by Paul Costello, Executive Director, Vermont Council on Rural Development
At the Vermont Council on Rural Development (VCRD) we get to work with rural towns throughout Vermont where we rally everyone to pull together, review all the issues before the community, evaluate potential collective action, set priorities, and line up together to advance the economy, attract youth, build senior housing or children’s playgrounds, boost agriculture, and build energy committees or downtown associations. We see the best of democracy in action.
We see patriotism and pride—in community, for the working landscape, and in support of local economic innovation.
At VCRD, we think there is a huge Vermont story to add up: working lands, digital economy, energy, entrepreneurism, efficiencies. We think VT has the assets, the scale, and the civic culture to model solutions to climate change for this country, and that branding ourselves as a leader in this arena is one way to address our fundamental need of attracting and retaining youth and stimulating local entrepreneurial development.
We are inviting Vermonters to join with us in the Vermont Climate Economy Partnership to advance practical and positive ways to spur creative business solutions and boost Vermont’s economic competitiveness in an age where carbon will be constrained, clean energy valued, and the wise use and reuse of resources essential.
Members of the partnership will work together to do several things: Celebrate innovative businesses and promote Vermont as a welcoming place for climate entrepreneurism; Promote public policies to advance all fuels efficiency and economic development that provides jobs while reducing Vermont’s carbon impact; and, Support the progress of Vermont communities.
What is in our power here in Vermont?
While the great majority of people today recognize the science around climate change, many have come to believe that either it’s too late to prevent, or that changing our behavior won’t solve the problem because other people and places are not taking responsibility. But we know, really, that unless there is mutual action then climate disruption will be continually magnified, and we also know that we have a collective generational responsibility to bend the curve.
On the other side, we know that there will be places that take leadership in the climate economy and stimulate, nurture and attract innovation and entrepreneurship, and that these places will have competitive advantages in the economic future. We should build on Vermont’s assets, brand reputation, and the panoply of creative businesses already here to declare that we will be one of those places.
Vermont can be accused of thinking it is more important than it is. Sure. Let’s keep a lid on arrogance, but let’s use our pride in this place: let’s recognize the economic opportunity in this time, and, by leading change, let’s pick up the mantle of our patriotic responsibility, and renew it.
[The Vermont Council on Rural Development released the “Progress for Vermont” Report of the VT Climate Change Economy Council and founded the Vermont Climate Economy Partnership at its Vermont Climate Economy Summit in February. For more information go to http://vtrural.org/programs/climate-economy/join-the-partnership]