Change in the village, with gratitude
Last year, when voters elected me to the Town Selectboard as well as the Village Board of Trustees, I hoped that I would be able to serve as a bridge between the two boards and our communities. And that’s what happened. I brought Village insights and information to the Selectboard, and I brought a Town-wide perspective to the Village Trustees. As a result, both boards knew more about our communities and made more informed decisions. I am very grateful to everyone from our communities who chose me to represent them on both boards.
While I would have been very happy to continue serving on both boards for the remaining two years of my terms, a different call for me to serve has arisen. This past Monday the Selectboard unanimously elected me to become chair. I am deeply honored to have been chosen to lead the board, and I want do my very best in this new role.
Being a general member of two boards has been challenging but manageable. But being chair of the Selectboard requires a significantly higher level of commitment. Because I want to ensure that I can serve our entire community with the kind of focus being chair requires, and give all of Essex the leadership it deserves, I have decided to step down from my seat on the Village Board of Trustees. Knowing myself, my work and family commitments, and the demands of an elected position, I believe serving on only one board is the best option.
I want to thank everyone in the Village who has supported me as a trustee for the last seven years. I want you all to know that I will continue to represent you to the best of my ability on the Selectboard as I have for the last year, and will continue to bring all of the experience from my time on the Village Board to the table at 81 Main Street.
I also want to thank the Trustees. I often joke that our board lives in a bubble. We have always worked together with a collegial and respectful camaraderie that you don’t see on a lot of boards. Over the years we’ve had our share of heated discussions, split votes, and even a few angry disagreements, but they have never diminished our respect for each other. We never once forgot that we work for you, the Village of Essex Junction, and doing what is best for our community has always been our sole purpose. It is an example of public service I will never forget, and I will take with me wherever I go.
So thank you, and remember—you are Town residents too, so come to Selectboard meetings, and keep in touch. We have a lot of great work to do together.
Chair of Essex Selectboard
Vermonters can’t afford carbon tax
To the citizens in District 8-1. Evidently, we have a house representative, Rep. Mary Beth Redmond, who supports regressive taxes on Vermonters. She recently voted “YES on House Bill “H.462 – An act relating to addressing climate change” is which is clearly a “carbon tax”. It’s stunning that Representatives like Rep. Redmond don’t understand that Vermonters can’t afford a scheme of taxing based on greenhouse gasses. Vermont has .01% greenhouse emissions and is the lowest footprint out of all 50 states, according to the “United States Energy Information administration. This “Essex plan/ green economy” we are promised, is not defined at all, and in order for Vermonters to receive the abundance of undefined wealth behind the curtain, we must, evidently, blindly accept highly regressive and poorly conceived CARBON TAXing schemes like the one Rep. Redmond supports. Make no mistake, It’s a backdoor “Carbon TAX” Bill, as it uses the term “greenhouse gas” 28 times in it’s 13 total pages. Vermonters in District 8-1 should be outraged with Rep. Redmond’s support of this regressive tax scheme. I encourage residents to learn more via the No Carbon Tax Vermont group within Facebook.
Health consequences of climate change
Last fall, the New York Times Editorial Board published an article: Wake Up, World Leaders. The Alarm is Deafening. It pointed to sobering news: we must make huge changes in the next decade if we want to have a livable planet for the future. That means slashing our use of fossil fuels by 50-80% in ten years. But here’s some good news: climate action is an economic dynamo that saves money, improves health, and protects our beautiful state.
The burning of oil, natural gas and coal has raised Earth’s average temperature one degree Celsius over preindustrial levels. This has resulted in more frequent and severe storms, fires, rainfall changes (deluge to drought), crop failures, ocean warming, extinctions, and collapsing ecosystems. Planetary changes such as melting ice and ocean acidification are happening much faster than predicted. Every bit of warming risks irreversible changes. The IPCC says, “Limiting warming to 1.5°C would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities—all aspects of society.” It will be really hard, but we have no choice. The best possible outcome, holding warming to under 1.5 C, will require a lot of adaptation. The worst is catastrophic.
I worry about health threats of climate chaos. These include suffering and trauma from disasters; disease (air pollution, excessive heat, infections); food and water shortages; forced migration; and societal instability and conflict over food, water and land.
In a speech at the World Economic Forum, sixteen year old Greta Thunberg said: “We have to stop our emissions of greenhouse gases. Either we do that or we don’t . . . Either we prevent 1.5 C of warming or we don’t. Either we avoid setting off that irreversible chain reaction beyond human control or we don’t. Either we choose to go on as a civilization or we don’t . . . Adults keep saying, ‘We owe it to the young people to give them hope.’ But I don’t want your hope . . . I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act . . . I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.”
Talking about a climate crisis is not alarmist. It’s a reasonable response to a global emergency—one to which Vermont is not immune. Our 2011 floods were only a teaser for the real thing. If humans fail to stop emissions, the oncoming chaos will dwarf anything we can imagine. (Cyclone Idai in Mozambique gives us a terrifying glimpse of the future.) Weak action won’t cut it. Geophysics, chemistry and biology don’t give a damn about our politics—they just do their thing.
We must quickly increase energy conservation and efficiency efforts. Every energy sector, including transportation and building thermal must transition to electric systems, powered by renewable energy. These are becoming cheaper than fossil fuels as technology improves. We need to make options such as cold climate heat pumps available to everyone, regardless of income. Emissions are affected by agriculture, forests, land use and industry, so town plans are crucial for cutting energy use and encouraging deployment of renewable energy. We currently send over $1.6 billion/year out of Vermont to buy fossil fuels. Generating our own energy keeps more of our money here.
A new Vermont Department of Health study showed that weatherizing 50,000 homes would, over ten years, prevent more than 5,600 emergency department visits, 330 hospitalizations and 13 deaths, and have over $300-700 million in public health benefits. An average family in a weatherized home would have yearly savings of over $1,174 on energy and $276 in health expenses—money to spend elsewhere. Ramping up weatherization would cut state health costs, create jobs, and raise tax revenue.
I encourage all Vermonters to contact Vermont House Speaker Mitzi Johnson and Senate President pro tempore Tim Ashe and their own legislators. Ask them to:
Increase funding to double or triple the number of homes weatherized yearly under the Weatherization Assistance Program. (To their great credit, the House passed H.439, providing some funding, although much more is needed.)
Commit all of the Volkswagen settlement money to electrification of transportation: to upgrade vehicle charging infrastructure, and give strong support to low-income Vermonters so they can replace inefficient vehicles with new or used electrics or hybrids.
Support the Vermont Global Warming Solutions Act, to ensure that we meet our carbon pollution reduction goals.
The inspiring National Geographic documentary, Paris to Pittsburgh, is about cities and states taking strong action on climate. It will be shown in Colchester, St. Johnsbury and Rutland in April. Find out more here: https://www.vtcha.org. The video will be followed by panel discussions. (It can also be streamed online.)
It’s time for some serious preventive medicine and the stakes are high. Let’s do this!
Susan Leigh Deppe, MD, Psychiatry