Following is an excellent article that was featured in Vermont's Sunday paper. It tells all of the global warming campaign I'm working on with Greenpeace called Project Hot Seat and its aims and successes. Please read and enjoy.
Global Warming a Hot State Issue
By KEVIN O'CONNOR
Times Argus, Rutland Herald
October 22, 2006/
When Martha Rainville, the Republican candidate for Vermont's lone U.S. House seat, was asked three months ago for her stance on global warming, she seemed cold to the cause when it came to an answer.
"The overarching question is, what is global warming?" the Republican replied at the time. "What is the extent of it? How much of it is influenced by man and the decisions that we make? And what ought we to be doing?"
Rainville soon made up her mind. Last month, at a Burlington rally of more than 1,000 environmentalists, she joined Democratic challenger Peter Welch in pledging to fight the problem. This month she announced if elected, she'd become the seventh Republican to co-sponsor the Safe Climate Act, the companion House bill to the Senate's Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act introduced by retiring Vermont independent James Jeffords.
The cause of Rainville's newfound conviction? The candidate found herself in the Hot Seat — specifically, Project Hot Seat, an election-year initiative by the nonprofit, nonpartisan environmental group Greenpeace to encourage congressional hopefuls to fight global warming.
Greenpeace is known worldwide for floating its message on a big green boat, the Rainbow Warrior. But this fall, members are anchoring themselves in six U.S. House districts — in Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Washington — with the aim of educating candidates of all political colors.
"This is an issue that most people recognize, but there's a certain sense of impatience in terms of political action," says Rebecca Sobel, Project Hot Seat's Vermont organizer. "We want to do more than preach to the choir. We want to be a bridge to harness the energy for action."
So how do you get elected officials to pass effective laws? Most activist groups campaign for a person who supports their position. Project Hot Seat instead is working with all candidates in a targeted House district, offering everyone information about the problem and potential solutions.
"Addressing global warming is a bipartisan effort," Sobel says. "It doesn't matter to us who wins, it matters to us that whoever wins is a leader on global warming. We're here to cultivate champions on the issue."
The heat already is hitting home. Just ask ski-area workers who must make more snow because of a 15 percent decrease in natural flakes this past half century. Or maple sugar makers who fear warm mud season days won't be followed by enough freezing nights to encourage sap to run.
Global warming seems to be a gargantuan challenge, but Sobel boils it down simply: The United States is the world's top producer of pollution that leads to climate change, in part through coal-fired power plants and cars, trucks and sport utility vehicles. Scientists agree the country needs to reduce such emissions significantly within the next 10 years. Her group believes the best way to do that is through federal legislation.
Sobel, a young Philadelphia native who shies away from giving her age, became Project Hot Seat's sole paid Vermont staffer in the middle of July, just as Rainville was spouting questions about global warming.
Sobel moved into donated office space at the Burlington headquarters of household-products maker Seventh Generation (company president Jeffrey Hollender is a member of the Greenpeace board). She then met with Rainville and Welch, giving both candidates information about global warming and how government can fight it.
For Welch, a lawyer and outgoing state Senate president pro tem, the tutorial was more of a refresher course — he announced his plan to fight climate change at the time of Project Hot Seat's arrival, prompting the group to stand outside his campaign office with thank-you signs.
"They have done a great job of raising the issue and getting our opposition in this race up to speed," Welch spokesman Andrew Savage says of the Greenpeace effort.
Welch says his first action upon election would be to cosponsor the Safe Climate Act, a bill by U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., to cut the nation's carbon dioxide emissions by at least 80 percent in the next half century. Welch also wants the government to sign the international Kyoto treaty that seeks worldwide cuts in pollution.
"Global warming threatens the Vermont way of life, from the existence of our ski areas and our maple syrup production to our ability to hunt in native forests," Welch is quoted on Project Hot Seat's Web site. "The question is not should we curb our greenhouse gas emissions, but how can we begin to do so immediately, efficiently and aggressively."
Rainville, for her part, also wants to cosponsor the Safe Climate Act and found Project Hot Seat's information on the issue to be "a great resource," candidate spokesman Brendan McKenna says. Rainville announced her position this month at a press conference, where she stood beside Sobel (who also attended a global warming forum with Welch the next day).
"The issues of global warming impact the economy, future job creation, agriculture and tourism," Rainville is quoted on Project Hot Seat's Web site. "We need a comprehensive approach across America: education, efficiency, investment in renewable fuel and the economic opportunities of being on the forefront of the energy revolution."
Project Hot Seat is posting updates on the candidates' positions on its Web site — www.vermonthotseat.org — as well as offering suggestions for improvement. The group doesn't have any specific tips for Welch, but says of Rainville: "She still supports nuclear power and offshore oil drilling, which are distractions from efforts to solve global warming."
Sobel and volunteers also are popping up at candidate debates statewide in red "stop global warming" T-shirts and maple tree costumes. There, they tell Vermonters that fighting climate change not only can save the environment, but also reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil and create a market for cleaner energy projects.
"Solutions to global warming are good for everyone — we're talking about energy independence, creating jobs," Sobel says. "I really look at global warming as one issue that everyone in this world needs to rally behind."
Each grass-roots action, she adds, seeds another. The Burlington rally that drew more than 1,000 people this past Labor Day capped a five-day walk that called for government action on global warming. The big crowd, in turn, drew all the major congressional candidates, who are now talking up the issue with the electorate.
"We were taken more seriously once the candidates saw how much public support there was for this issue," Sobel says. "We'll be working with the winners to make sure they follow through with their campaign promises. But what's really important is that people know they have power, both in their votes and in their ability to mobilize. It's the Vermont community that has made this successful."
Hip hip Hoorah! Now it's Florida, baby!