Kinsley: Let’s not lose our heads

by Ben Kinsley

What is it about climate change that elicits such a panic in us? Perhaps it is the unrelating force of  nature? The overwhelming sense of powerlessness we feel when storms, wind, fire, and water encroach  upon our lives. In the face of such (un)natural disasters, maybe we clutch to whatever agency we can  muster? Or, could it be that the prospect of our grandchildren not experiencing the same planet we did  terrifies us. It could be a bit of both, or a whole host of other reasons. 

Whatever the reason may be, this myopic focus on the carbon mitigation flavor of the day does not serve  us well. Yes of course we should highlight practical everyday steps we can all take to lessen our own  impact on the planet. However, many of the conversations taking place among policymakers in our state  have focused so closely on specific carbon mitigation efforts that other important factors have fallen by  the wayside.  

My guess is that most Vermonters view protecting our environment as an ethical obligation. We also  view taking care of our neighbors, self-sufficiency, and sustainable living as part of our ethos. What does  that mean? It means that we value clean water, rich soils, thriving forests, and healthy people as much as  we value clean air. Our pursuit of each of these goals are not mutually exclusive but they can be at odds  from time to time in the context of how we, as a state, deploy our resources. 

Here are some examples:  

1. Vermont has finite taxing capacity and finite budgetary resources (that is unless Champ suddenly  starts dragging up sunken treasure from Lake Champlain). If we continue down the path of  throwing more money and regressive financial burden on Vermonters, we risk undermining the  health of our social fabric. A dichotomy we should not take lightly. 

2. Arguably, the water pollution generated by our agricultural fields and municipal wastewater  systems have a far greater impact (at least locally) on our ecosystem and quality of life of our  residents. Imagine if we spent the same time and effort on solving that problem that we spend  on discussions around reducing carbon emissions? 

3. Zoning rules at the state level incentivize building in compact downtown areas (aka flood zones)  while local zoning often restricts density, pushing development to the outskirts of town. The net  effect is little new housing development and the housing that is built often disrupts either forest  ecosystems or waterways, or both. Yet not building the housing harms Vermonters. This is a  

great example of where issues related to all three aspects have been leveraged for political gain,  most often gentrification. 

The point I am making here is that every action we take has an impact on our environment. Some of  those impacts can be felt much closer to home than our carbon emissions are felt. I was fishing in St.  Albans bay this fall and the algae bloom was so thick that you couldn’t see the bottom in two feet of  water. We did that. Vermonters did that. 

While panic around climate change is understandable, we can’t lose our heads. There are real ecological  issues that we should be dealing with that impact us even more directly than carbon emissions currently  do. We can balance all of these things, but there is more to being an environmentalist and a humanist  than carbon-cutting. 

Ben Kinsley has over a decade of public policy experience in Vermont. Working for non-profit  organizations, he has shaped public policy in areas such as education, elections, and ethics. He 

currently serves on the board of directors for Campaign for Vermont, a non-partisan advocacy  group seeking to grow the state’s middle class.

Categories: Commentary, Environment

3 replies »

  1. There is about as much evidence that climate change is man-made as there is that the COVID shot is safe and effective. That is to say – none at all.

    We ought to stop getting duped by tyrants who seek only to subjugate us. Carbon is not the enemy of our grandchildren. But as history has shown us with stark clarity, tyrants definitely are.

  2. Ben,
    I suggest you read this Wall Street Journal Bestseller, ‘Global Warming: The Great Deception’, by Guy K. Mitchell, Jr. “Global Warming” is about power and control. It’s about building a totalitarian society: “Everything in the State; Nothing outside the State; Nothing against the State.

  3. Mr. Kinsley, most of us here reading VDC get it. You are, in effect, preaching to the choir. But unless and until I see your commentary published on VT Public, VT Digger, or Seven Days, you will be standing beside the rest of us here, ‘spitting into the wind’.

    Yes, at least VDC, and perhaps VT GROK, are putting up the ‘good fight’. But what about all of those Vermonters who have already lost their collective heads? Those who refuse to read VDC? It’s the ‘zombie apocalypse’.