This week’s edition of Movement Monday is coming to you from the Burlington Airport as I’m on my way back home after a fun weekend of cross-country ski racing in Vermont. Though I attended college in northwestern Massachusetts, I spent a good chunk of those years toodling around Vermont, and as a result, the Green Mountain State, with all of its cute little general stores and copious amounts of maple syrup, has a warm place in my heart.
But, as many of you may be aware, there’s more to Vermont than first meets the eye: Stretching from Ethan Allen’s ragtag group of revolutionaries in the 1700s to Bernie Sanders in the present, this little state has a serious renegade streak (not to mention their ice cream). The state’s politics are not easily summed up or categorized–they have had a Republican governor alongside a solidly Democratic House and Senate since 2017, and they’ve voted for the Democratic presidential nominee as a state since 1992, but they also have “historically permissive gun laws.” As explained in this masters’ thesis out of Johns Hopkins, it is believed that these non-traditional or split-ticket electoral results come from the state’s emphasis on local politics, rather than national issues. Town meetings! Direct democracy! Strong community-organizing!
This is not to say Vermont and its brand of state politics is perfect–they’ve certainly got struggles with poverty, affordable housing, an aging population, the opioid epidemic, and other things–but, I do applaud their commitment to governing their state according to their values, rather than taking cues from national politics that may not apply to state issues.
One way we’ve recently seen this play out was the adoption of the state’s first Climate Action Plan this past December, even as Biden’s climate policies continue to not be passed at the federal level. The plan lays out recommendations for how Vermont can lower emissions to set goals in 2025, 2030, and 2050. Top line recommendations include further regulating the electricity sector and fuel wholesalers, weatherizing homes, getting more electric vehicles on the road, and funding programs so that these improvements are available to all Vermonters. This is a great first step, and was a result of efforts from concerned citizens and groups like the Vermont Energy and Climate Action Network, the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, Vermont Natural Resources Council, Vermont Conservation Voters, Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility, and the Vermont chapter of the Sierra Club.
All this to say, let the story of Vermont and its Climate Action Plan inspire you, especially when it feels like action on the federal level is impossible but action on the individual level is futile. Your voice matters in local politics! (And honestly, you probably care more and are more knowledgeable about what’s happening in your city or town than what’s happening in some swing state over yonder.) So, some things to check out this week:
- VECAN’s Citizen’s Guide for Becoming a More Engaging, Effective Advocate
- Consider running for local office! This may sound kinda crazy, but it’s certainly an effective way to have an impact. And orgs like Run for Something can help you make it happen.
- This scholarly article about the connection between local politics, grassroots activism, and getting cities to 100% renewable energy.