By Dawson Raspuzzi
POULTNEY — The subject of climate change is starting to warm in the public's eye — although for a real change to be made the students of Green Mountain College want it to become a hot topic on politicians' plates as well.
On Thursday, GMC joined approximately 1,700 other institutions across the nation as they took part in "Focus the Nation," a day dedicated to raising awareness of global climate change and encouraging students to take action.
One of the events the students organized was a roundtable discussion with a panel of eight climate-change scholars as well as elected officials and members of the media that wanted to make people aware of the changing climate across the world and encourage involvement to create a change.
Ethan Ready, a staff assistant to U.S. Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., and part of the panel, presented a short video clip of the senator warning of floods, droughts, hunger and wars if changes aren't made.
There was good news, too, Sanders said, because we know how to reverse the trend and reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases.
Part of the change Sanders spoke about in video, which received praise from the panel, was the Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act that requires the United States to reduce its emissions by 80 percent by 2050.
George Crombie, secretary of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, said significant changes in reducing air pollution and improving water quality have occurred in recent decades, but what many people haven't done is learn to understand and appreciate the environment.
The appreciation of the environment, Crombie believes, should be foremost on people's minds. "We need to think very differently than we have the last 30 years," he said.
Alan Betts, a Pittsford-based atmospheric scientist, noted that 40 percent of the Arctic ice cap melted this past summer because of global warming. The change of climate, he said, was in large part due to the lack of concern from many, which he illustrated by saying that current regulations on vehicle efficiency is lower now than it was in 1992.
Everyone on the panel told the audience they believed change was possible, although for it to happen everybody would need to play a role and work together.
When the question was asked what individuals could do, some simple answers were given from the panel such as using energy-efficient light bulbs and cutting down on energy use and unnecessary commutes.
More expensive and elaborate answers were also given, like buying more fuel-efficient vehicles, better insulating homes so the amount of oil used remains minimal, and applying pressure to politicians to support climate control efforts.
David Moats, editorial page editor of the Rutland Herald, stressed the importance of events such as "Focus the Nation" taking place on college campuses, and the importance of students sharing what they learn with parents, friends, neighbors, and anybody else that will listen.
"Change happens like an avalanche," Moats said, "It starts with a single pebble."
Ernie Pomerleau, chairman of the Governor's Commission on Climate Change, said he was encouraged by the initiative that the students at GMC have shown to bring about change and encouraged them all to keep working at it.
"The train has left the station and now it's just a matter of guiding it to its destination," he said.
By Dawson Raspuzzi
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