That’s how long it’s been since Tropical Storm Irene wreaked havoc on Vermont – pummeling our infrastructure, destroying businesses and leaving many people homeless.
The small business that I co-founded in Waterbury, the Alchemist, nearly got wiped off the map.
We faced many difficult challenges following the flooding and destruction of our pub and brewery. But by far, the most difficult thing we had to do was lay off 20 hard-working and loyal employees.
You see, the loss of our pub wasn’t just our problem to deal with. It was a problem for our employees and our entire community. And four years later I’m still reminded of that devastation.
I’m reminded when I see the homes and businesses that have not been rebuilt. I’m reminded when I see increasingly frequent flooding in central Vermont, most recently in Barre and Plainfield, brought on by record rainfalls.
But even in the midst of these painful reminders, I see that people are also taking action. Many of us believe we have a moral responsibility to address a key driver of these increasingly extreme weather events — our changing climate. And we want to do so in a way that strengthens our communities and puts the accountability for this destruction where it belongs — on the fossil fuel industry.
That why I support taxing carbon pollution and establishing an energy independence fund to help all Vermonters save money by reducing energy use and transitioning to renewable energy solutions.
I’ve seen the science that tells us more extreme weather is on its way. The fact is, global warming and its dangerous consequences are real and they’re happening now.
While we can’t solve climate change on our own, we can take steps right now to help keep other Vermonters from losing their homes and businesses before it’s too late.
The Alchemist bounced back, thanks to the amazing support of our Waterbury community, our loyal customers, and our willingness to transform our business into something new. It wasn’t easy. Change never is.
What’s also true is that we’re stronger now than we were before. Similarly, a stronger Vermont is possible when we transition to a more energy efficient, low-carbon economy.
Vermont imports nearly all of our fossil fuels from out of state. By transitioning away from those dirty fuel sources and embracing clean, locally-produced energy, we will keep billions of dollars right here. That’s good for Vermont businesses. And it’s good for Vermonters in general.
But so long as the climate-roasting pollution from fossil fuels can be dumped for free, there’s no incentive, resources, or driver to make that transition.
So as another Irene anniversary passes, I urge my fellow Vermonters to not just reflect on that which we have lost – but think about what we must do to protect our future and strengthen our state.
It’s time to put a price on carbon pollution. Hold the fossil fuel companies accountable. Invest in Vermont.
We already have the solutions today. We owe it to future generations to act on them.