Guest Column

Take ‘ten point pledge’ on Earth Day

By George Plumb


Sunday, April 22 is the 42nd anniversary of the original Earth Day in 1970. During that Earth Day, air pollution was a major issue and global warming was presented as a possibility, although others had been warning of it since 1958. What they didn’t know about at that time was the acidification of our oceans. Researchers at Columbia University have found that carbon dioxide emissions have lowered the pH at a rate unparalleled in at least the last 300 million years of our planet’s history. This literally means the death of life as we know it on 71 percent of the earth’s surface.

Although strong government action would be of considerable help in reducing carbon emissions, it is we the people that are causing the problem. We are fortunate in Vermont that we have a governor who understands the importance of dealing with this problem and his administration has developed a Comprehensive Energy Plan that calls for 90 percent reduction in Vermont carbon emissions by 2050. However, and its Fossil Fuels Freedom Campaign say that is not nearly fast enough to avert the worse of global warming. Its goal is a net zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2025 and in support of this carbon goal, we should achieve 90 percent of our energy needs from clean, just, renewable sources by 2025.

David Stember, who works full-time as the staff organizer says, “According to a host of our foremost climatologists, we have already altered earth’s climate from patterns we have called normal for over 10,000 years. We have precious few years to stop the buildup of greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels. If we miss this short window, things will very quickly get so far beyond our control that runaway climate change is unalterably programmed into the destiny of this planet. The magnitude of this epic disaster is such that every living species on earth today–including humans–is now at grave risk of eventual extinction. The only good news about the impacts of climate change is that people are now able to see some of the impacts that are already happening.”

We are already seeing what devastation global warming can bring to Vermont. However, to the best of my recollection no Vermont leader has ever acknowledged that each one of us helped cause Irene by our carbon emissions over the years, or that we have an individual moral responsibility for the sake of future generations to reduce our personal carbon emissions.

Now is the time to walk the talk! Every leader, at the state and national level, if they haven’t already done so, should be installing solar photovoltaic and/or solar hot water, driving a fuel efficient car and maybe even an electrical vehicle, limiting their plane travel, and doing everything else within their means to reduce their carbon emissions.

This Earth Day, I encourage our leaders, and indeed all Vermonters, to take a strong ten-point pledge to live more sustainably and publicly demonstrate that you are going to do something about it before it is too late. To see who has already taken the pledge and to take it yourself, go to


George Plumb is the executive director of Vermonters for Sustainable Population and the author of the 2011 report “Vermont Environmental Trends: The Population Connection.”