Driving the Back Roads: In Search of Old-Time Vermonters

Driving the Back Roads: In Search of Old-Time Vermonters

For nearly fifty years, Ethan Hubbard drove the back roads of rural Vermont in search of old-time Vermonters. In barns and fields, from forest walks to kitchen tables, Ethan’s photographic portraits and audio recordings transport us to rural Vermont and to the moments he shared with the people he met there. Live Storytelling Event 10/27 6-7:30PM

Family Traits: Art, Humor, and Everyday Life

“Family tradition is one of the great repositories of American culture. It contains clues to our national character and insights into our family structure.”

- Passage from Zeitlin, Kotkin, and Baker, A Celebration of American Family Folklore


Stanley Lyndes was a “noticer.” He was also a maker.

As a child growing up in a multigenerational farm family, Stanley observed the quirks and foibles of the people with whom he interacted every day. He remembered each peculiar turn of phrase and was struck by the absurd qualities of everyday life that usually go unnoticed as “normal.” Like an anthropologist or a folklorist, he was able to reflect on his life at a distance, and he saw terrific humor everywhere.

Stanley channeled his noticing into the making of things, and over time these objects became touchstones for the generations of his family that have followed him, revered as both treasured artifact and the creative expression of a common past.

Many of his most ambitious works are on display here, and yet his grandchildren can easily reference by memory a seemingly endless stream of bows and arrows, finely-crafted boxes, miniature furniture, beautifully illustrated cards, and much, much more. At the root of all of this was “Gramps Honeycake,” loving, fun, and full of surprises, who bound his family together by creating a cast of characters that were their common property. Forty-two years after his death the things he made still resonate for his grandchildren and great grandchildren.

We all celebrate these kinds of family connections when we bake the birthday cake that our mothers made for us as children or tell stories about those special ornaments on the holiday tree. This is how family folklore is made—the only difference is that Stanley Lyndes did it in spades.


Biography

Stanley Lyndes was a teacher, craftsman, storyteller, artist, hunter and extraordinary grandfather. He was warm, good-humored, constantly creative, and sometimes impatient and stubborn. He loved making things and children, especially making things for and with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Born in Calais, Stanley grew up on family farms in Cabot and Marshfield. From an early age he loved to draw and make things to entertain himself and his brothers. He attended local, one-room schools and graduated from Marshfield High School in 1916 and Montpelier Seminary 1918.

Pratt Institute

As a young man, Stanley attended Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York to study art and design to prepare to become a teacher.

While at Pratt he worked multiple jobs to support himself but found time for parties and theatrical spoofs with his friends. Summers, he worked haying in Vermont, which aggravated his asthma, or at a big hotel in the White Mountains. He hated the city so much that in 1922 he left as soon as he secured a teaching job without completing the final term.

While at Pratt he took a bookbinding class and made a small blank book. His friends, who liked his stories of life back on the farm, encouraged him to use it for sketches of life at home. He titled it “Family Traits.”

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Family and Teaching

Stanley married Evelyn Martin of Plainfield, Vermont and started teaching in Indian Orchard, Massachusetts, a neighborhood of Springfield.

He taught “manual arts” such as drawing, mechanical drawing, and woodworking. Stanley and Evelyn raised their two children, Milton “Skeeter” and Jean in Indian Orchard. He worked summers at various camps for boys in Maine where he specialized in teaching archery, many handcrafts, and woods lore.

In the late 1940s, he began teaching woodworking and related arts at Choate School in Wallingford, Connecticut.

The Honeycakes

When the grandchildren started arriving, Evelyn had many pet names for them such as “lambykins” and “honeycake.” Leslie, the eldest, soon began calling them “Gramp and Grammy Honeycake.” The name spread throughout the extended family and to friends. When they retired to Plainfield, townspeople often referred to them as “The Honeycakes.”

Gramp made the grandchildren toys, sketched birthday cards, cooked for them and told them stories of animals and his childhood. He taught them about wood working, drawing, painting, fishing, hunting, growing things and watching wildlife. Grammy made nightgowns, doll clothes, and home-made bread. She was quiet, gentle and a better cook than Gramp, but if he decided to cook, she stepped into the background.

Before Stanley died in 1975, he had several years delighting two great granddaughters. Evelyn had developed dementia in the early 70s and died in 1985.

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Family Traits

Among his legacy to his family, Stanley Lyndes left a small, handmade and worn book of his drawings, titled, Family Traits. The sketches of his family and their neighbors wryly depict life on small farms in Calais, Cabot, and Marshfield in the years between the turn of the century and WWI.

While studying at Pratt Institute, Stanley took a bookbinding class and made the small blank book. His friends, who liked his stories of life back on the farm, encouraged him to use it for sketches of life at home.

Stanley filled the book’s pages with the personalities and special facets of his family. In his pursuit, Stanley also represented elements common to rural life in Vermont and other places in the first two decades of the twentieth century. Hard work, the monotony of chores, and responsibilities shared by grandparents, parents, and children alike underlay all other activity.

Rural families, such as the Lyndes, had little to spare and knew how to “make do” as the sketches revealed with their stress on the importance of pennies, homespun recreation, “Maggie”, the family horse, or small details as patches on a dress or pair of pants, the lunch pails made from lard buckets, the uses for skunk oil, and the inevitable “hand-me-downs.”

With a certain boyish rascality his sketches recall the swimming hole, the fascination with racing and speed, the lively pranks, and the earthy humor. The family, with three generations living under the same roof, showed patience and love. The family also witnessed moments of anger, and the practical jokes often had a faintly cruel twist as they played on individual foibles. Yet the family generally lived happily together, working and entertaining themselves in the seasonal rhythm of the hill farm and looking forward to the ragman’s visit, sugaring-off, rolling the snow, or Christmas dinner to relieve the steady round of chores.

Hard living was not necessarily bad living, and the stern life on a Vermont farm and its “cold crude days,” as Lyndes called them, brought a certain warmth.


Letters

Gramp not only captured the vibrant familial culture of the Lyndes, he was also a builder of family connections.

He made a point to keep in touch with his children and grandchildren through the mail—often sending hand drawn birthday cards, a comic strip, or a postcard.

Mail from Gramp might be triggered by a meaningful date or event, and sometimes it was unprompted—an expression of a loving Gramp once again living out his creativity within the context of family life.


Scrapbooks

In 1933, Stanley became ill with a lung abscess and could not work. The family had to move home to his parent’s farm in Marshfield for the school year. Always in need of a project, he began cutting pictures out of National Geographic, Life and other popular magazines and publications—pasting them into various sized scrapbooks with captions that poked fun at family members, friends and neighbors.
Much of the humor, and many of the stories that appear in the pages of the Family Traits book, echoed through these clippings, with their descriptive and often witty captions. Stanley’s youngest brother, Bill, can be found lounging lazily in the back of a wagon, Uncle Henry Hill is on lookout for Pinkerton’s Men, and the neighbor Ivan Spencer sports his favorite apple stick, Jerry Pead.


Family Quilt

In 1958, Leslie and Dawn Andrews—the two oldest grandchildren—stayed with Gramp and Grammy Honeycake, while their parents were preparing to move. Gramp, as usual, had a project for them. He was excited by newly-discovered fabric paints and had them along with quilting materials at the ready. Inspired by the girls chatter, Gramp did most of the writing and drawing while the two girls colored in the shapes and figures. Grammy sewed the backing on the quilt and the girls helped her tie it. Colorful caricatures of family members fill the quilt, along with names for those not drawn to life by Gramp’s steady hand and fabric paint. Later, the quilt was entered into the competition at the Champlain Valley Fair. It won a blue ribbon—in a class by itself.


The Maker

Stanley always made things. As a boy, he wanted a bike, but the family could not afford one so he made one out of some wood, a baby carriage wheel and a plow wheel. You could not pedal or steer it, but you could coast down a hill. He made himself bows, arrows, and darts for play and a cart for his brother Bill’s goat. After he left Pratt, most of his sketches and paintings were decorative or on birthday cards. As an adult, he did a lot of work in wood--furniture, bows, arrows, gun stocks, decorative objects, and carvings. He also made sure that his grandchildren had a steady supply of “boxes to put things in,” wooden guns, shields, swords, and other toys.
When his grandchildren visited, he usually had projects for them. Sometimes painting or assembling things made out of wood, gathering berries, or cooking.

 

 

Greening Vermont

Vermont’s environmental movement evolved from a few early 20th century conservationists with the capacity to “purchase to protect” important natural resources—and has since moved through various phases from regulation and litigation to polarization and collaboration.

Today, while Congress is deadlocked and state governments fail to act aggressively on the most pressing issues of the day—climate change and clean energy—Vermonters are not waiting for a top-down solution and are working locally to make a difference in their own towns and communities.

Now Elizabeth Courtney, former director of the Vermont Natural Resources Council and co-author with Eric Zencey of “Greening Vermont: The Search for a Sustainable State,” raises the question:

“In the second decade of the 21st century, we ask ourselves, to what extent can local actions bring about an economy that is just and equitable, an environment that is healthy and balanced and communities prepared to weather the disruptions of climate change?”


Inspired by the book, “Greening Vermont,” this exhibition invites the viewer to ponder the answer.

 
 
"The authors don't pretend to offer a dispassionate accounting, rather their perspective is clear throughout the book: A strong commitment to conservation and environmental protection has been and is of great importance to Vermont, and we must do more to move the state further down the path to sustainability."
Greening Vermont: The Search for a Sustainable State By Elizabeth Courtney and Eric Zencey (North Pomfret, Vt: Thistle Hill Publications and the Vermont Natural Resources Council, 2012, pp. 176, paper, $35.00). 

Greening Vermont: The Search for a Sustainable State
By Elizabeth Courtney and Eric Zencey

(North Pomfret, Vt: Thistle Hill Publications and the Vermont Natural Resources Council, 2012, pp. 176, paper, $35.00). 

 

Text from the book, coupled with audio excerpts from interviews with environmental leaders and portraits of prominent figures in the movement by Curtis Johnson, are complemented by contributions from Middlebury College Environmental Studies Seniors working with local community partners from around the state on issues as varied as water quality, land use, energy, biodiversity, and climate change.


The book is organized into six chapters, one for each decade beginning in the 1960s. The authors characterize each of these decades with a single word: conservation, regulation, litigation, confrontation, collaboration, and localization. Although the overarching narrative of the book deals with the environment generally, there is a particular focus on land use and planning. In addition to this chronological narrative, there are a multitude of sidebars, on topics ranging from “Four Varieties of Capital” to “Rationing Retail: Who Decides?” as well as a series of interviews with leaders of the Vermont conservation move- ment over the last several decades (including, for example, the late Hub Vogelmann and Governor Madeleine May Kunin). The book is richly illustrated with graphics and photographs.


Jon Groveman, principal author of Vermont’s Groundwater Protection Act, Nancy Bell, VT director of The Conservation Fund, Darlene Palola, chair of Stratton Area Concerned Citizens, Darby Bradley former president of the VT Land Trust (pictured left to right).

Jon Groveman, principal author of Vermont’s Groundwater Protection Act, Nancy Bell, VT director of The Conservation Fund, Darlene Palola, chair of Stratton Area Concerned Citizens, Darby Bradley former president of the VT Land Trust (pictured left to right).

Deb Markowitz, Secretary of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources

Deb Markowitz, Secretary of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources

Mark Schroeder, land use planning advocate and Hub Vogelmann, UVM professor of botany

Mark Schroeder, land use planning advocate and Hub Vogelmann, UVM professor of botany

Sally Laughlin, founding director of the Vermont Institute of Natural Sciences

Sally Laughlin, founding director of the Vermont Institute of Natural Sciences

Howard Dean, former governor of VT, John Ewing, founder of Smarth growth Vermont, Michael Metcalf, former VT legislator, Paul Bruhn, director of the Preservation Trust of VT  

Howard Dean, former governor of VT, John Ewing, founder of Smarth growth Vermont, Michael Metcalf, former VT legislator, Paul Bruhn, director of the Preservation Trust of VT  

Leonard Wilson, former state planning director, April Hensel, district environmental coordinator for the Vermont Environmental Board, Ernie Pomerleau, Vermont developer, Richard Coward, former chair of the Public Service Board 

Leonard Wilson, former state planning director, April Hensel, district environmental coordinator for the Vermont Environmental Board, Ernie Pomerleau, Vermont developer, Richard Coward, former chair of the Public Service Board 

Bob Klein, former director of the VT Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, Tom Slayton, former editor of VT Life Magazine, Megan Camp, vice president of Shelburne Farms, Alec Webb, president of Shelburne Farms

Bob Klein, former director of the VT Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, Tom Slayton, former editor of VT Life Magazine, Megan Camp, vice president of Shelburne Farms, Alec Webb, president of Shelburne Farms

Beth Sachs, founding director of Efficiency Vermont, Lisa Steele, Burlington developer, Gus Seelig, director of the VT housing and Conservation Board, Paul Costello, director of the VT Council on Rural Development, Jennifer Wallace-Brodeur, public transportation advocate

Beth Sachs, founding director of Efficiency Vermont, Lisa Steele, Burlington developer, Gus Seelig, director of the VT housing and Conservation Board, Paul Costello, director of the VT Council on Rural Development, Jennifer Wallace-Brodeur, public transportation advocate


It is our hope that “Greening of Vermont: A Culture of Environmental Advocacy” will stimulate broad ranging conversations that will move our thinking forward and assist in our efforts to meet the pressing environmental challenges of our era.

 

Acknowledgments

We thank the fall and spring semesters’ community partners who included The Institute for Sustainable Communities, Vermont Energy and Climate Action Network, The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, Vermont Interfaith Power and Light, Vermont Council on Rural Development, Green Mountain Power’s Energy Innovation Center, Rutland Regional Planning Commission, Marble Valley Transit District, Rutland Area Farm and Food Link (RAFFL), the Office of the Mayor of Rutland, and the Carving Studio.

In addition to the many enthusiastic community partners listed above, I’d like to thank the Middlebury College Sustainability Director, Jack Byrne for inviting Greening Vermont into the 2013-2014 year of studies and Environmental Studies students, class of 2013.5 and 2014, faculty members, Jon Isham, Becky Gould, Cat Ashcraft and Molly Costanza-Robinson, Coordinator for Community-Based Environmental Studies Diane Munroe as well as Mason Singer of Laughing Bear
Associates, Vic Guadagno of Bright Blue EcoMedia and Greg Sharrow and Ned Castle of the Vermont Folklife Center all of whom have been working to further the goal of reaching a sustainable state.

We’d also like to thank the artists whose works appear in this exhibit, Jan Brough, Elizabeth Nelson, Ed Epstein, Gaal Shepherd, Susan Abbott, Bread and Puppet Theater, Curtis Hale, David Brewster, and James Jahrsdoerfer. The collaboration among the authors, educators, students, ethnographers and citizens taking action makes a fertile ground for the real-time content of Greening Vermont: the Search Continues.

- Elizabeth Courtney

 
 

This exhibit is available to travel! Click below to learn more about Greening Vermont as a traveling exhibition.

 

Delsie Hoyt: Re-imagine the Braided Rug

Delsie Hoyt: Re-imagine the Braided Rug

West Fairlee rug braider Delsie Hoyt was inspired by the unique creative vision that her Great-Grandmother, Annette “Nettie” Nelson, of Ryegate, Vermont, brought to the craft over a century ago. “I seek to challenge conventional notions of what a braided rug can be through experimental designs that range from swirling galaxies to pastoral Vermont landscapes,” explains Hoyt.

Amazing GRACE: 40 Years of Grass Roots Art and Community Effort

GRACE, Grass Roots Art and Community Effort began in the 1970’s when Don Sunseri moved to Vermont to “get away” from the competitiveness and hustle of the New York City art scene. Working as a dishwasher at the St. Johnsbury Convalescent Center, Don had the idea that a “well of untapped creativity might be lurking in the halls and common rooms around him in the nursing home.” 

With permission from the center’s administration, he began offering workshops—providing art materials, encouragement and a supportive environment, and letting the residents explore on their own.  He describes having “discovered a new sense of authenticity by witnessing the emergence of these grassroots artists.”

His impulse, and those early workshops with residents, formed the foundation of what would become GRACE—a now forty-year effort to discover, develop, and promote self-taught artists throughout Vermont.

Amazing GRACE celebrates the works of more than twenty-five current and past artists supported through GRACE’s hundreds of annual workshops in nursing homes, adult day centers, mental health agencies, or on-site at GRACE’s Old Firehouse facility in Hardwick, Vermont. 

While certain elements of continuity run throughout—the role of pattern, a sense of space, a visible joy of drawing—the myriad of styles and mediums employed by the artists reflect the deeply personal, and often autobiographical, nature of the works. 

Sunseri believed that each of us is in possession of a well of experience. “To draw from that well is to draw from the source of all art,” he said. 

 “We feel a sense of common cause with the GRACE philosophy around an emphasis on, and curiosity of, an individual’s personal experience,” explains Ned Castle, the Vision & Voice Gallery Coordinator. “To draw from that well—the knowledge of everyday living—is to draw not only on the source of all art, but on the source of all folklife, too.”

GEOMORPH / Things Change, and They Change Again

Five years ago, Tropical Storm Irene changed the landscape and lives of many Vermonters. Chris Triebert was one of them—an artist living and working along the Rock River in South Newfane. Vermonters processed the chaos of the storm, destruction, and recovery in different ways—for Triebert, with time, her experience turned to art making as a way to create visual and emotional order from the chaos. 

Remnants of the flood’s aftermath – piles of rocks, strewn debris and littered sand – gave form to the close-up and abstract photographs created by the artist following the flood.


Debris #4 Archival pigment print on wood panel Limited edition sizes: 12” x 12” and 24” x 24”

Debris #4
Archival pigment print on wood panel
Limited edition sizes: 12” x 12” and 24” x 24”

Rock #5 Archival pigment print on wood panel Limited edition sizes: 12” x 12” and 24” x 24”

Rock #5
Archival pigment print on wood panel
Limited edition sizes: 12” x 12” and 24” x 24”


“When the storm ended, debris, sand, gravel and rocks were strewn all over our property, which sits along the banks of the Rock River in South Newfane. In the following weeks of clean-up, I set aside some of the objects of the flood’s aftermath and observed them closely. I noticed how the rock surfaces, the shapes of debris, and patterns in the sand seemed to reflect each other in an underlying grid of line, form, color, and texture,” she writes.

Triebert printed these photographic made landscapes on wood panels and arranged the pieces into a quilt-like pattern, called GEOMORPH, which fills the main gallery wall at the Vermont Folklife Center. 

GEOMORPH / Things Change and They Change Again is a two-part exhibition showcasing Triebert’s Irene-inspired oeuvre—GEOMORPH—along with an ethnographic case study of sorts that explores her motivations for creating this work in response to the storm.  


Sandgraph #8 Archival pigment print on wood panel Limited edition size: 12” x 12 “

Sandgraph #8
Archival pigment print on wood panel
Limited edition size: 12” x 12 “


“The panels offer infinite possibilities of assembling the images into different grid systems, and each new pattern suggests its own universe of endlessly rearrangeable elements. Just as in nature, no form is permanent,” explains Triebert.

The signature GEOMORPH piece is complemented by materials in the adjoining rooms—then and now photographs, archival footage, candid snapshots of volunteers, scrapbook materials, interviews with Triebert, and an interactive makers component—that invite visitors to explore the progression that lead her to, and through, the creation of this work.

Triebert graciously welcomes this inquiry into her process—and in sharing her own experience, gives visitors an intimate point of reference to reflect on how Vermonters across the state responded to, recovered from, and moved on from Tropical Storm Irene.

A reception and artist talk will be held on October 6th from 5:30-7PM at the Vermont Folklife Center. 

The Vision & Voice Gallery is free and open to the public Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM. The program is generously underwritten by the Rotary Club of Middlebury, VT, Cabot Creamery, the Vermont Community Foundation, and our membership at large. The Gallery is ADA accessible on the first floor of the Vermont Folklife Center headquarters building at 88 Main Street in Middlebury. 

The Vermont Folklife Center's mission is to broaden, strengthen, and deepen our understanding of Vermont and the surrounding region; to assure a repository for our collective cultural memory; and to strengthen communities by building connections among the diverse peoples of Vermont.

Discovering Community: Storytelling by Young Vermonters

Discovering Community proudly presents a showcase of documentary media pieces produced by students working in collaboration with our educational outreach programs locally and internationally. Let us celebrate their accomplishments with an opportunity to view their work and learn from the young minds behind the projects.

Completed during classes, workshops and after-school programs at schools and non-profit organizations around the state—and beyond—the array of projects in Vermont span from documentary films and photography, to podcasts, and artwork made by students from elementary to undergraduate levels. Stories gathered by youth nationally and internationally enter the conversation through our collaborative working partnerships with the World Story Exchange, Conversations from the Open Road, Stories of Hope, and the Freedom and Unity project.

The Vermont Folklife Center’s Discovering Community model gets students out of the classroom to learn from their diverse communities—using media-making tools to document and ultimately share their experiences. The program supports educators in providing the context for students to achieve required proficiencies through real-life learning, and holds the potential to promote personal growth by deepening students’ understanding of themselves and others. It can also enhance students’ sense of identification with, and caring for, their home community and help to ensure their future involvement in its civic life.

Discovering Community Education Sponsors / Bay and Paul Foundations, Victoria and Courtney Buffum Family Foundation, Jane’s Trust Foundation, Walter Cerf Foundation, Orton Family Fund, Robin Foundation, and private contributions of our many members. 

Exhibit underwriters / Cabot of Vermont, Rotary Club of Middlebury, VT, Vermont Community Foundation, and the Vermont Arts Council.

 

Portraits in Action

For over a decade, the Vermont Folklife Center has been exploring the roots of the environmental movement and renewable energy in Vermont, documenting an evolving course of action that extends from the mid 1960s to the present. Since this arc of activity has occurred within living memory, it has been possible to seek out and speak with the very people whose work has been an engine of change.

Seventy-two interviews later, “Portraits in Action” presents twenty-five Vermont pioneers in renewable energy, environmental conservation, and land use planning. This diverse cross section is intended to be suggestive rather than comprehensive, recognizing that there are many more whose work has also made a difference.

The exhibit pairs portrait photography and interview audio as a way for visitors to thoughtfully connect with each person featured. Image and audio are linked to personal statements written in response to the question: “What will bring us to the next level in meeting the energy and environmental challenges we are facing today?”

In our current political environment, consensus on the defining issues of our era continues to elude us. “Portraits in Action” offers the opportunity to spend time with a group of people who have been thinking hard about many of these issues over the course of their working lifetimes.  It is both and oral history and a call to action.

Portrait photography by Dorothy Weicker and Ned Castle; audio by Marty Dewees, Erica Heilman, and Gregory Sharrow; and personal statements by the individuals featured. 
 

 

 

Life Under the Shadow

“I want to tell a story about me. It’s a true story; its not a story that people write.”

                                -Hom Pradham

Through the pairing of acrylic paintings and audio excerpts, the exhibit reflects Hom Pradhan’s experience growing up in a Bhutanese refugee camp in Nepal. As a child, Pradhan experienced challenging conditions among 120,000 refugees expelled from Bhutan. Despite these conditions, Pradhan found the incentive to make art, which helped him find and maintain peace and happiness within himself.

Hom Pradhan began to paint and draw at the age of seven. As a teenager, while still in the Bhutanese refugee camp, Goldhap, he completed the advanced course at the Institute of Fine Arts and Commercial Arts (IFACA). He then became a student instructor at the IFACA, where he taught fine arts, sculpture, and commercial arts to other refugees. 

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In late 2012 Pradhan was relocated to the United States, which presented a whole new set of challenges, including language barriers and cultural differences. His painting, however, has allowed him to navigate past these challenges as a visual, universally understood representation of a difficult time in his life. He is a resident of Winooski, Vermont, and is currently enrolled in an early college program at Burlington College where he is pursuing a four-year degree in fine arts. He plans to share the peace he has found in himself through his artwork with the communities that surround him. 

Hom Pradham explains one of his paintings outside his home in Winooski, Vermont.

Hom Pradham explains one of his paintings outside his home in Winooski, Vermont.

 

This exhibit is available to travel! Click on the Exhibit Specifications below to learn more about Life Under the Shadow as a traveling exhibition.

 

Jito Coleman

Renewable energy engineer/business pioneer

To reach the next level in meeting our environmental and energy challenges will require an invigorated and deeper Personal Commitment by each of us.

Personal Commitment to do the right thing–in our homes, in our life styles, in the politicians we choose.

CLIMATE DISASTER is what we are facing. Accepting tepid political band-aides and ‘tweaks” to the status quo will not begin to address the magnitude and urgency of the challenge.

The deterioration of our environment can be directly tied to energy use and abuse. We need to scale back our wastefulness and change to more environmentally appropriate sources–societally and individually. Our earth can no longer sustain our current habits. We need to shrink our energy footprints and find ways to source our energy sustainably.

People hope and are willing to wait for technology to fix their problems. That is usually a cop out for not being willing to address the issue and take action. Technology will evolve over time, but it isn’t keeping up with the rapidly deteriorating climate. People need to wake up to the fact that they can do more right now. Personally and nationally.

We have started down this road, but with a timidity well short of the committed action required. To meet our challenge we need to do more and do it faster. The means and solutions exist. The commitment to use them isn’t there. Not yet . . .

Our collective footprint is huge; my personal footprint is too big as well.

Personal change comes hard. The ever-increasing awareness of almost certain climate disaster will spur the conversation. But real changes will only come when we collectively take significant and meaningful action. Let’s not do too little, too late.

So put on an extra sweater, heat and cool your house less, drive less, fly less, stay home more and enjoy where you live. And by all means, avail yourself of the newest energy technologies that you want and can afford. Commit to shrinking your footprint today.

Only support candidates, locally to nationally, who have made this commitment as well.

To have any hope of changing course, we need to demand significant action NOW. That will come as we each make stronger, broader, deeper personal commitments.

Jito Coleman in Warren, VT. Photo by Dorothy Weicker.

Jito Coleman in Warren, VT. Photo by Dorothy Weicker.

John Zimmerman

John Zimmerman at the Milton and Georgia Vermont wind farm—a 10 megawatt, four turbine, generation project that was placed in service in December of 2012 and has since become the highest performing wind farm in Vermont. Photo by Dorothy Weicker.

John Zimmerman at the Milton and Georgia Vermont wind farm—a 10 megawatt, four turbine, generation project that was placed in service in December of 2012 and has since become the highest performing wind farm in Vermont. Photo by Dorothy Weicker.

Founder and President, Vermont Environmental Research Associates, Inc

Exciting improvements to our electric, transportation, and home heating power systems in the coming decades will most assuredly evolve from societal pressures to integrate these sectors and improve their carbon footprint to improve air quality. Implementing these changes will inevitably be a bumpy ride as they affect all sectors of the energy industry; power generation, transmission and delivery, and importantly, consumers. In the electric sector this evolutionary trend is rapidly accelerating as new smaller and local generation sources are more frequently added to our electric system at the same time as new load is added by the electrification of the transportation and space heating sectors.

Substantial new investment in sustainable renewable generation sources is needed to achieve our greenhouse gas reduction objectives. If we set our clean air goals carefully and implement them pragmatically these changes will occur naturally, albeit at a slower pace than many would like.

Much of the work in my career has been focused on participating actively in this evolution by supporting the commercial scale renewable energy development. Because local renewable generation systems are usually visible features in the community, we can expect our working landscape will continue to evolve as the transition to clean energy expands along with the public dialogue as to need and societal benefits.

As in centuries past, communities will be able to see and identify with where there power is made. It will be on our rooftops, in our fields, and on our hilltops. The transition is underway now and will continue for generations. I can’t wait!

Dori & Jeff Wolfe

Owner, Wolfe Energy LLC; Co-Founder, groSolar

Senior Vice President of Business Strategy, Just Energy; Co-Founder, groSolar

We pray it is not true, but “crisis” may be the only tool powerful enough to evoke the change needed to conquer the environmental and energy challenges we are facing today. We can’t see parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, so when we hear we need to be at 350 ppm, but are now over 400 ppm, it fails to instill enough action. We can’t feel on a daily basis how 2 degrees Celsius would affect us, so it is an ineffective motivator to encourage us to change our ways.

In addition, for over a century we have allowed the industrial revolution to use the atmosphere as a free dumping ground while we become ever more addicted to fossil fuels. It is incredibly hard for a civilization to break the habit of high profits, power, and convenience afforded by cheap energy. Where education is abundant and forward-thinking citizens harken to scientists’ warnings, change can and is happening. But not fast enough nor among a broad enough base of citizens.

Can devastating floods such as Irene and Sandy, long-lasting droughts as experienced in California, and other environmental crises provide the catalyst needed to inspire us to reach the next level? We hope we can change sooner, as happened with the ozone layer, for with crisis comes high casualties, especially to those most vulnerable in our society. For that reason, Jeff and I have long worked to bring renewable energy to the fore, effecting change now for a better future.

Dori and Jeff Wolfe atop the roof of the former offices of groSolar on River Road in White River Junction, VT. Photo courtesy of Dori and Jeff Wolfe.

Dori and Jeff Wolfe atop the roof of the former offices of groSolar on River Road in White River Junction, VT. Photo courtesy of Dori and Jeff Wolfe.

Alec Webb

President, Shelburne Farms

I believe that providing young people opportunities to engage in learning that is relevant to living in the 21st century is an essential component of what is needed to meet the environmental and energy challenges we face today. It is equally important for land owners and farmers, consumers, government, and business leaders to pursue and support economic development that advances social and environmental values.

At Shelburne Farms, our work revolves around educating for a sustainable future and practicing community-minded stewardship of natural, agricultural, and cultural resources. By supporting educators we extend our impact throughout Vermont, nationally, and internationally as well.

Beginning at an early age, we encourage lifelong learning and offer personal experiences with nature and agriculture. We build connections to place and community and give young people the sense they can make a difference in the world. And beyond our home working landscape and campus, our vision is that every young person, wherever they live, will have access to education for sustainability opportunities in their own schools and communities.

What we are cultivating is a conservation ethic and culture of sustainability. At the heart of that is the intention to become more aware about and responsible for the impact of the choices we make on our own health, the health of our communities, and the health of the natural world.

Alec Webb at the Farm Barn on Shelburne Farms in Shelburne, VT. Photo by Dorothy Weicker.

Alec Webb at the Farm Barn on Shelburne Farms in Shelburne, VT. Photo by Dorothy Weicker.

Gus Seelig

Founding Executive Director, Vermont Housing and Conservation Board

Since the Vermont Countryside Commission’s report more than 80 years ago, Vermont has continually recommitted itself to compact settlements surrounded by the working landscape. Across generations, through policy and increased investment, Vermonters have stated their desire to protect the values reflected in our landscape and for our villages and downtowns to be vital places where the people in our communities connect with each other.

Vermont’s decision to bring together housing, conservation, and historic preservation provides the opportunity to look holistically at development, conservation, social justice, and displacement of natural systems and people.

A globalizing economy requires both the agricultural and forest economy to innovate and change. Suburbanization and sprawl continue to challenge Vermont whether in Chittenden County or through large lot subdivision of farmland and fragmentation of Vermont’s forests. Our growing understanding of climate change and the health of our waters adds new dimensions to the urgency of our work. Homelessness scars our sense of justice.

Whether it is economic forces driving Vermont’s economy or the expectation that our grandchildren will experience North Carolina’s climate in Vermont, we need to step up our efforts investing in and building vibrant communities while protecting our landscape. Seeking a “sustainable future” will require reinventing our economy and forcefully addressing social equity.

To succeed we will need a greater commitment working together and investing in our collective future.

Gus Seelig outside the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board building on State Street in Montpelier, VT. Photo by Dorothy Weicker.

Gus Seelig outside the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board building on State Street in Montpelier, VT. Photo by Dorothy Weicker.

Leigh Seddon

Renewable energy consultant

Founder, Solar Works, Inc

Forty-five years ago, I came to Vermont as a young man disillusioned by the pace of environmental destruction in this country and the human destruction being wrought by the Vietnam War. I wanted to drop out, escape, and retreat into the hills.

Instead of retreating, I ended up reconnecting. I reconnected to community life and came to understand that most, if not all Vermonters have a sense of shared community, guided by certain touchstone values–protecting our land, promoting social equality, and serving those in need. And when this community is threatened, it can come together quickly and act in a unified, powerful way. In 1969, the threat was shoddy development and land speculation. It took Vermont only one year to reach consensus and pass Act 250, a landmark vision of regional, citizen control over land use.

Today, the threat of climate change imperils Vermonters and all of earth’s species. Again, we have stepped up to the challenge by creating state policies that are promoting energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy. The goal is to transform Vermont into a renewable energy economy by 2050. While Vermont’s energy leadership will not end global climate change, it can and will serve as a model for other states and countries. And it is a model that will be attractive to others because Vermont’s efforts will boost our economy, keep energy affordable, and protect our environment.

As a renewable energy engineer, I know we have the technology and skills today to proceed with this energy transition. But it is not technology that underpins the path that Vermont has embarked upon, it is our shared sense of community and our deep desire to leave Vermont to the next generation a little better than we found it.

Leigh Seddon at the Ferrisburgh Solar Farm located along Route 7 outside of Vergennes, VT. The farm was built in 2010 by Alteris Renewables for the Pomerleau Real estate group and was Vermont’s first utility-scale solar installation built under Vermont’s Standard Offer Program. Photo by Dorothy Weicker.

Leigh Seddon at the Ferrisburgh Solar Farm located along Route 7 outside of Vergennes, VT. The farm was built in 2010 by Alteris Renewables for the Pomerleau Real estate group and was Vermont’s first utility-scale solar installation built under Vermont’s Standard Offer Program. Photo by Dorothy Weicker.

David Marvin

Founder, Butternut Mountain Farm

Longtime environmental advocate

We face environmental, energy, and climate challenges that are all interrelated and daunting. How can we possibly address them and have our legacy be as promising as our heritage suggested it could be?

I believe that fundamentally we need a land ethic and a stewardship ethic that recognize humans must not be conquers of the Earth, but need to co-exist with and respect all biota and the communities that support them. We need to seek understanding of the complexity and interconnections of us, them, earth, water, and sky. This is necessary for our mutual survival and demonstrates the humanity in humankind.

We cannot expect the earth to sustain us if we abuse it any more than we can expect a person we abuse to respond with kindness. I believe we should be conservative in how we use our resources and use economy in how we sustain our communities. In all our endeavors we should first do no harm and behave as if our lives depend upon that principle, because they do.

If future generations look back and find we have been needlessly cautious and thrifty, let them decide if their legacy can be spent down a bit. I doubt that will be the case.

David Marvin standing at the beginning of the farm road up Butternut Mountain, near his sugarhouse, in Johnson, VT. Photo by Dorothy Weicker.

David Marvin standing at the beginning of the farm road up Butternut Mountain, near his sugarhouse, in Johnson, VT. Photo by Dorothy Weicker.

Beth Sachs

Founding Director, Vermont Energy Investment Corporation

What will bring us to the next level in meeting the environmental and energy challenges that we are facing today is making the connection between the environment, the economy, and social justice.

All people need and deserve clean air, clean water, the means to support themselves, and freedom to live their lives with dignity.

We need to understand that we’re all in this together, and truly care about each other. We need to reach out and listen to people we don’t meet in the course of our everyday lives.

By engaging, we become more aware human beings, and together we will find new ideas and solutions that we won’t come up with in isolation from each other.

Beth Sachs at the entrance of the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation headquarters at the Innovation Center in Burlington, VT. Photo by Ned Castle.

Beth Sachs at the entrance of the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation headquarters at the Innovation Center in Burlington, VT. Photo by Ned Castle.