Protect Geprags Action (Credit Jim Mendell)

My name is Julie Elfin, and I’m an intern with 350VT. I study the environment and public communications at the University of Vermont (UVM). I’m interested in creative communication around big issues like climate change, and in the power of compelling stories to change hearts and minds. I’ve been involved with the climate movement for a few years, and the insular “bubbles” of political opinion that limit the discussion have always bothered me. I believe stories can inspire and persuade in ways that facts and debates cannot.

In order to put this conviction into action, I’ve spent the past few months interviewing activists engaged in the fight against the Vermont Gas pipeline in Addison County. Through short personal profiles, I hope to introduce readers to the many faces of environmental activism in Vermont.

I’ve talked with landowners on the pipeline route, community members and people from farther away, with people of different ages, beliefs, and backgrounds, to learn what motivates Vermonters to take environmental direct action. I interviewed life-long activists and Vermonters who don’t consider themselves activists at all. Whether they’ve got involved to protect their back yard from eminent domain or the whole planet from climate change, due to moral conviction or economic pragmatism, this movement has brought people together and created a community no one expected.

I’ll be sharing their stories here every Monday morning and on Facebook every Tuesday afternoon, starting next week, for the next two months.

In this series, we’ll hear from folks including:

  • Terence Cuneo of Williston, a philosophy professor at UVM who teaches the ethics of climate change and whose family fought Vermont Gas’ attempt to seize their home
  • Mary Martin of Cornwall, a grandmother who “wasn’t looking for a cause” but got inspired to resist when her town was threatened by the pipeline
  • Rebecca Dalgin of Montpelier, whose passion for herbalism informs her relationship with nature in a changing climate
  • and Jane Palmer of Monkton, who was arrested in 2014 for occupying the Vermont Gas offices and is concerned about the impacts of the pipeline on local agriculture.

These people’s actions have power when viewed as a collective movement, a whole community asserting their values and standing up to corporate power. Vermont is a state of independent, forward-thinking people, and when businesses and governments forget that, the people will remind them.

Vermont Gas has begun drilling under Geprags Park, but, as last week’s spectacular Week of Action demonstrated, the campaign is not over.  The Supreme Court case challenging fossil fuel development in this public park is ongoing. Between this legal battle and the new federal administration’s anti-climate, anti-public lands agenda, these stories of Vermonters acting on their beliefs are more important than ever.

Stay tuned for updates every Monday morning, and in the meantime, stand strong and keep fighting!