Former Vermont Gov. addresses climate change


Photo illustration by Siobhan Harms

Tessa Augsberger

Former Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin spoke to students about environmental leadership and climate change during second and third period Jan. 21.

Shumlin calls on administration to improve environmental footprint

Shumlin’s visit is part of a larger effort from the administration to call the school community to take action on sustainability in any way they can.

The presentation was organized by the administration in conjunction with environmental science teacher Nadine Eisenkolb, Co-Presidents of the Environmental Club Guy Hartstein ’20, Helen Graham ’20 and Yoohan Ko ’20, and students Erica Ekstrand ’20 and Sophia Ekstrand ’20.

Following the presentation, students participated in a Q&A session with Shumlin.

In an all-school email, Hartstein said it is projected that Vermont will reach 90 percent renewable energy by 2050 as a result of Shumlin’s leadership.
The presentation and subsequent Q&A allowed students to explore how environmental concerns are addressed in government, Hartstein said.

“Part of what the environmental club has been trying to do this year is to educate our campus regarding environmental issues,” Hartstein said. “I think part of educating people on the environment is teaching them how governors and senators deal with environmental policy and I think having the [former] Governor of Vermont come to school was a good opportunity for people to learn about how the environment plays a role in government. Overall, the governor spoke about everything from renewable energy to how he can make deals with energy companies to make solar panels more effective.”

In his presentation, Shumlin spoke about the global effects of climate change.

Although he said a global warming of one degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels is unavoidable, he emphasized the catastrophic effects of the planet warming two degrees Celsius — water scarcity, increased loss of corn crops, sea level rise and the melting of arctic ice — which would endanger arctic wildlife.

“Take control of the things you can control, because the one thing we don’t have is time,” Shumlin said.

Shumlin provides alternative ways to resolve climate crisis

Instead of emphasizing the urgency of the climate crisis and its potential global effects, Shumlin discussed opportunities for innovative solutions.
Shumlin said various governments and passionate individuals are taking action against climate change.

He also explained what students can do in the future to prevent further warming.

“You’ve got a beautiful opportunity here, but you’ve also got a huge responsibility,” Shumlin said.

Eisenkolb, who helped to organize the presentation, said Shumlin’s visit provided students with a new outlook on the climate crisis.

“He was very optimistic rather than being pessimistic and defeatist about it,” Eisenkolb said. “I liked his answer to the question of ‘What are we going to do about population growth?’ He said ‘That’s not a problem, that’s a source of inspiration and new ideas’ I love that approach to solving a problem.”

Moreover, Eisenkolb said the school’s decision to host Shumlin reflects the growing concern among students with regard to the environment.

“I’ve seen an increase in interest in environmental issues over the five years that I have been here and I think that is in part due to the fact that I push very hard for this, and I [also] think that it is in part due to the fact that young people are more interested in this topic,” Eisenkolb said. “There’s a whole movement of young people standing up for climate change, so I think that the school as a whole has felt the pulse of time that there are young people who are interested in this issue and that we need to continue along feeding that interest and feeding that area of ‘purpose beyond ourselves.’”

Sara Whiteman ’22, who attended Shumlin’s second period presentation, echoed Eisenkolb’s sentiments and said the event showed the school’s commitment to protecting the environment.

“Climate change is something that’s really important to me and I always try to make a difference to live more eco-friendly,” Whiteman said. “[Knowing] that the school is making an effort to boost this message was really cool.”

Head of Upper School Laura Ross, who also attended Shumlin’s second period session, said that she found Shumlin’s points about financial incentives to help combat climate change convincing.

“It was interesting to hear his takeaways [and to know] there are actual things we can do that are helpful in terms of job creation and financial sustainability,” Ross said.