by Peter Freyne
If you like chilly, damp, dark, dreary Vermont mornings, this one's for you! The west coast of New England will be cloudy but rain-free according to the National Weather Service: A slight chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 69. West wind between 6 and 9 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
Two big items on the agenda - three, actually - and lots of politician-sightings in the forecast. Burlington's Old North End Labor Day March this morning (10:30) and noon rally at Battery Party. Sources say even Republican politicians will be in attendance!
Then at 3 p.m. - same location - a new band of tree-huggers will be wrapping up their five-day walk from Ripton. They've called themselves "Vermonters Walking Toward a Clean Energy Future." More here. And the group's key organizer and promoter, Bill McKibben, is someone intimately familiar with the subject matter at hand.
As you know, McKibben is the polite gentleman and the intelligent, visionary and courageous writer whose 1989 best-seller "The End of Nature" allegedly opened eyes to Global Warming. McKibben became an award-winning writer and a much sought after after-dinner speaker at the best conferences and conventions coast-to-coast. Everyone smiled, applauded, bought the book and went on with their lives as they had been living them.
So fast-forward 17 years. Ol’ Bill lives in Ripton, Vermont. Has some gig going at Middlebury College. And today in 2006, the center of the planet's global-warming blind spot if Washington, D.C. And he’s reached what I’d call the “I’ve Got To Do SOMETHING Besides Write Fricken’ Books And Give Friggin’ Speeches” Phase of his life.
About fecking time, eh?
After all, Texan Joe Barton, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the committee that controls energy issues and items, thinks “Global Warming” is total BS.
As he said when the Bush administration took office (looking back, was that a dark day or what?), "As long as I am chairman, (regulating global warming pollution) is off the table indefinitely. I don't want there to be and uncertainty about that.”
After all, he's on the same page as the White House...when it comes to uncertainty.
Check back for a late afternoon update. And all the while, the third big Burlington, Vermont event of the day will be underway on the streets of downtown - bike racing! It's the 2006 Green Mountain Stage Race and today is the Louis Gameau Burlington Criterion.
One day a year - downtown streets without cars and trucks. What a sight!
****UPDATE*** 7 p.m.
The Labor Rally attracted all the usual suspects. In fact, only the usual suspects. Bernie gave the expected pro-worker stemwinder. After all, Eugene Debs is his hero, was on the wall of his Burlington Mayor's office in the 1980s. Ah, memory lane!
Even with free food, the Labor Rally crowd was only around 250. Democratic pols for everything from governor to state rep and Chittenden County state's attorney. On Ch. 3 News Brian Joyce even managed to work the "usual suspects" angle into his report.
Come back two hours later and it's a whole new crowd, a much bigger crowd, and a stream of Bill McKibben's global-warming walkers stretching for blocks and blocks up Pearl Street towards the post office. Big crowd - estimate based on me and Jeezum Jim Jefffords' rep splitting it in half and counting = 1000 plus) Also, in addition to the usual suspects, Republican candidates attended and spoke at this one.
While waiting his turn, Richie, stood off to the side with Tim Lennon his campaign manager. We did not see him approach voters one-on-one. Strange. Though not mixing with the crowd, Tarrant deflected their potential hostility by quickly signing the big Global Warming Pledge and then telling the attentive crowd he realizes "the Bush administration is taking the country in the wrong direction."
I got my copy of the pledge in a nice folder handed out by Marijke Unger, a "media officer" for Greenpeace-sponsored projecthotseat.org. Marijke flew in from Greenpeace in Denver, she said. She's a Middlebury College grad. Damn, they're everywhere!
The punch line on the Big Pledge is: "I will work to promote global warming solutions, such as a national renewable energy standard of 20 percent by 2020 and an increase in mileage standards to 40 miles per gallon."
Republican U.S. House candidate Martha Rainville also signed the Global Warming Pledge and spoke. A different kind of crowd for the Generalissima. Candidate Rainville made note of the fact she didn't see many Republican candidate signs or stickers in the crowd. "If this is going to work," said Martha, "we have to find ways to bring people together."
Good point. In fact, she didn't see Vermont's current Republican governor or Republican lieutenant governor in that crowd.
Ol' Bill McKibben brought 1000-plus people together today for a reason and they're not going to forget it.
Gutsy performances by the two Rs who did show.