BRATTLEBORO - The citizens of the world may not get a better chance to reverse the mounting threat of global warming, even in the face of a struggling economy.
That's the message environmentalist and author Bill McKibben preached to a Brattleboro crowd during a town meeting event Sunday afternoon.
McKibben said the United States, as well as the rest of the world, is facing huge financial issues and equally huge environmental issues, but there remains a very narrow window for a gradual transformation to a new global economy.
"This is the future we can have," said McKibben. "Now's the moment, and we are the people who will either do it or not do it."
McKibben, author of 10 environmental books, was in town with U.S. Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., to discuss developing a sustainable economy while finding solutions to make global warming take an about-face.
Nearly 300 residents turned out at Brattleboro Union High School to visit with the senator, one of the most popular political figures in Brattleboro.
"I think anywhere we go in the state we will get crowds like this because people are very, very, very concerned," he said.
The two speakers visited Woodstock earlier in the day to speak on the same global issues.
Sanders, in his first-term in the Senate, led off his statements about the serious economic crisis facing the nation.
Unemployment is soaring, and millions are losing their homes, he said, which leads to employees losing their pensions and health insurance.
It has come to the point now where officials in Washington, D.C. have to bailout corporations -- due in part to greedy executives on Wall Street -- in the form of billions of taxpayer dollars, Sanders continued.
"The amount of money we are talking about is staggering," he said, with long-term economic trends that can be devastating to middle class Americans.
While the banking industry has weakened the American consumer, McKibben said the energy corporations are the ongoing failures that are the largest risk to the planet.
Leading scientists came in front of environmental committees on Capitol Hill a few years ago to tell politicians bold actions must be taken, said Sanders.
Those same people recently came in to say they underestimated the problem, and bolder actions need to take place. Without properly addressing the concerns, the global warming crisis could mean unprecedented floods, droughts and extreme weather conditions leading to a rise in hunger and disease, said Sanders.
"We thought, 20 years ago, (global warming) was going to be more of a problem for our children and not for us, but we were wrong," McKibben said.
But out of the darkness, there is hope that the country and Vermont -- known as a leader in energy efficiency -- can begin to create a more sustainable energy plan.
"We can create millions of good paying jobs as we move our country any from foreign oil," said the senator. There needs to be an aggressive move toward greater energy efficiency and sustainable development of renewable sources as the country moves away from fossil fuels, he added.
McKibben grew up in Lexington, Mass., and was president of the Harvard newspaper while in college. Shortly after graduation, he joined The New Yorker magazine and wrote for the publication until 1987.
Since that time, he was frequently wrote about global warming, alternative energy and the risks associated with Human genetic engineering. McKibben helped lead the country's largest demonstration against global warming in 2006.
He currently lives in Addison County and works as a scholar in residence at Middlebury College. One of the ways to help put out the fire, according to McKibben, is to get involved with the global movement to put a cap on the carbon intake into the atmosphere.
He recommended the Web site www.350.org as a good starting point for activists to learn about the issue and ways to take action.