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Climate-Change Activism Generates Record Heat

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Montpelier -- Door-to-door canvassers from the Vermont Public Interest Research Group celebrated the end of their most-successful-ever summer campaign by staging a press conference on August 24 in front of the Capitol Building in Montpelier. The canvassers, who have spoken to 29,000 Vermonters since May, raised more than $175,000 in small contributions for the advocacy nonprofit. That beats the previous record by nearly $20,000. Their pitch? Vermont needs to do more to fight global warming.

At the press conference, VPIRG issued its annual global warming report card, giving Vermont a "C" grade for its efforts to curb climate change. Organizers attributed the improvement over last year's D+ to the state legislature's passage of a "clean energy bill" and the reduction in pollution from state buildings and the government's fleet of cars.

But the canvassers -- most of them college students -- want more. They want Governor Jim Douglas to offer tax breaks for fuel-efficient cars, and to increase efficiency standards for buildings and appliances. At the press conference, they presented more than 5000 signed postcards listing those and other demands. They had hoped to give them to Douglas himself, but Assistant Canvass Director Emily Butler said the governor didn't come out to get them.

Butler claimed Douglas knows how they feel. "We've bird-dogged him all summer," she notes. When they weren't knocking on doors, some canvassers dropped by Douglas' public apearances to ask him about his position on global warming.

Butler, 21, credits the office's "really excellent staff" for this campaign's success. But she points out that the political climate was also "just right." "It's a hot topic," she says. "No pun intended."

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