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Step it up for global warming

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April 12, 2007

By MEGAN JAMES

MIDDLEBURY — When Lincoln resident Stacey Lee-Dobek saw “An Inconvenient Truth,” the film about Al Gore’s fight against climate change, for the first time last December, she knew it was time to take action against global warming.

“I stood up and said out loud to myself, ‘I have to do something more than changing my light bulbs,’” she said. “It became a New Year’s Resolution.”

So Lee-Dobek sat down at her computer to begin researching the issue, and before she knew it, she’d found Step It Up, Ripton environmentalist Bill McKibben’s nation-wide virtual demonstration to send the U.S. government a singular message on Saturday, April 14: “Step it up, Congress! Cut carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050.”

Over the last five months, McKibben and his crew of six recent Middlebury College graduates have helped facilitate the organization of more than 1,200 actions to take place simultaneously in all 50 states that day. From the tops of melting glaciers and the steps of town halls, demonstrators will upload digital images of their actions to the Step it Up Web site at www.stepitup2007.org, and those images will be compiled and delivered straight to Congress.

Lee-Dobek fell in love with the idea immediately, and in her excitement, signed herself up for two different demonstrations. Realizing she couldn’t be in two places at once, she dropped the idea she’d planned for Burlington, and focused instead on organizing a primary rally for Middlebury.

“My focus is letting Vermonters know what they can do to help,” she said. “I’m concerned about mankind and coastal cities, especially where the economy is really poor. I’ve got kids, and they’re going to have kids and I want their quality of life to be just as good as ours.”

For Lee-Dobek, the first key to fighting global warming locally is “aggressive conservatism” of energy.

“Carpooling is one of the most effective things we can do as Vermonters,” she said. “It’s amazing how much we drive in this state.”

Middlebury’s rally will begin this Saturday at 2 p.m. on the town green, where demonstrators will convene with banners, posters and possibly even drums. They will then walk to the Marble Works footbridge, where they will pose for the group photo, and continue to the municipal gym, where from 3 to 5 p.m., area renewable energy activists and musicians will hold an environmental fair.

The activities will begin with a performance by Ripton-based folk trio Bread and Bones, featuring Richard Ruane, Beth Duquette and Mitch Barron. Middlebury College English and environmental studies professor John Elder will give a short presentation about what Vermonters can do to lessen their impact on the environment and how to affect change in Congress. Representatives from area environmental organizations will set up informational booths.

“What I’ve been impressed by is how much is going on in Addison County,” Lee-Dobek said. “Until the bug bit me I had no clue.”

She is excited to see all of these local efforts to combat climate change showcased in one room on Saturday, including Central Vermont Public Service (CVPS) Cow Power, Bristol-based IdleFree Vermont, Addison County Relocalization Network (ACoRN) and SolarFest, a Middletown Springs nonprofit that uses art to build renewable energy education in its community. 

With Step It Up, area residents have a unique opportunity to send their message directly to Congress. Lee-Dobek urges everyone to join a demonstration on Saturday, whether it is in Middlebury or at one of the 64 actions planned for Vermont. The ones in area towns will take place in:

• Brandon, where a bike ride against global warming will begin in front of the Brandon Free Public Library and a pinwheel parade will take place at the gazebo in the park by the falls at 10 a.m.

• East Middlebury, where residents will gather at the Gorge at the Middlebury River at 11 a.m.

• Orwell, where Singing Cedars Farmstead will host a seed-planting event starting at 10 a.m.

• Ripton, where students from the North Branch School will serve a potluck lunch at the Ripton Community House at 11 a.m. and people will gather at Spirit In Nature off Ripton-Goshen Road at noon.

• Salisbury, where residents will gather at Camp Keewaydin at noon and then offer a couple of interpretive hikes in the area.

• Vergennes, where people at Vergennes Union Middle School will spend the day, starting at 8 a.m., writing to legislators and creating an art project focused on global warming.

And if all of these are still too far to drive, Lee-Dobek suggested that interested Vermonters create their own demonstration. To do so, go to the Step It Up Web site for information on how to register a new action.

“It’s not too late for people to host their own actions,” she said. “People can climb to the top of Mount Abe or Camel’s Hump. The important thing is to get a banner with the slogan and to upload a photo from wherever you are.”

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