Monday, November 16, 2009

Vermont Environmental Action 2009

A Report By EAOP Student Michael Goudzwaard

On the heels of the 350.org day of global action, Vermonters met at the Environmental Action 2009 Conference on Saturday, November 7, to explore the key issues facing the Green Mountain State. I was thrilled to be joined by Antioch EAOP master’s candidate Liz Newman, EAOP Director Steve Chase, and EAOP alumna Aja Lippincott, who now works for Global Justice Ecology Project.

Liz and I first learned of the conference working on an environmental justice project for a Vermont client through the ANE Advocacy Clinic. We planned to meet some advocates we had talk to on the phone and to further explore possible collaborations for our client.

In addition to networking and eating great local cheese, we were representing Antioch in two primary ways. First, equipped with banners, literature and free pens, we were recruiting potential students. Second, we engaged potential clients of the Advocacy Clinic to think about how our pro bono advocacy work could be help them take innovative and strategic environmental action.

I talked to a group that was fighting a big box store development in their town. I explained that Shapleigh, Maine and other towns have passed a local ordinance that gives rights to nature and allows citizens to defend those rights against corporate exploitation. Shapleigh passed the ordinance to protect its drinking water from being sold off to a transnational bottled water company. We were both excited about using this new ordinance to protect against sprawl and bringing self-determination back to the people of a VT town.

The afternoon offered some excellent workshops. I attended a session on Funding Real Change, comprehensive funding strategies for grassroots action. Ginny Callahan from the New England Grassroots Environmental Fund walked us through the grant application process giving tips and encouragement from a funder’s perspective. Mia Moore, Finance Director for Democracy for America and Alyssa Schuren, Development Director of Environment America presented donor-funding strategies and tools to increase giving and diversify funding for campaigns and organizations. I walked away with a new understanding and excitement for donor funding.

Finally, after lunch we heard from five gubernatorial candidates about their positions on environmental issues. All five committed to closing the aging and unsafe Entergy Nuclear Power Plant, supporting Vermont agriculture, and creating a clean energy, green-collar economy. I am thoroughly impressed and slightly jealous of the candidates Vermont has for its next governor.

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