Thank you for extending the comment period to November 4. Your
sensitivity to all areas under examination is much appreciated.
I applaud the State of Vermont for producing an Energy Plan. Sue
Minter, deputy secretary of the VT Agency of Transportation says,
"The Shumlin Administration is committed to re-thinking our energy
future." The fact is I can help much more with the art of re-thinking
than the comprehensive details of the plan. I did reach out to some
of my favorite groups - the Vermont Natural Resources Council, the
Vermont Energy Times, the range of pioneers known by ETV's
"Regeneration" series - to be sure that our innovators were being
consulted and are generally pleased. Not only was this poll confirming, it as well fed back
support for the aspect of the Energy Plan that I’m taking on to look at with you for the sake of
better realizing our dreams.
The criticisms suggested by colleagues who really do support this effort can be summarized according to the nature of a Plan itself:
Projections, deadlines, and goals. Many have noted that your goals are not disciplined enough and your deadlines too far into the future. That is not quite my side to take since increments of time are being viewed differently here. Earth itself is not running out of time - only humanity's time of immense pride in its ability to solve pressing problems created in its own wake.
"Energy" is of greater interest. One suspects that the first use of the word in a non-military government plan goes back to 1946 with the Atomic Energy Commission. This is an interesting point of entry for a term that has burgeoned in uses over the decades. (The Department of Energy came along in 1971.) Back then, energy was more closely related to vigor or scientific units of work. Electricity, water, heat - those were "utilities" - that which is utile, and usually all but forgotten in Christian prayers of supplication or gratitude during America's Baby Boom. By the 1970s the natural landscape and resources attained the word "environment" and it sounded lovely as well as scientific. Forebears of the as yet unborn Corporate Citizen responded with the phrase "work environment". Which is the exact aspect of our energy problem I wish to address.
In Bennington, there is no predominant energetic progress. Instead we debate over allowing Wal-Mart to expand. There are so many empty lots all over downtown Bennington and its ravaged outskirts that the only legitimate compromise would be to let it open annexes all over the business district. The energy put into making the Bennington Bypass a reality is also confounding, particularly now that the focus is returning to less traffic and more home-based supplies and demands. Years and years have gone into finishing this highway project, and along the parts completed use of these huge extra roads is painfully low. Watershed management and scenic vitality are among the forgotten debits, and probably by now the usurping of the new Middle School's back yard. Blooming Chefs and the Farmer's Market both instituted nice-sized student gardens on what was once a fresh facility with a lot of land around it. That was 2008 - already too long ago for students or temporary help to remember. Bennington College, for reasons I understand, failed to make the Sierra Club's 2011 list of America's top 100 green colleges, although Vermont did fill the #2, #10 and many other spots. These municipal and educational localities helped shape the subjective quality of problems about to be identified.
These are the problems of implementing new policies. I see workers of every stripe wearing the frozen customs of yesterday with no idea how to adapt their consciousnesses to the nuts-and-bolts beliefs that manifest a healthier tomorrow. I feel the climate over-warming whenever my blood boils at the thumb in the eye to authoritative warnings issued in the 1970s. Parking lots are filled with civilian-style mini-tanks in response to those warnings, and now Vermont is trying to accommodate her highways to them more efficiently than before. My blood cools as I remember to be in the moment and adapt the omnipresent solutions to things as they are now. In other parts of the State, there is a greater mandate for conservation, preservation, openness in general, more enlightened technology, and the will to do more with less. Vermont is ahead of the country in that way. Still, even in Vermont, it is arguably over-idealistic to expect a wise and fundamental overhaul of the infrastructure to take place over, say, four or eight years (one or two Presidential terms). Only because it's logical to think of much of the plan as doomed without parallel reforms in ethics and character.
This is not the rhetoric of a finger-pointing politician; this is a directive to level the playing field on the grounds of humility. Please don't take this personally, but there are many of us who no longer trust smiley plans delivered with professional certitude. Yes, there is a collective blame that only the most brave and honorable spokespeople know how to reflect back to us, the collected generations. But civil and business laws, regulations, and rules are the black and white drawn to be colored in by human behavior. We need to rethink (while we are at it) our governing principles because we need appropriate codes. In this era we’ve been greased, fatted and cooked by a plethora of man-made laws, to the point where it is obvious how ineffective scores of them are.
People who don't agree (or are conflicted) have ways of undermining support for parties working in earnest for fair reforms. Ideological and philosophical tenets, whether considered or not, really are as bottom-line as economic forces in determining this Plan's outcome. In any case, aggressive challenges ahead include correct delegation, sloppy detail work, cover-ups of said work, unforeseen snags (such as damage already done to the ecology; planning around the weather will be important – the week-end may even have to shift for some), regulations (many of them inflexible no doubt), slowness to ride new tech developments, over-stepping egos, force of habit (with some reactive patterns condoned by the State), fear and/or guilt associated with austerity or profligacy, price of materials (solvable with more cooperative trade practices), funding targets, old favors brought in, property ownership, zoning laws, usage standards calcified by a resistance to change, insider rule breaking, class enmity, first-dibs mentality, aesthetics, rivalry, omission, boredom, insurers acting with sanctioned greed, unclear boundaries/osmosis regarding working autonomy/interdependence (not limited to communication skills), unforeseen pollution scandals that will distract from important new projects, misunderstandings between generations (very different sets of instant gratification norms between cyber-teens and Boomers, for starters), miseducation, management style, excessive judgment, presentation of ideas, decisions clouded by poor diet or emotional stability, administrative infighting, County vs. State infighting, and pressures and conflicts with the Federal Government. Because such problems could all be designated as "Compromised Enthusiasm", there is probability of some happening in the smaller consciously Green sectors, as well as among bigger corporations that must be encouraged to redirect their investments toward sincere production and distribution of quality enviro-craft.
The Vermont Energy Plan I've read moves in the right direction: It recognizes flaws that are systemic. But is unsure of how to present systemic flaws to the public without jolting the system too much. Hurricane Irene is at least easier to rebuild from than any number of other possible catastrophes. But it is the relationship with each particular ecology/village affected by the storm that should mark Vermont's approach.
And this of course would be true for any community affected by a present or future energy plan that knows a cleverly balanced administration of central intelligences and local input. The representation of a community is key. This fact informs how popular presumptions are not always the safest or best.
How much do we want to change? It’s as if we can’t live without treachery. I think of a petition I signed about a traffic mess, to defeat a proposed roundabout for Williston, I think. Unlike the Bennington Super 7 problem, this was about sacrificing yet more precious wetlands because the amount of traffic really seemed to demand it. The boondoggle is not only congested autos, but the cross-purposes of those inside their cars driving them. Ideological enemies fight for energy rights (by now synonymous with property), all the while waging private struggles with the so-called enemy within. The meaning of consumerism itself becomes part of the debate when the stakes are this high. How starkly dualistic must all these contradictory sub-wars between Right and Left turn before agreed upon meanings can get back into play? One wonders these days about the conventional resistance to more natural - and more enlightened - approaches to yield from nature.
What "Natural Order" are we better off submitting to? I'm not a spiritual fascist, so I'm not venturing more than my usual explorations. After many years of accepting the study of self as an example of how human nature is better than people generally tend to believe, I finally came to trust the universe, nature, and extensive Taoist teachings more than any particular group of individuals. Humanity itself I see as part of nature. Man’s much heralded separation from nature is an illusion perpetuated by our constructs.
It's an important debate for urban planners to understand, for it is from nature that the solutions present themselves, and nature which has been so ignored, imperiled, attacked, and misunderstood. The point is that the "order" already includes this place we've reached since creating the borders known as Vermont. Notice the serious parallels between our domestic/sexual abuse laws and the accumulated problems with business/energy legislation. Vermont has a history of defending her women by standing by some of the harshest laws in Yankee territory - and the numbers show how poorly these laws have moved the hearts of male generations to treat women any better. Vermont is a woman, and always was prior to being named within an instated America. Gaia is feminine. The human race is still run by men; our racial and gender equal rights movement has suffered growing pains as various influences make women more like men. Feminism is constantly sold out by a resistance to healing early childhood traumas, an unwillingness to self-examine, and other perpetuations of warfare rather than forgiveness. And too many times have we seen men's irrationality bloom beneath the guise of reason. Our spate of technology is not imperfect - it can always be directed toward our given ends. But nature must be better understood within before our inventions can be applied practicably to this vision of a sustainable habitat.
We all know a little corruption must inevitably lubricate the gears of human endeavor, but how much is all right? It is natural for a leader to surround himself with people he can trust - friends. He knows no anti-trust rules short of nepotism. The problems begin with special favors. "Rules are made to be broken" - or bent, so they say. Everyone wants to be the hero, the exception, the unseen hand that tips the game in favor of Good.
Robert Redford and Julia Roberts are as much models for this vigilante as Clint Eastwood, who nevertheless is applauded for taking the law into his own hands if it means Dirty Harry exposing (and/or killing) Bernie Madoff before he fools anybody else. Disclosure is the guide. People must admit to what they do. That is a key to self-awareness. The best way to get off over-legislation and on with the relaxation of laws in the hopes of paring them down to a new sensibility is to find the alternative to the carrot and stick. Rewards and punishments - and the base incentive levels to which we have become accustomed - preclude the notion of a bounty. Rewards and punishments are based on scarcity … economic and moral. A holistic perspective sees a way out of all this and smiles, but understands how it might not be clear to others.
Nevertheless, a bounty is still possible and plausible. Non-doing, that strangely productive principle that discomfits the Puritan work ethic, is an active process that zeroes in on the link between energy conservation and, as developed, energy abundance. This all fits in with home-based, regional, and the mobile computer-based modalities intended to evolve our long-range picture.
Finally it is no longer facetious to point out that the Abenaki Indians managed these resources without such crises for thousands of years. Do they have anything to suggest that could be reintegrated into an approach that cannot turn back the hands of time? Surely they do. One doubts the most useful among Abenakis have been vetted. They too knew tribal law. Not to mention the lay of the land. They would understand Norman Mailer's assertion that "Only when passion is ready to transmute itself into will can one be trustworthy at the highest level." The works of Wendell Berry are foundations to our Energy Plan library. Understand why Lennon chose "Crippled Inside" to follow "Imagine" on the original album: It was 1971. The warning was that if we could not follow through on "Imagine"'s lyric vision, hypocrisies beneath the surface would erupt. The outside is crippled, scarred, and shamed now as well, and the wherewithal needed to proceed from here should not be derived from yet another catastrophe. People's attitudes tend to spring back to their predisposed biases soon after the openings created by disasters such as 9/11 or Katrina. Forget that old phrase "thinking the unthinkable". When work day is done, entertainment culture constantly surrounds us with the most horrible things people can imagine. The moral compass adjusts, imparts, allows, and forgives.
My colleagues, authors of this plan - do not make the mistake of thinking that the energy departments (or compartments, psychologically) are detached from the other professional employees and services that are the State's body. My proven advice about the work environment problem is body/mind therapy for State employees, particularly the ones most convinced that they don't need it. Too many people come out of therapy essentially unchanged, using "anger management" techniques with about as much mastery as other valuable instructions falling to the wayside of daily concerns.
As with the hard choices for experts between, say, micro-hydro or pursuing free water vortex energy discovered by Viktor Hausberger, behaviorists must still choose between finely tuned amalgamations - thinking more Wilhelm Reich type dearmoring for this case worker, less performance pressure on that one, elocution lessons for most of them. The State already imposes mediocre therapists on the unwilling, so helping the State with its "inner child" problems is in the same bag as teaching it to show more pride in its official papers, which are riddled with typos and archaic language. Our efficiency as participants in the energetic rebuilding of our state is reflected by the ease with which we shift into more creatively subtle work relationships. The Energy Plan is like a symphony with many orchestral parts. Workers must as well learn to perform like fine jazz musicians, who know how to admit mistakes in order to improvise them into something beautiful.
Submitted with loving concern,
PO Box 19
North Bennington, Vermont 05257
SaveLove Music, Inc.