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Writers tackle climate change

Vermont authors take on impending climate catastrophe and in so doing shout out our values, clear and loud, to the rest of the world

Dede Cummings is an environmental activist, a member of 350-Vermont, and the founder of Green Writers Press, an environmentally conscious book publishing house that produced many of the titles that she mentions here. Bill Mares and Jeff Danziger will read from The Full Vermonty: Vermont in the Age of Trump on Wednesday, Feb. 7, at 7 p.m.. at the St. Johnsbury Athenaeum at 1171 Main St. in St. Johnsbury.

Brattleboro

Yes, the climate is in peril, and most of us are too busy to stop and look through the forest.

You see, in Vermont, we are protected, somewhat. Our proximity to Canada, always good, gives us a northern edge. Our Northeast Kingdom, in fact, is a world unto itself, teeming with trout, bears, wild and untamed mountains and bogs, and people who inhabit a world of slow living.

Down south, in Brattleboro, where I live, we are linked by our location between the cities of Boston and New York.

Given the impressive swath of our great state, how does one unify to face the impending climate catastrophe and shout out, clear and loud, to the rest of the world that we are a free, independent little state with a fierce and growing electorate who cares about social justice and the fragility of our climate?

* * *

Our migrant farm workers are a good example of the longstanding tradition of what makes Vermont so great.

Its people and its farms.

Its politicians, like Bernie Sanders, not afraid to speak up for the working people.

Its countless writers and artists, like Ines Zeller Bass and Eric Bass of Sandglass Theater in Putney, who use theater to promulgate a message of hope.

Politics and art aside, what else is there to wake people up to taking a vocal and activist stand against the climate deniers who inhabit the White House?

How can we organize, especially since the election of the arch-nemesis of President Obama thundered into the White House on his cell phone, bleeping out annoying and inaccurate tweets that jeopardize our safety in the world and our fragile environment?

Do the corporations care? Corporations that plunder and pave roads and lay down pipelines filled with gas and oil, that erect windmills that no one wants on our ridges, that imagine a world where they can deliver books by drones from warehouses that don’t even benefit the local economy? Easy answer: greed is a problem for global sustainability.

Enter Bill Mares and Jeff Danziger, two Vermont friends who collaborated on a new book, The Full Vermonty: Vermont in the Age of Trump (Green Writers Press, 2017), and Bill McKibben, the Schumann Distinguished Scholar in Environmental Studies at Middlebury College and an author, environmentalist, and co-founder of the international climate campaign 350.org, which works in 188 countries around the world, with a new book, Radio Free Vermont: A Tale of Resistance (Blue Rider Press 2017).

Let’s not overlook Brattleboro-area writer Peter Gould, one of the original back-to-the-landers in Guilford, whose memoir of stories, Horse-Drawn Yogurt: Stories from Total Loss Farm, is filled with laugh-out-loud humor and poignancy.

Why am I hopeful about these activist writers making a difference in saving our environment? They are funny, that’s why!

* * *

God knows, it has been three decades since Bill McKibben wrote The End of Nature and longer than that since I was a college student at Middlebury College determined to live in Vermont, start a family and a co-op, and dwell amongst a community of communards. Decades.

What has happened to global warming? We all know the answer: just look at the weather news from the past year alone — tropical storms with the fiercest winds in history, fires burning out of control — and, whether you believe in science or not, you will notice the bizarre weather conditions with the words “bomb” in their terminology.

Where did that come from, you wonder, as you huddle down in front of your wood stove with a good book.

* * *

The books I mention are all comedies, but one new book is more of a tragedy and packs a wallop in its quiet and sustained story of a Vermont family and a daughter’s search for a heroine-addicted mother in the hills around Brattleboro during Tropical Storm Irene in 2011.

That is Marlboro writer Robin MacArthur’s debut novel Heart Spring Mountain, newly published by Ecco Press. Brava to MacArthur, who uses her considerable talent as a writer to create a novel centered around climate change at its core, with a storm that remains fresh in our minds with the devastation it wrought.

Whether it be comedy, or tragedy, we all need to tell the story of the global climate crisis.

These Vermont writers are doing just that.

What do you think? Leave us a comment

Editor’s note: Our terms of service require you to use your real names. We will remove anonymous or pseudonymous comments that come to our attention. We rely on our readers’ personal integrity to stand behind what they say; please do not write anything to someone that you wouldn’t say to his or her face without your needing to wear a ski mask while saying it. Thanks for doing your part to make your responses forceful, thoughtful, provocative, and civil. We also consider your comments for the letters column in the print newspaper.

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Tamara Stenn
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Tamara Stenn (Brattleboro, Vermont, US) says...

Thanks for writing this Elayne. I was thinking the same thing myself. The silence we received from the hospital is quite deafening. Unfortunately we\'ve had to continue working with the hospital as other (minor) heath issues come up.

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Judith Skillman
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Judith Skillman (Newcastle, US) says...

Excellent and informative writing about the media and about the state of our nation. We must support the press speak truth to power, now more than ever before.

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Ruby Bode
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Ruby Bode (Westminster, Vermont, US) says...

We are also obliged to criticize the press when they merely echo the lies of the powerful. In this case, much of the press has taken a side, not just against the policies of the President, but against the election itself on behalf of the parties of war and Wall St. Just as the US has in the past agitated in other countries for coups against democratic outcomes they don’t like, much of the press, including this editorial, is now agitating for a coup here at home.

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Peter Ford
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Peter Ford (Dallas) says...

Nailed it - Thank you.

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TB Smith
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TB Smith (Ba, Oklahoma, US) says...

The divisiveness brought on by this shamefully poor excuse for a president has been once again, borne out by this article, and the responses to it .. his most devoted followers are the most gullible and easily swayed sheeple since the \"Kool-Aid party in Jonestown\" ... those who stand up the most fervently to this dictator \"wanabe\", will , inthe end, see him and the fellow purveyors of his garbage rhetoric like FOX News, Alex Jones, Breitbart, etc., crumble and be dumped like stale crackers (pardon the pun) .. we must impeach this tyrant before too much damage is done, either from within or outside our borders.

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Ruby Bode
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Ruby Bode (Westminster, Vermont, US) says...

So it’s OK that access to outlets that simply recognize Trump as President is indeed being shut down? But isn’t that exactly what this editorial is against? Should outlets that cheered on Obama’s wars and love of Wall St have likewise been shut down? Only John Birch Society–inspired screeds against Trump indicate the “legitimate” press?

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Ruby Bode
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Ruby Bode (Westminster, Vermont, US) says...

TB Smith’s comment in apparent support of the us-vs-them tone of this editorial illustrates why so many people distrust so much of the press (although, again, it appears to be only pro-Trump and anti-imperialist outlets that are actually being shut down): They are promulgating hysterical claims about fascism, Russians, and “crackers” not in the interest of the people, but wholly on behalf of the neoliberal/neoconservative program of Reagan, Clinton, Bush, and Obama to deny Trump the Presidency and even remove him from office – not democratically, but by coup if necessary. That makes the press rather anti-democratic and, indeed, against the people.

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Amelia Stone
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Amelia Stone (E Dummerston, Vermont, US) says...

Kudos to the Boston Globe for encouraging newspapers across the country to remind us all of the value of a free press, and to the Commons for hearing that call. The NYTimes article, A Free Press Needs You, concludes with the following: \"If you haven’t already, please subscribe to your local papers. Praise them when you think they’ve done a good job and criticize them when you think they could do better. We’re all in this together.\" Today I plan to subscribe.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #445 (Wednesday, February 7, 2018). This story appeared on page E3.

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