Vermont Interfaith Power and Light

A faith-based response to global climate change

Walkers tackle global warming

Published: Tuesday, September 5, 2006

By Ashley Matthews
Burlington Free Press

SHELBURNE -- The new sidewalks on U.S. 7 got a workout Monday when more than 500 people walked from Shelburne to Burlington to put global warming in the political spotlight.

The 49-mile walk called "From the Road Less Traveled: Vermonters Walking Toward a Clean Energy Future," began Thursday in Ripton, the hometown of writer and event organizer Bill McKibben. Walkers were free to join the group at any point as it traveled north, crossing through Middlebury, Vergennes and Charlotte. Participation waxed and waned over the five-day period, and the largest group departed from Shelburne Farms on Monday morning, traveling down Shelburne's Harbor Road, South Burlington's U.S. 7 and eventually into Burlington's Battery Park.

Amy Schumer, a high school senior, came from Middlebury to walk with her dad and a high school friend. Schumer, 16, said she was concerned by the crowd, which contained few high-school age teens.

"I'm a little worried because I feel like people my age should care about the environment," Schumer said. "We can't vote, but I still want to raise awareness."

Roger Hill, meteorologist for WDEV, walked with his wife and his dog. Because he studies Vermont's climate on a daily basis, Hill said the tangible effects of global warming are becoming evident: heavier, wetter snow that causes power failures, severe wear and tear on taxpayer-funded roads because of recurring cycles of freezing and thawing, changes in maple sugaring seasons and regions, and economic damage to the state's ski industry.

Global warming is a trend, he said, that will hit Vermonters in their pocketbooks.

"This is not looney-tune leftist plots," Hill said. "This is mainstream science."

While some wore costumes and wildly decorated hats, Margaret Bullitt-Jonas walked in her black vestments. The associate pastor for Grace Episcopal Church in Amherst, Mass., came to walk because she's concerned about the fate of the Earth.

"To me, global warming is an issue of faith. It's the most urgent moral and spiritual issue humanity faces today," Bullitt-Jonas said. "God gave us the Earth to protect and to care for, and human beings are in the process of destroying life on this planet."

The environment and global warming was a favored topic of discussion for the walkers who meandered down the roads. The journey provided an opportunity to meet new people with similar political and social beliefs. Conversations buzzed through the group as people talked about surfing and composting, sports and their kids' accomplishments.

Drivers gawked as they passed, sometimes waving or honking, but often, the walkers were too absorbed in conversations to notice.

After nearly five hours on the road, participants convened in Battery Park for what McKibben called "a good, old-fashioned town meeting." Local political leaders and candidates were asked to publicly sign a pledge to support legislation to work toward an 80 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2050, increase fuel economy standards for vehicles to 40 miles per gallon and require that 20 percent of the nation's energy come from renewable resources by 2020.

Eight political leaders and candidates were present to sign the pledge.

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