by Lily Gutterman
When I signed up for this trip, it was unclear to me what movement-building would mean. Throughout training, Marla and Craig continuously stressed the importance of relationships– the exchange of experiences, stories, and knowledge that bind people together for a common cause.
Now several weeks in, I understand what it means to make these connections. As a member of Team Vermont, I am often exposed to local organizations and individuals that are creatively and seriously thinking about climate issues on a daily basis. In fact, just walking down the street in Vermont, I find my attention constantly being grabbed by climate-related businesses or events. At the Hunger Mountain Coop this morning, weaving through aisles of tempting local fare, I overheard regular folk chatting about everything from energy to raising goats to waste management plans.
Vermont is a progressive state, and a constant source of inspiration. But it isn’t all just liberal environmentalists. Just days ago we were in a town fairly split politically, joining forces with the great people at the Bradford Conservation Commission. Nancy Jones, the chair of the commission, told us about how challenging it can be to get momentum in terms of gaining support for both conservation and policies to put renewable energy in place. The BCC’s accomplishments in conserving and maintaining trails on over 400 acres of land are truly incredible considering the local politics. Our team felt lucky to be able to spend some time volunteering with them, both to insulate radiators in an old historical building and get outside to do some trail maintenance.
The hands-on work with the Bradford Conservation Commission and our joint brainstorming about energy efficiency reminded me of the importance of building relationships in this work. On one of our last nights in Bradford, Nancy invited us to her home for swimming, dinner and strawberry shortcake. Sitting outside by the Waits River, we spoke about family, the environment, our adventure, and so much more.
As Climate Summer progresses, I am struck by the power in these kinds of exchanges. As young people, my team radiates idealism, energy, and enthusiasm. In return, we are the beneficiaries of incredible hospitality, knowledge, and wisdom. As my teammate Emma said in a meeting today, the past three weeks on the road have been as valuable as a semester of college. These partnerships are changing the way I interact with the world around me, and empowering me to realize the importance of this work. We reach out to each other, we move each other, and we push each other.
As our time in Montpelier continues, I can feel our strength as a team growing, snowballing through Vermont, collecting inspiration and ideas wherever we land. I can feel the increasing momentum.