsing Dunne.

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A curious duality of nothingness, and a rhetorical faceplant

Welp, I forced myself to go back and watch last week’s gubernatorial forum on Vermont’s economic future in a time of climate change, as the organizers dubbed it. And I found something fascinating on the Republican side. As in the way a child is fascinated by turning over a rock and watching the critters disperse.

On the one hand, you had a guy who acknowledges the reality of climate change and the human role in it, but doesn’t want to do anything to address it. On the other, you had a guy who questions the scientific consensus on climate change but has a bunch of ideas that are kinda-sorta related to the issue.

Candidate A is Bruce Lisman. Candidate B is Phil Scott.

Most of this essay will concern Scott, because (1) his presentation was an appalling mess, and (2) he’s going to win the primary, so Lisman’s brand of environmental unconcern is of little relevance.

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Phil Scott’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Pity our poor Lieutenant Governor. He had to sit directly behind Governor Shumlin during the State of the State address, and try to figure out what he should do with his face. Most of the time, he looked pouty and miserable. And then tonight, he’d scheduled a major speech of his own to react to Shumlin’s address — only to be bigfooted by Donald Trump.

I’m sure he’ll still draw a crowd of the Republican faithful, but he’s not gonna get much media attention. It’ll be lots of Trump and a goodly helping of Shumlin, with Scott hoping for a few crumbs off the table.

Phil Scott Trying Not To Be Seen during Shumlin's climate remarks. Screengrab from WCAX-TV.

Phil Scott Trying Not To Be Seen during Shumlin’s climate remarks. Screengrab from WCAX-TV.

To be fair, he was put in a difficult position today. He couldn’t afford to appear enthusiastic for fear of alienating the Republican base; but he didn’t want to seem like an ingrate either. The result looked more like dyspepsia than a firm stance. He rarely looked directly at the Governor; his eyes wandered around the room; he looked down at the floor for long stretches of time. (Especially when Shumlin talked about climate change, when he seemed to be willing himself invisible.)

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Oh hey look: another VTGOP climate change denier

Here’s a little compost sprinkled on your cornflakes, courtesy of one Eileen Rodgers, “communications director for the Burlington Republican Committee”:

Along with plotting to place wind turbines on 200 miles of ridge lines and scheming to occupy thousands of acres of our fields with solar panels, the central planners in Vermont are busying themselves with projects that are guaranteed to squeeze our cars off the roads.

There’s a whole lotta hate in that little paragraph, which is the kickoff of an opinion piece by Rodgers posted on VTDigger this morning. Plotting, scheming, central planners squeezing our cars off the roads.

So tell me, when exactly did Old Joe Stalin resurrect himself and take over Vermont?

In the guise of Bill McKibben, no less?

Climate change has been a very convenient phenomenon. It has given a sense of validity to all sorts of projects the big guys support. Energy from the wind and sun will take care of our electricity needs and our transportation needs will be met with … bicycles!!

Yeah, that’s… uh, wait, nobody is saying any of that. Except maybe the voices in Eileen Rodgers’ head.

And “big guys”? Since when are Republicans against “big guys”?

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