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Why I Remain Hopeful on Climate

By Jordan Heiden

My name is Jordan Heiden. I’m a young Vermonter who drives a hybrid, has 17 solar panels on her roof, and joyfully embraces a fully plant-based diet. I’m also the Keep Vermont Cool campaign manager. I’ve dedicated my life to the climate movement, and despite the constant onslaught of gut-punching news alerts, I remain hopeful that a sustainable, livable future is possible. 

In the past year, I’ve had the unique opportunity to meet with hundreds of Vermonters all around the state. If there was a concert, soccer game, farmers market, or parade, my team and I would be there — rocking Keep Vermont Cool T-shirts, handing out stickers, and talking to local community members about climate change. No matter where we went — whether Saint Albans or Saint Johnsbury, Brattleboro, Bennington, or Burlington — folks generally felt the exact same way we did. They cared a lot about Vermont and its changing climate, and they wanted to make a positive difference within their communities. They just weren’t exactly sure how. 

We took note of that. When summer shifted to fall, State Senator Rebecca White and I launched the Keep Vermont Cool Climate Action and Advocacy Tour series to provide those passionate community members with the tools and resources needed to act on climate in 2023. At each event, local legislators and constituents discussed effective advocacy strategies and some of the many next steps for tackling the climate crisis. Three months and 14 events later, these important conversations are still taking place. 

I am truly hopeful that 2023 will be the year we take real, equitable action on climate, both in and out of the Statehouse. Over the course of the past 12 months, I’ve witnessed an unstoppable force within our state — a momentum that only continues to build. Our communities are resilient, passionate, creative, determined, and most importantly, ready to take action. 

The legislature has begun to take climate action seriously, passing the Global Warming Solutions Act in 2020, and in the two years since making serious investments in helping low- and moderate-income Vermonters, municipalities, and others make the transition to lower-cost, cleaner energy options. While huge chunks of work remain, there’s reason for hope. 

The legislature is taking up the Affordable Heat Act, which would for the first time create a blueprint to move Vermont from high-priced, price-volatile fossil fuels to much cleaner, more affordable options. And it appears clear that for the first time in years the legislature will also be taking a hard look at Vermont’s renewable energy policies, and hopefully overhauling them to ensure that far more new renewable energy is built, not only cutting climate pollution but also helping make our electric grid more resilient to the impacts of the climate crisis that are already on their way. 

Throughout my journey, I’ve met a lot of people like me — people who do their part each day to minimize environmental impact — and people who are eager to learn and improve however possible. That’s one important piece of the puzzle, but truthfully, it can’t stop there. We must also encourage our legislators to advance bold, effective climate bills. While it’s hard to imagine a perfect bill, it’s even harder to imagine another year of climate inaction. What matters most is that we start — things can only get better from there. 

Heiden lives in Barre City and works at the Vermont Public Interest Research Group.