Evolving Peace

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Saturday, February 03, 2007

Lack of Snow, Southern VT.

The news is full of stories about how global warming has become not just a theory, but a reality. Although, the realities of rising temperatures and erratic weather patterns are so strong, I was still shocked to see on a recent drive a few hours south from my home in Montpelier, Vermont, an absence of snow. February 2nd, driving along Interstate 91 in Vermont, visions of snow this time of year is so prevalent, so looking at the brown and barren countryside was a bit odd.

Southern Vermont still in the heart of ski country was brown as a November day, just after the leaves have fallen. What has happened to winter down here, I just do not know. Having experienced the last few weeks of subzero temperatures in Montpelier, I just could not believe where I was. Thankful that night like magic, snow flakes fell from the sky. Downtown Brattleboro was immersed in a flakey white blanket of snow. Adults slid down sidewalks like children playing at the schoolyard. Winter and snow brings a picturesque sight of joy and freshness to these sleepy parts.

Waking up in the morning, the sun shined bright as could be. I felt like I needed sunglasses to shield the might of the sun’s powerful rays. A beautiful day as I discussed to a woman outside of Mocha Joes Coffee shop. She told me that the night before in Northhampton, Mass., snow ball fights were the activity of the evening and it was a sight to see. Lowell, the innkeeper of 40 Putney Road along with his wife Lindsay, told me that it was the first significant snowfall of the winter around those parts and that it was a pleasure to see. (By the way if you ever want to stay in a nice bed and breakfast in Southern Vermont and do not want to stay in some swanky establishment run by psychotic innkeepers that is the place to stay.)

Anyway, seeing the pleasures and joy of a winter’s day, it made me question even more about the ramifications of global warming. Some climatologists have claimed that this winter's unseasonable warm temperatures are due more to the El Nino effect and not of global warming. Maybe this could be a wake up call for humanity and governments to take action and not wait for the dire predictions to fall upon us. Global warming theories have claimed that average temperatures could rise from 1 degree to eight degrees, so while there are drastic differences in the temperatures of this winter I hope that a spark is driven into our society for the need to act.

In Vermont, most of the carbon emissions attributed to global warming are emitted from private vehicles. While there are other sources, the need for the automobile is creating the greatest dangers. Towns and cities used to be linked by railroads and streetcars as the major forms of transportation, but today it is a distant memory of the past. Society has been built against that and the automobile has become king.

Train travel has become unproductive, time consuming and cost prohibitive. A trip from Montpelier to Brattleboro would leave at 9:42 am and arrive at 12:30pm and the return would be at 5:10pm and arrive at 8:02pm at a cost of $55. Driving takes just about two hours and cost about $25 in gas. Even worse, I have family still in NJ and in order for me to visit them by train it would take about ten hours, while driving takes me five hours. So as a consumer which would use choose?

The federal government, states and municipalities have mass-subsidized the building of roads and highways and the basic infrastructure of the railways has been left to rust. Europe has long been a pioneer in developing and promoting its rail network, but the US has fallen by the wayside and focused on the rise of the automobile. A ninety year old man in Jericho told me that as a youth he remembers trains that ran frequently between there, Burlington, Montpelier and St. Johnsbury.

Whatever happened to "progress," instead of moving forward, we as a nation have been moving backwards. As I have been taught by my outlaw (future father-in-law) and partner that when it comes from discussing railroads we must label it as investing in the infrastructure and that we must stop subsidizing the auto and oil industry through the continued developing of roads and highways that are polluting our earth. Maybe with today’s youth’s fascination with trains the nation will revert back on track.

For those critics of my words, yes I do drive on those roads but I have chosen many options in my own life to help counteract the rise of green house gasses. The truth of the matter is that as much as I am doing and what many others are doing it may be futile without governmental action and real investment in our future. So as I had just returned from the road and back to Montpelier I was thrilled to see the white blanket of snow that covered the landscape I was reminded of the natural beauty of our environment. I just hope that as a society we will progress in a manner that will foster environmental friendly approaches to our lives.

Robb Kidd

"The improved American highway system isolated the American-in-transit. On his speedway he had no contact with the towns which he by-passed. If he stopped for food or gas, he was served no local fare or local fuel, but had one of Howard Johnson's nationally branded ice cream flavors, and so many gallons of Exxon. This vast ocean of superhighways was nearly as free of culture as the sea traversed by the Mayflower Pilgrims." Daniel J Boorstin Historian and former Librarian of Congress


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