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Not-for-Profit, Award-Winning Community News and Views for Windham County, Vermont • Since 2006
Voices / Letters from readers

Brattleboro can, and must, plan ahead

The writer is the founding director of Post Oil Solutions.

At the Brattleboro Selectboard meeting on Tuesday, June 7, Post Oil Solutions will propose the formation of a Sustainable Community Task Force.

Our purpose in doing so is to suggest a way in which the Brattleboro community can begin to plan for the transition we’ll have to make in the years ahead as we enter an era of energy descent.

For at least 100 years, we’ve been dependent upon abundant, cheap, accessible petroleum for our highly technological, post-industrial, consumer-oriented way of life. The problem, however, is that neither this way of life, nor the energy source that has made it possible, are sustainable. Petroleum, like so many other resources that have built our modern civilization, is finite and very near peaking.

What remains in the ground will no longer be easily accessible or inexpensive; demand will exceed production, especially as the economies of countries like India and China continue to grow at their present startling pace.

Thus, much for which town residents currently depend upon fossil fuels — food, transportation, energy, health care, municipal services, retail goods, education, culture, and recreation — will become more expensive and less available.

Furthermore, fossil fuels are causing increasingly catastrophic damage to our planet. The global warming that results from their burning, along with the attendant climate change (floods, droughts, famine, violent storms, ice melt, species extinction) immediately require us to greatly reduce our dependence on petroleum and seek green alternatives.

The good news is that Brattleboro is not starting from square one to make this transition.

There are active citizen organizations (like Post Oil Solutions), as well as important town committees (such as Paul Cameron’s Climate Protection and Energy Committee) that are already involved. But these are not sufficient by themselves to prepare the town for the transition that the historically unprecedented energy descent will require.

What is needed is an approach that engages the entire community, one that is premised on the understanding that energy descent is unavoidable. We need municipal leadership for the town-wide planning and mobilization required for its citizens to adapt to the changes to come.

Already, some 600 municipalities throughout the country are making such an effort, including our neighbors up the road in Montpelier, who are striving to make their city the first sustainable state capital.

Therefore, our proposal on June 7 is two-fold: first, that the Selectboard appoint a committee to look into the creation of a task force that would report back within a specified time (3 to 6 months) with its findings, along with recommendations as to what such a body would look like; and second, that it endorse a town collaboration with Post Oil Solutions to develop a road map for transitioning the community’s food sources away from our present heavy reliance on a largely imported, fossil fuel-dependent system to a community-based food system that is more resilient and sustainable.

We invite all interested citizens to join us on June 7.

Tim Stevenson

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Originally published in The Commons issue #103 (Wednesday, June 1, 2011).

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