Hundreds walk for climate change

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(Host) Several hundred Vermonters began a long, five-day walk from the hills east of Middlebury to Burlington today. The walkers are trying to raise awareness about climate change.

They’re asking politicians to support legislation that calls for an 80% reduction of greenhouses gases by mid-century. And they hope their message spreads far beyond Vermont.

VPR’s John Dillon was in Ripton for the start of the journey.

(The sound of walking)

(Dillon) The first leg of the five-day hike started near poet Robert Frost’s writing cabin in Ripton. Warren King lives in Ripton, and like many others, he had a simple reason for putting his feet to the pavement.

(King) “We’re out here because we believe global warming represents the single most significant threat to the future of our civilization. And we see our federal government not doing a thing about it, and we’re hoping we can change that by a strong enough show of public support.”

(Dillon) The walk had a festive air, but a serious message.

(Elder) “I’m a maple tree concerned about global warming.”

(Dillon) Middlebury College professor John Elder started the day dressed as New England’s signature tree, complete with orange leaves.

Elder, who taps about 500 maple trees, says the sugaring season depends on predictable patterns of freezing and thaw.

(Elder) “And last winter as you remember it was shuttling back and forth. It was very cold early on, then there was long warm spell. So our season started late and ended early.”

(Dillon) The walkers say the scientific evidence is definitive. The planet’s temperature is rising. Skiing, the sugaring season – even Vermont’s spectacular fall foliage are threatened.

Bill McKibben is an author and environmentalist who first wrote about climate change almost 20 years ago. He helped organized the march, and says the event is the largest demonstration to date in the country on global warming.

(McKibben) “This is very much the start of something important. And I’ve been getting – as the news of this has spread around the world – there was a piece in the International Herald Tribune – I’ve been getting email and things from people all over the place saying we’re going to do this too where we are “

(Dillon) McKibben and other walkers say they’ve already made many changes in their own lives to reduce their impact on the environment. They say it’s now time to make a little noise, and hope the sound spreads beyond Vermont.

Anne Burling is from Hancock.

(Burling) “I think especially our leaders are asleep. We have to do something besides write letters and send them emails, and something besides doing our own personal changes. It isn’t enough at this point. It’s putting our bodies where our ideas and beliefs are.”

(Dillon) The march will end Labor Day in Burlington. Organizers are asking politicians running for federal office to support legislation authored by Vermont Senator James Jeffords that would lead to an 80% reduction in greenhouse gases by mid-century.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Ripton.

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