UPDATE: Doug Racine will be out of the country and will not be attending the conference. He'll be sending volunteer advisor Pat Parenteau, former Commissioner of the Dept. of Environmental Conservation, on his behalf.
For all the ink spilled on the 2010 governor's race — who's in, who's out, which spin doctors are running which campaigns — rarely do we hear about the candidates' positions on the issues. Especially environmental issues.
How does Doug Racine feel about the use of harmful chemicals like bisphenol A, or BPA, in the making of plastic baby bottles? How would Deb Markowitz confront the state's trash problem — tons of recyclable and compostable waste ending up in landfills every year? And does Susan Bartlett support or oppose proposals for a trash-to-energy plant in Vermont?
You can ask the candidates yourself this Saturday, Nov. 7, at the fourth annual Environmental Action Conference — at least, you can ask the Democratic ones.
Organizers invited Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie, the presumptive GOP nominee for governor, but he is unable to attend. Attending will be Democratic candidates Sen. Susan Bartlett, Sen. Doug Racine, Secretary of State Deb Markowitz, former Sen. Matt Dunne and possible candidate Peter Shumlin, the Democratic Senate President.
Jessica Edgerly of Toxics Action Center, one of six groups organizing the conference, says it'll be a great chance to pin down the gubernatorial hopefuls on specific environmental questions.
"For the most part, the candidates haven't been put in a position to have a devoted time to discuss environmental issues with constituents who are working for change," Edgerly says. "It's some of the first times they'll have a podium to discuss them."
The theme of this year's conference is "movement building." The keynote address will be delivered at 9:15 a.m. by Jonathan Isham Jr., an associate professor of International Environmental Economics at Middlebury College, who has spoken around the country on building a climate change movement.
The conference runs from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Vermont Technical College in Randolph Center, located at 124 Admin Dr. Sixteen workshops are scheduled throughout the day on a range of different issues — from toxins in everyday products to shutting down the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant — and display tables will abound.
First and foremost, Edgerly says, it's an enviro-networking event.
"Activists often feel like they're fighting an uphill battle, and the workshop is an incredible opportunity for folks fighting the local fight to come together, share stories, strategies and get information and skills to do it well," she says.
Admission is $35 at the door.
Illustration by Tim Newcomb, used with permission by Toxics Action Center.