Join town boards in the spirit of local environmental activism

BRATTLEBORO — In April of 1970, when I was a senior in high school in Pennsylvania, my girlfriend (and now wife of 38 years) and I skipped school and took the local train into Philadelphia to attend the first Earth Day Rally.

It was exhilarating to see thousands of young people like us demanding change in how we treated our planet.

Back then, littering was commonplace, dumping raw sewage into rivers and streams was the norm, and emissions on factories and cars had no standards.

Within two years, a Republican president, Richard Nixon, signed the Clean Water Act, and within nine months the Environmental Protection Agency was established and thousands of communities across the country scheduled annual cleanups that still occur every spring.

I went on to college and got my degree in soil science and ended up working my career for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resource Conservation Service and conducted soil surveys in southern Vermont and around the country.

I look back on that Earth Day in 1970 as a pivotal time in my life and know how important that rally was in determining what career path I would take.

It was encouraging to me to see hundreds of young people locally and millions globally get involved in the crisis of the planet. Though the climate-change debate has been raging for decades, it has taken a 16-year-old Swedish girl to bring it into focus and energize the youth.

We need young activists in the world to be involved in events that affect us all in general but them - and their future - in particular. Activism does work!

The overused expression “Think globally and act locally” is appropriate here. As a citizen of Brattleboro for 40 years, I have been involved with the town Agricultural Advisory Committee and Conservation Commission. At present, we have four of seven seats filled on the Conservation Commission with three ongoing vacancies.

Most of us are well past 50 and in need of some energetic youthful people to help us combat issues concerning the environment on a town level. The town routinely sends announcements for open positions on a variety of commissions and boards that can be filled by residents 18 or older.

Typically, when they are filled, if at all, it is by grey-haired individuals. We could use some strong backs and good minds as we combat Japanese knotweed, one of our projects along the West River. It might not grab headlines, but it will give you a sense of satisfaction that you are doing your part to help the environment - locally.

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