Over 270 climate justice activists marched for five days for more than 60 miles from Middlebury to the State House in Montpelier, where they called for rapid action on climate change. Organizers from 350Vermont are calling the event ‘Next Steps: A Climate Solutions Walk’. Walkers have highlighted the climate consequences of the buildout of the Vermont Gas pipeline; celebrated and promoted examples of climate solutions; and brought local and state attention to the climate crisis.
Since the United Nations IPCC report last year, grassroots activists have been building momentum across the country for what they say is essential action to match the scale of the threat. As governments across the United States and the world are starting to take more meaningful steps to slow climate change, 350Vermont activists say that Vermont needs to follow suit.
Among the organizations supporting the Next Steps walk and call for climate action are Migrant Justice, Sierra Club-Vermont Chapter, the Vermont Racial Justice Alliance, and Sunrise Movement Middlebury College and UVM. According to 350Vermont Director Maeve McBride, the huge support for the walk is because, “We’re walking to center this situation in a new way, both for ourselves and the broader community. We’re in an emergency, a climate emergency, a justice emergency. At this moment, the communities along the Addison County pipeline are at risk because of safety violations by Vermont Gas. At this moment, youth are striking across Europe, the Green New Deal is shining brightly, and people across Vermont are seeking fair and equitable alternatives.”
Next Steps emerged from a 350VT grassroots activist conference last November. Since then, hundreds of walkers have joined, including contingents from Sunrise Movement youth climate action groups from Middlebury College and UVM, and Migrant Justice. Abel Luna, from Migrant Justice, said that they joined the walk because issues of migrant justice and climate justice were connected, “As more and more people are pushed to migrate because of the climate crisis, it is important that we urge our legislators to strengthen policies that support and protect immigrants in our state.”
Divya Gudur, of Sunrise Movement Middlebury and member of the Next Steps organizing team, said, “We now have 277 people on this walk. From young walkers to people in their eighties, from people new to climate action to those that are long-standing climate activists, there is a place for everyone in this walk and in this movement. Given the gravity of the global climate crisis, and the importance of grassroots activism in advocating for climate action, the relationships built between walkers from all different backgrounds are critical to building a movement for change.”
Along the route, there were three public facing events, starting with the Kickoff at Middlebury on April 5, followed by a public ceremony in Hinesburg on April 7 to come to terms with the gravity of the loss caused by the fossil fuel industry.
The Next Steps walkers marched together on the State House in Montpelier on Tuesday, April 9, to demand that legislators take action to keep fossil fuels in the ground. Organizers invited concerned Vermonters to join them there for what they are terming a “Mass Call for Climate Action”. They urged legislators to pass one of the three bills — H.51, S.66 and H.175 — that would ban or limit the expansion of fossil fuel pipes and infrastructure in the state.
Next Steps is presented by Ben & Jerry’s, with additional sponsorship from Grassroots Solar, Green Mountain Solar, Eco-Equipment Supply, and donations from Bees Wrap, Nutty Steph’s, , SunCommon, Red Hen, Earth Sky Time Farm, Burlingtone Friends, Champlain Valley Apiaries, Affordable Transportation Hinesburg, and Middlebury Natural Foods Coop.