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By Dotty Kyle
It was an excellent meeting, by the way, with lots of intelligent questions, creative thoughts and broad involvement.
Here are my thoughts – broadened to include all Valley towns, not just Warren:
As a member of Warren's Energy Committee, I planned to talk about the single most important issue of mankind today and into the future.
Energy – where it comes from, how we access it from raw sources, how we use it and what the implications are for humanity.
Anyone who can read knows that our electricity and the fuels that warm our buildings and power our vehicles come from two main sources: fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas that come from plants and organisms that were buried in the earth millions upon millions of years ago – and from renewable sources – the sun, wind and water.
If we remember our grade-school science – or Star Trek – we know that living things, plants and animals, contain a lot of carbon. As Mr. Spock often pointed out, we are "carbon-based life forms." Carbon is the second most abundant element in the human body after oxygen, and it comprises about 50 percent of plants. We breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. Plants breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen. For millennia, a delicate balance has been maintained in order to keep the planet functioning for the benefit of all life on earth. That atmospheric balance, the greenhouse effect, results in a stable, life-sustaining climate.
Trouble is, since the mid-1800s the engines of industrialization have mined, refined and burned the earth's bountiful fossil materials in greater amounts each year. The result has been to spew carbon plus tons of toxic chemicals into the air that we breathe. Around the globe, we all share the same air and we all breathe and it's getting unhealthier year by year.
Another part of the equation is what's happening in the atmosphere. The increased carbon dioxide and other gasses have nearly doubled that delicate greenhouse balance trapping heat, melting glaciers, acidifying the oceans and increasing the air's ability to hold water resulting in more extreme weather events and forcing critters, including humans, to move as their habitats change. We can easily see these changes happening today. Business as usual accelerates the pace of change.
So what can we do? The simple answer is to stop throwing carbon and toxic junk into the air. Trouble is, it ain't so simple. Human nature, national interests, politics and, most of all, industries that want to protect their bottom lines all get in the way. We can't expect the lives that we enjoy and the aspirations of millions who want our lifestyle to grind to a halt.
What it takes is informed people aware that there isn't a whole lot of time left to act. We must get off our behinds and do what's possible now in order that our kids and grandkids will have a decent future. It's the moral thing to do.
Vermont has created a Comprehensive Energy Plan that's updated every five years with ambitious goals and strategies to move Vermont away from fossil fuels and into an energy-efficient, energy-conserving future. Warren's Energy Committee is working with our planning commission to rewrite the Energy Chapter of our 2015 Town Plan, with the goal of staying ahead of the curve. We encourage other Valley towns to do the same.
It's far cheaper and easier to make changes now before we're forced to than to wait. The Valley is in a great position to lead; to have more comfortable homes using less fuel, to generate a good portion of our own electricity, to find creative town-specific transportation solutions and, most of all, to maintain the historic character of these beautiful towns we call home.
If you agree that we need to act, please check out the ton of information on Vermont.gov and efficiencyvermont.com websites and join your local energy committee. Warren's Energy Committee has a packed agenda for 2014 and we'd love to have more help.
In Warren, we're Callie Willis, Bob Baron, Wendy Cox, me, Dotty Kyle, and my husband Eric Brattstrom. Join us! Thanks.
Dotty Kyle lives in Warren.