Environmentalists may have covered nearly every ecological concern under the sun when it comes to stopping the march of wind turbines across Vermont. Now some, arguing that the actual, physical mountains have been left out of the discussion, have penned “Vermont’s Mountain Manifesto,” a paean to the vanishing ridgelines of the Green Mountain State.
And while there is poetry — “Like the psalmist, we lift our eyes unto the hills from whence cometh our strength” — there is also prosaic politics, bluntyl stated.
“Green Mountain Power Corporation needed little more than a wag of the hand to get the State of Vermont’s blessing to use a rumored 700,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate to blast away the ridgeline of Lowell Mountain, an act of incalculable ecological violence,” reads the manifesto. “That is one hundred times what Timothy McVeigh used to blow up the federal building in Oklahoma City.”
The document, written by “a core group of Vermonters, with experience in natural science, public policy and environmental history,” was published by the Vermonters for a Clean Environment.
VCE director Annette Smith called the document “an urgent and public call to action to protect Vermont’s mountains.”
One of the authors of the manifesto is Bruce Post, a staffer for the late Vermont U.S. Sen. Jim Jeffords, and Gov. Richard Snelling, who died in office in 1991. He said he contributed much of the sections on mountain ecology and the state’s environmental history.
“The greatest threat to them right now is industrial wind turbines on our ridgelines,” said Post. “The pictures speak for themselves. I think most people, all they see is these aerodynamically attractive features spinning, in many cases off in the distance.”
He said what most Vermonters don’t see up close is all the damage caused by construction and wind energy operations.
“They don’t know about the amount of destruction and the infrastructure that you have to put up in the mountains to get them there,” he said. “They say, ‘No, I had no idea!’ So, this is an attempt to educate people about that destruction and to enlist more voices in the battle against wind turbines.”
In an interview with Watchdog, Post sounded a theme that has reverberated through the state’s environmental community over the past few years — the division of old allies.
Not surprisingly, he contends that those who choose wind energy over mountain tops have lost their way.
State naturalist Charles W. Johnson helped Post with writing and editing the manifesto and echoed that concern.
“One of the difficult parts of this is it has divided the environmental community,” he said. “I have been personally sort of disparaged from my positions by some environmental groups.”
Johnson said he is a true believer when it comes to man-made global warming.
“I think that’s one of the most urgent environmental issues of the day, but not by destroying the very landscapes that we and wildlife depend on,” he said. “To me it’s sort of akin to when you are freezing, burning down your house to keep warm.”
The manifesto addresses that dichotomy. Still, Johnson acknowledged there’s a whole array of other concerns with wind turbines that it doesn’t focus on, including the noise that can harm humans and animals, and the higher price of the electricity for ratepayers.
In the long-term, Johnson said he hopes the manifesto can grow into a functioning force in Vermont’s energy and environmental policy making.
“The hope is that people will read this and it will be part of a movement toward greater numbers expressing more outwardly what we believe in, and to get — we hope — some political [impact],” he said. “One thing that would be nice is to get the environmental community together again and not segment off and vilify each other. Another goal is to look at some kind of plan statewide, not this rampant development that comes one-by-one and sort of excludes local voices.”
Michael Bielawski is a freelance reporter for Vermont Watchdog. Contact [email protected]