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Clean Sweep?

Local Matters


Published January 25, 2006 at 2:04 p.m.

Clad in hockey gear and down jackets, a team-sized contingent of Middlebury College students arrived at the Statehouse on Monday to present Governor Jim Douglas with a "Golden Broom." Why? To "challenge him to do more to combat global warming," says Jamie Henn, a history major and one of the event's organizers. Henn is an avid broomball player -- the game is like ice hockey but played with sneakers, brooms and a soccer ball. It's also a popular campus tradition "that holds Middlebury students together," he says, and is normally played outside the student center by both men and women. But warmer temperatures have imperiled broomball. The court was "a wreck" this week, says Henn. "Where there is normally ice, a murky, muddy puddle has formed. We were forced to play on concrete outside of our dining hall."

While the complaint may seem minor to anyone off campus, the students are perfectly serious about the bigger picture. Henn is a member of the Sunday Night Group, which he calls "a coalition of like-minded college clubs working on environmental and social justice issues, focused predominantly on climate change." He helped organize a "Road to Detroit" campaign last summer -- the cross-country tour in a vegetable-oil-powered bus concluded with a Motor City rally demanding more fuel-efficient cars. And last December, Henn was among some 130 Midd students who attended the U.N. Climate Change Negotiations in Montreal. According to the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, snowfall in Vermont has decreased by 15 percent since the 1950s. And everyone is affected, says Henn, not just broomball players.

Vermont's governor has "not followed through" on tackling environmental problems, he charges, noting that a national organization gave the state a C+ for its efforts on combating climate change. "Douglas is a Middlebury grad and should know that a grade like that is not good enough," says the 21-year-old junior. "We should be leading the country in moving towards a cleaner, more sustainable future."

Douglas was not at the Statehouse to receive his broom. But the guv lives in Middlebury, too, Henn notes. "It would be easy for a large group of students to meet him at his house, if necessary."