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Organizers plan for second big climate change protest

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10/18/07

By MEGAN JAMES

ADDISON COUNTY — Before moving to East Middlebury last year, Jeff Jones lived in the Caribbean, where he ran a food distribution company for the Turks and Caicos. It was there, a stone’s throw from the main island’s electricity plant, which ran on low-grade diesel fuel, that he first started tracking the peak oil crisis.

“The plant was a mile and a half away and it was just belching diesel fumes to provide energy,” Jones said. Without a dryer in the house, he would try to gauge which way the wind was blowing before hanging his clothes out to dry.

“My clothes would smell like I just got out of the garage after an eight-hour shift working on diesel engines,” he said. “This can’t be sustainable, I thought.”

Since then, Jones has been “ringing the alarm bell” about the rapidly-approaching expiration date of cheap oil, and that’s what drew him to Step It Up 2, the sequel to last April’s nationwide day of climate change demonstrations led by Ripton author Bill McKibben and a group of Middlebury College graduates.

“What we have to do for one, if we do it right, will help the other,” Jones said of global warming and peak oil, the time when half the world’s total oil reserves has been pumped out of the ground and people begin to face a scarcity of petroleum. 

On Nov. 3, Jones will join area residents in making a second call to the U.S. government to “Step it up: cut carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050.” But this time, the campaign doesn’t just offer a goal, but an outline of changes the country needs to make to get there.

Step It Up is partnering with the national initiative “1 Sky,” and promoting its checklist of priorities: cut carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050, introduce five million “green jobs” by 2015 and impose a moratorium on new coal-fired power plants as soon as possible.

“A lot of people are coming at this from really different angles this time,” said organizer May Boeve from the Step It Up headquarters in Manchester, N.H.

Last spring Step It Up sparked more than 1,400 demonstrations in 50 states, the largest global warming consciousness-raising event in U.S. history.

“It’s only been since starting this second (day of action) that we can fully understand the first one,” Boeve said. “In a lot of ways last time we were just keeping up with the enthusiasm. We didn’t know how to do this. We were just sort of winging it and we weren’t thinking super long term.”

What they discovered was a groundswell of grassroots support, grossly outweighing the country’s political attention to the issue.

The goal this Nov. 3, almost exactly one year before the next presidential election, is to demand political leadership in the fight against climate change. Organizers are encouraging participants to invite as many of their region’s political leaders as they can. Invitations can be sent directly from the Step It Up Web site at www.stepitup2007.org.

Boeve said for many people, just making contact with a political leader has been an empowering experience.

“You start to wonder, why haven’t I made this connection with my representative before? Why don’t I know my member of Congress?” she said.

So far, six politicians have confirmed they will attend rallies — 40 members of congress attended last April’s rallies — but there’s still time for more to sign on. Two of the confirmed guests hail from Vermont and plan to attend the Burlington rally: Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders and Democratic Rep. Peter Welch.

Here in Addison County, activists are planning a number of local events for Nov. 3.

Jones will host a hike to the top of Mount Abe in Lincoln, where participants will take a photograph with a banner and talk about addressing global warming and peak oil over local cheeses and wine.

But Jones doesn’t want to wait until next month to get the local discussion started. So on Thursday, Oct. 25, at 5 p.m. at Middlebury’s Ilsley Library he will host Daniel Lerch, author of “Post Carbon Cities,” a guidebook on peak oil and global warming for people who work with and for local governments. 

OTHER NOV. 3 ACTIVITIES

Anyone can organize an event for Nov. 3’s Step It Up 2 and register it at www.stepitup2007.org. Several area people besides Jones have planned Step It Up Activities for that day.

Middlebury resident Laura Asermily is looking to lead a Nov. 3 action in Middlebury that will involve Addison County Transit Resources (ACTR), though details have not been firmed up.

Over in Ripton, Kelsey McGlashan, a ninth-grader at the North Branch School is inviting people to join him at the Robert Frost Cabin for a day of reflection. Participants should bring their favorite environmental poem and a notebook and pencil to the poet’s old home on Route 125 near the Breadloaf campus.

There will be a reading of the poems, and then participants will find a quiet place in the woods or field to write and draw about the natural world.

“One way I thought about it is that the Frost cabin is such a quiet and peaceful place, and it’s usually untouched by people,” McGlashan said. He hopes those who come on Nov. 3 will take some time to think about nature’s fragile beauty.

McGlashan helped organize a Step It Up action last spring, and he is excited to be part of the movement again.

“It was really pretty cool because it gave us a chance to really stand up for what we believe in,” he said. “It we’re going to do something about (climate change), we’ve got to do it now. We can’t wait around.”

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