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Monday, Mar 4, 2024

EDITORIAL Another "Right to Listen" and A Warm Autumn in Vermont

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Another "Right to Listen"

Last Sunday's protests may have overshadowed another important event — the building and raising of a symbolic closet by members of Middlebury's Open and Queer Alliance, or moqa. The closet, a colorful and poignant amalgam of slogans and plyboard, will stand on the front lawn of the McCullough Student Center for the duration of Coming Out Week.

The closet — and the series of lectures, panel discussions and informal conversations that will last until Saturday — is an important reminder of the pervasiveness of stereotypes about homosexual men and women in and outside Middlebury. Despite the good intentions of the College to promote a vision of inclusiveness and diversity on campus, these stereotypes continue at Middlebury, forming one division among many between the numerous racial, ethnic, socioeconomic and sexual orientation groups on campus.

The events scheduled for this week, however, are one means of addressing one of these divides. One hopes that attendance at these events will be as jubilant and conducive to dialogue as Sunday's demonstrations in front of Mead Chapel.

A Warm Autumn in Vermont

October seems hotter this year, a fact that belies a trend few understand and even fewer want to acknowledge: The warming of the earth's climate. Discussion on global climate change and efforts to mitigate it have lessened since the war on terror began, making the little hope for change that existed at the start of the Bush presidency appear all the more futile to grasp on to.

But this should not be a cause for despondency; quite the opposite, in fact. The drive for greater energy efficiency, more reliance on alternative fuel sources and increasing awareness on topics related to global warming have never been more important. In Vermont — and especially at Middlebury — we have an obligation to continue this fight, and the warmer temperatures that marked this autumn are ample enough reason to do so.

Imagine, for a moment, a Vermont where seasonality no longer exists. Warm rains, to borrow from Bill McKibben, replace the wet snows of January; the sharp light of a cold autumn day is blocked by a warm haze; the cooling breezes of July are transformed into the cloying humidity of a Virginia summer.

This is the future we have in store for us, despite the rhetoric of some in the various echelons of state and federal government. Vermont has made positive steps in the effort to stave off the effects of climate change: Last spring, the city of Burlington pledged to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions; this summer, Governor Howard Dean, along with other New England governors, promised to increase the number of energy-efficient cars in the state's vehicle fleet. Middlebury, too, has done its share by building structures with local materials and monitors to control energy use.

But more is necessary. The next governor of Vermont needs to act on Dean's pledge, and press for reform of state laws without comprising the quality of Vermont's natural environment. The College must extend its commitment to environmental building, and take added measures to reduce water and energy consumption and vehicle usage, which will certainly spike as Middlebury expands. Our region, and our world, stands on the cusp of devastating change, and the need to act could never be more urgent.