As clouds scudded across Burlington's skies, about 50 activists gathered on Church Street Monday afternoon to "connect the dots" between weird weather and the fossil fuel industry.
The rally was sponsored by 350.org, a political-action group formed by Vermont author Bill McKibben to address climate change. About a dozen supporters of the movement stood on the steps of city hall holding signs with the logos of oil companies pasted at the center of the meteorological symbol of a hurricane.
The Burlington event took place the day after 350.org unfurled a giant circular banner in Times Square emblazoned with the demand to "End Climate Silence." The New York action was organized on the eve of the onslaught of Hurricane Sandy, described as the largest Atlantic storm in recorded history ever to hit the northeastern United States.
Katherine Blume, a local leader of 350.org, told the Burlington crowd that Sandy is the newest dot in a series that includes record-high temperatures, "glaciers melting all over the world" and a growing death toll attributable to climate change. "We saw one of the dots last year with Irene and unprecedented flooding in Vermont," Blume declared. "Why aren't we hearing over and over in the media and in our schools that we're facing a planetary emergency called climate change?"
Dave Zuckerman (pictured), a Hinesburg farmer and Chittenden County state senate candidate, pointed to other dots that are not as dramatic as Sandy and Irene. In 2009, he said, Vermont farmers experienced heavy rains and late blight, a disease that attacks potatoes and tomatoes. The following year, Zuckerman continued, an early infestation of corn borers came to Vermont on stronger than normal southerly winds. This growing season, he added, Vermont farmers are experiencing a new pest called swede midge that kills cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, kale, broccoli and cabbage.
"The dots are becoming very easy to see as a farmer," Zuckerman declared. "We need to make changes more quickly than a lot of politicians are willing to do."