Groups plan countywide climate protests

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Climate advocates plan to demonstrate in Bennington and Manchester on Friday as part of a national movement of U.S. Climate Strikes three days before the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York.

The Manchester strike, march and rally will start at 11 a.m. at Factory Point Town Green, with a march along Depot Street and back to the roundabout, Anne Dolivo, of Earth Matters 350VT Manchester, said in an email. Participants are asked, but not required, to register at globalclimatestrike.net.

Bennington demonstrators will meet at People's Park (Farmers Market Park) at 1 p.m. for a rally with music and speeches, and walk to the Four Corners at 2 p.m. There is no sign up or RSVP requirement, said organizer Barbara True-Weber.

Led by a diverse coalition of both youth and adult organizations, Sept. 20 represents an intergenerational day of striking that will launch a week of climate action across the world, according to the national strike website, strikewithus.org.

After the initial climate strike action, the Earth Matters Manchester Climate Strike committee also has a busy week of events planned, part of the week of action.

These events include: an EV Cruise In and family-friendly bike rally, a climate strike worship service at the Congregational Church of Rupert; a tree planting ceremony; a reading of a new play by Jason Odell Williams, "The Whole Shebang;" a film at the Manchester Community Library; and events supporting local regenerative agriculture farms, Dolivo said. More information can be found at vermontclimatestrike.org.

"A lot of this is coming from the grassroots. Our leaders aren't acting," Dolivo said. "A lot of the grassroots organizations are feeling it's absolutely necessary to walk out of school, out of businesses. And demand that our leaders do something. Walk the talk."

The goal is to increase awareness, Dolivo said.

"It's really getting the word out, and having these leaders see how important it is for our youth that if we don't do something within the next 11 years, they will not have a future," she said. "It is that serious. We need to listen to the science, and we need to act on it."

Climate Advocates of Bennington began to organize a local strike about a month ago, True-Weber said.

Organizers are also working with Bennington College students in the local strike, she said.

Organizers at the college anticipate about half of the college will participate in the strike, although those numbers are subject to change, said Ethan Koss-Smith, co-organizer with True-Weber.

"This is the most, shall I say, breathtaking, and also the most important issue of our time," he said of climate change. "Not only for the younger generation. but also for every single human being. This affects everyone, and the students here recognize that."

The protesters from Bennington College are emphasizing a call for the college to reduce its own carbon emissions by 90 percent by 2025, he said.

"We see this as kind of two-fold," he said of the strike. "The demands for the college campus, and the demands for the Bennington town community."

Climate Advocates of Bennington has always pushed toward limiting climate change, but in "sort of a quiet way," True-Weber said. This strike marks a change.

"But this is more a public push," True-Weber said. "A more intense, upbeat statement that we've got to start taking this much more seriously."

"Our house is on fire," True-Weber said, quoting Greta Thunberg, a well-known teenage climate activist. "Over the last couple of years, the urgency of the issue has become so important, and so visible, that it seems imperative to do everything we can — everybody needs to do everything they can — to limit climate change."

And that means Bennington, too, she said.

The planet's average surface temperature has risen about 1.62 degrees Fahrenheit (0.9 degrees Celsius) since the late 19th century, a change driven largely by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere, according to NASA. Other evidence of rapid climate change includes warming oceans, shrinking ice sheets, glacial retreat, decreased snow cover, sea level rise, declining arctic ice and increased "extreme events" like record high and low temperatures and intense rainfall events.

With their public demonstration, Climate Advocates of Bennington have a "big ask" for the town, True-Weber said.

Namely, they want the Select Board to declare a climate emergency.

"What does it mean to declare a climate emergency?" she said. "We would like for [the town] to pledge to go fossil-free. We want them to divest any invested funds in fossil fuel companies, and we want the Select Board to support actions that would move the community to waste-free."

When she thinks about climate change, True-Weber said, she thinks about a recent United Nations report that says the world has 12 years to cut its emissions. And even that won't stop climate change.

"It's here, and it's going to get worse, and all we can do is attempt to limit its damage," she said. "We have those 12 years in which to cut enough emissions that we won't totally throw off climate."

To her, she said, that's compelling.

"Asking big things from the town is a reflection of how urgent it is," she said.

Students at Bennington College are also planning a Bennington Litter Cleanup event on Sept. 21 from noon until 2 p.m., followed by a sorting session afterward on campus, to separate out plastic for the purpose of identifying the brands of the plastic products found. They'll send that data to an international movement, Break Free From Plastic, to include in their October report. That movement aims to put an end to plastic pollution.

Community members can also volunteer; there will be a posting on the college's calendar on its website soon, with a sign-up link to volunteer, Koss-Smith said. Volunteers are strongly encouraged to register.

Material from the Manchester Journal was incorporated in this story. Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at pleboeuf@benningtonbanner.com, at @BAN_pleboeuf on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 118.

Bennington Litter Cleanup

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Saturday, Sept. 21

12-2 p.m. (cleanup), 2-4 p.m. (sorting)

Details and link to volunteer will be posted on the college's website.

Volunteers will collect trash in small groups around North Bennington, Lake Paran and the town of Bennington and then sort the trash and separate out the plastic.

Northshire Climate Action Week Calendar of Events:

Saturday 9/21 10 a.m. - noon

Family Friendly Bike Rally and EV Cruise In

Dana Thompson Memorial Park House (Manchester Rec)

RSVP for bike rally at www.vermontclimatestrike.org

Sunday 9/22 10:30 a.m.

Climate Strike Worship Service

Rupert Congregational Church

Sunday 9/22 3:00 - 6 p.m.

Vermont Farmers Food Center Harvest Festival, Rutland.

$25 per person. Reservations required. www.vffc.org

Tuesday 9/24 10 a.m.

Tree planting ceremony

Town Office, Manchester

Tuesday 9/24 5:00 - 7 p.m.

Play reading: The Whole Shebang

Bonnet & Main Cafe, Bonnet St

Wednesday 9/25 daytime (TBC)

Riverwalk Peace garden clearing/planting

Behind Manchester Wood Craft, Depot St

Wednesday 9/25 7 p.m.

Film and discussion

Manchester Community Library

Thursday 9/26 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.

Regenerative Agriculture Farm Tour

Larsen, Yoder and Smokey House farms in Wells/Danby

Further information available at www.vermontclimatestrike.org


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