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at 22, i am caught
When I found myself army-crawling my way through a tumultuous senior year of high school, I turned to yoga with the hope that it might offer me respite. In the sanctuary of those evenings I spent with YouTube videos and my mom’s hand-me-down mat, I could breathe and still my mind, leaving behind my daytime anxiety that often brought me to the brink of tears. What’s more, I was often invited to show myself love through those practices in a way I’d never been taught before. I learned how nourishing hugging my own legs to my chest feels and how glorious surrender in bālāsana (child’s pose) can be. Yoga got me through.
Like many young people today, Katie Concannon ’22 has dealt with her share of climate grief. She has searched for relief in the imagination of different visions of the future. One such experiment was her Tidal Shift Award-winning sculpture, “What We Left Behind,” based on her experiences with climate activism and the emotions surrounding it here in Vermont.
Vermont locals currently face a number of problems, from inconveniences to inequitable and unethical abuses. Inaccessible and sparse public transportation leaves many residents stranded and forced to rely on more expensive options to get from point A to point B. Anaerobic digesters, like the one currently on Goodrich Family Farm, continues production amidst a long history of allegations of wage withholding and unethical behaviors against workers. Further human rights abuses remain rigid and severe for migrant workers on dairy farms. Devastating tropical storms such as Irene, which hit Vermont in 2011, have uprooted hundreds of households and have heavily impacted individuals and communities. These problems will only continue to worsen should no actions be taken and no support be given to policies that address these ongoing and severe crises.
Last month, The Campus ran an investigative piece discussing alleged issues of wage theft and human rights abuses on Goodrich Family Farm, a farm the college partners with to meet its sustainability goals, as outlined in Energy2028. This was followed by an editorial calling for the college to take accountability and ensure fair living and working conditions for farmworkers, especially on college-partnered farms.
Content Warning: This op-ed contains mentions of a hunger strike.
It’s the easiest small talk to resort to on campus: how much work do you have, how much sleep are you getting, how stressed are you? Before lunch, you’ve had at least half a dozen conversations about how much work everyone has, and because of this repetition and constant comparison, you probably start to identify as an overachiever, someone who bites off just enough to chew. After all, everyone else is doing it. And then, on the edge of burnout, when we’re ready to accept that it’s time for a break, we feel this twinge in our guts that tells us whatever we’re doing must still in some way be productive, impressive or aesthetic. Before, I’ve found it easy to believe that this is just what a high-performance culture entails. Maybe there is no other way to surround yourself with highly motivated individuals while receiving some of the best education and experiences that the world has to offer. It took leaving Midd for me to discover that this isn’t true. I took this fall semester off, spending time organizing in anticipation of the presidential election. I had thought taking a semester off would be a surefire way of burning out; previously, when I engaged in organizing work during the academic year and on breaks, I had loved it but it also exhausted me. But this time, things have been different. I no longer had those panicky conversations about being overwhelmed that make my cortisol levels skyrocket, I didn’t drink four cups of coffee a day anymore, and I didn’t go out on Saturday nights anymore just because I felt like I was supposed to. This time last year, I was at rock-bottom — anxious, depressed, stuck. Now, every day is a gift. Days just flow in and out of each other, and I can breathe. Here in my family’s little bubble in the Philadelphia suburbs, all four of us have found a slowness we haven’t before. We don’t set alarms but instead get to work when we feel well-rested. We cancel meetings and commitments when we’re sick — mentally or physically. We snatch snippets and hours of time from each other throughout the day for planning, cuddling with our puppy or taking time to be present with each other. I even have time to explore sustainable living, classic and modern literature, and creative writing. This doesn’t mean that we aren’t “productive.” My mother is healing herself from a spinal surgery that leaves her with chronic pain two years later. My dad is figuring out how to distribute pediatric vaccines all over the world. My trans sister works at a rock climbing gym and is taking the year to find herself during her transition. And I was working with Sunrise activists in Vermont and Pennsylvania to win the 2020 election; preserve its integrity; and fight for climate, racial, and social justice. I believe it’s possible to find the balance between slowness and productivity at Midd because I don’t think they’re actually antithetical. Most of us are here because we love learning, not because we love all-nighters. After the past nine months, I still want that intellectual stimulation, and I’m sure many of you do, too. But we can have that without the constant need to compare, perform or over-achieve. And when we do rest, maybe no one else notices it, but maybe at the end of the day, we’ve grown more and fallen in love with our lives just a bit more. My days during Covid-19 honestly would seem pretty boring to my former self, but I know I wouldn’t go back. We need to change Midd’s culture so that we can all find the slowness, rest and acceptance we need. Like all societal changes, slowness at Middlebury must come from all levels. As students, this could mean making space for ourselves instead of always prioritizing our grades, whether that be cooking a meal with friends, meditating or calling loved ones. This also looks like changing the conversations we have in dining halls, classrooms and offices so that work is not our primary focus. For professors, this looks like restructuring syllabi so students have more time to soak in material and hold onto it years from now. And institutionally, Middlebury could begin to identify as a school where we value the depth and richness of higher education — not chaos, overwhelm and burnout. As this year comes to a close, a fear of returning to Midd dwells in the back of my mind: a fear of failure, of burnout, of not being able to relate to the grind culture or the culture of performative leisure anymore. But I know I’m not the only person who holds mixed feelings about their lifestyles at Midd. So please, share your pockets of slowness with each other. Be gentle and generous with one another. I hope you all find stillness and rest throughout the holidays. Emily Thompson is a member of the class of 2023.
Over the past several months, anti-government protests in places like Hong Kong and Iraq have made headlines across the globe. High schoolers on almost every continent have held strikes against climate inaction. This rising global tension is proof of the urgency of our current socioeconomic and environmental reality. Yet while activists’ rhetoric is inspiring, a kind of dissonance lodges in my chest every morning as I scan the headlines. I look around Middlebury’s campus and suddenly feel so separate from the rest of the planet. I wonder what we as students are doing with our time on this campus. I wonder what future we are learning, working and paying for. As Middlebury students, we are on a trajectory to live the majority of our lives in a global state of climate and socioeconomic emergency. I therefore wonder why we are often not being trained for and encouraged to live lives of consequence, lives that can adapt to the crisis and maybe even work to mitigate its worst impacts. Middlebury’s mission, after all, is to “prepare students to… address the world’s most challenging problems,” is it not? [pullquote speaker="" photo="" align="center" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]The status quo on campus is to ignore the urgency of the climate crisis[/pullquote] And yet it feels like the status quo on campus is to ignore the urgency of the climate crisis (as well as the socioeconomic inequities that exacerbate the climate crisis and disproportionately distribute its impacts). Most of the time, Middlebury continues to uphold business-as-usual practices in conflict with the upswell of catastrophe and civic action outside of our collegiate bubble. As students, we often do not question the most important decisions of our lives — majors, career paths, purpose in life — in the context of the urgent socioeconomic and environmental crisis. Instead, the values of another generation color our professional goals: sustainable (and often cushy) salaries, some level of status and maybe even happiness or passion. While those values are all valid, there is a part of this equation that is severely lacking: the pursuit of a positive socioeconomic and environmental impact. Often, students accept suggestions as to what an appropriate profession to strive towards may be, without space for reflection on the impact of those professions on the planet. I’ve had a professor encourage my class to apply for internships for consulting firms that analyze the economics of antitrust cases on behalf of firms being sued for antitrust practices. Our own Center for Careers and Internships invites recruitment officers from Goldman Sachs and Wells Fargo to recruit fresh talent for their profit-centered business operations. In fact, so far this year, there have been almost twice as many finance, consulting, and business events (~17) hosted by the CCI as there have been social impact events (~9). On the other hand, there are professors and recruitment officers who challenge the status quo. These individuals encourage students to reflect on their potential socioeconomic and environmental impacts, as they believe that Middlebury’s job is to prepare us for lives of social and environmental consequence. For instance, one of my professors encouraged my classmates and I to work for the DOJ, breaking up mergers and acquisitions and empowering consumers in a neoliberal socioeconomic landscape. Another professor assigned a semester-long philosophy project wherein we engaged with community partners that incorporate a perennialist, regenerative philosophy into their practices. Another professor invited a Green Corps recruitment officer to our class to encourage my classmates and I to attend their organizing school upon graduation. And there are countless other professors and staff who encourage us to research the effects of climate change, work for the state or federal government, write for publications that speak truth to power, or use our disciplines to affect change in other ways. Still, these professors should not act alone. I believe it is the role of individual faculties and the broader College to contextualize each discipline in the future climate and socioeconomically affected world. Curricula itself must change, addressing questions that will become increasingly relevant in a world of climate and socioeconomic chaos. For instance, how does environmental degradation impact the human body? How can we restructure the global economy to respond to resource scarcity resulting from declining crop yields? How can we use art to move people towards personal and political change? Likewise, the CCI must view their mission as channeling students towards socioeconomic and environmentally-minded futures. However, it is not just on the college; students should take initiative and use our talents to create counter-hegemonic art, engineer batteries for solar power, run for office on a progressive climate platform. It does not matter what your major or passion is. Many of us are lucky to have the resources, opportunity and talent; it is now time to change what it means to be a Middlebury College alum. As David Roberts said, “This [climate crisis] is a fucking emergency.” We should be obligated to ourselves, each other and the planet to choose professional lives that result in positive social, economic and environmental impacts and to view our talents and interests as vehicles through which we all can begin to tackle the climate and socioeconomic crisis. Middlebury should emphasize, not shrink away from that obligation. It should even fundamentally change its mission as we propel ourselves into an irrevocably-altered future. Emily Thompson is a member of the class of 2022.
“I have a confession: I am a true romantic. I fervently believe in happily ever after and true love always,” Professor Laurie Essig of the Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies (GSFS) Department read to supporters of her newest book, “Love, Inc.” “I am also a cynic,” Essig said. “I have a sinking feeling that romance blinds us with fairy dust.” The audience of college students and Vermonters gathered at Stonecutter Spirits on Friday, Oct. 4, for “Love Stinks: 80s Rock Ballads + Laurie Essig’s Love Inc.,” an evening in which Essig deconstructed the “romantic industrial complex.” It seemed fitting that the event was held at a local, female-owned business that also temporarily houses a female-owned vintage pop-up shop called Reel Vintage. Co-hosted by Womensafe and Planned Parenthood NNE, the event sought to envision the feminist future Essig advocates for in “Love, Inc.” Situated between barrels of gin and whiskey and racks of vintage clothing, Essig imparted her argument to the Blundstone-donned audience: the further capitalism drives the world towards environmental, economic and political chaos, the more society is driven towards the romance industry as a coping mechanism. She began her argument with a tale of matrimony rendered sensational due to the then-modern technology of the mid-19th century. Queen Victoria’s white wedding was the first of its kind to become popularized by telegraph, a technology that allowed for the beginning of a cultural obsession with white virginal dresses, wedding rings and the tale of happily-ever-afters. Essig fast-forwarded to the 20th century era of Reaganomics (where all roads seem to lead), which was born amidst the global fascination (read: distraction) with Princess Diana and Prince Charles’s elaborate white wedding in 1981. Instead of critiquing trickle-down economics and consequently engaging in productive civil discourse, as Essig might have preferred, the American public was being sold an idea of romantic bliss only made possible with the purchase of a wedding priced at — on average — $32,641 as of 2016. She notes that we continue to drug ourselves with romantic falsehoods to this day. Deconstructing the “dream[s] about a land of (white) plenty” in bestselling romance novels like “Twilight” and “Fifty Shades of Grey,” Essig argued that these books teach readers to value the attainment of unrealistically wealthy, white, heterosexual lifestyles. Essig did not eschew “romantic” connection itself but rather urged the emotional and spiritual connection with another human being to be the foundation for positive change. She encouraged people to focus on this concept of love as opposed to false, purchased marital harmony that distracts us and drains our wallets. When asked by an audience member how to combat capitalism through our romantic lives, Essig jokingly responded,“Canvassing together works really well.” On a more serious note, however, Essig urged her audience to not mistake her for propagating singleness and apathy as cures to this phenomenon, nor does she believe that wallowing in scientific projections of the climate crisis is a productive use of our time and mental capacity. “A future is possible — that’s the most romantic thing you can think.” Essig encouraged the audience to realize that the romantic future we all desire cannot be achieved just by spending an average of $2,379 on fresh flowers for their wedding celebration. “I don’t see love or intimacy as a withdrawal from the world, but rather as a way to find someone to confront the hardships of the world with,” audience member Christian Kummer ’22 said.” Kummer pointed out that love — not necessarily even romance — can distract from civic engagement. He referenced obstacles of domestic life like laundry and errands — as reasons people often withdraw from the public sphere and advocated for healthy relationships that foster political action. Of course, arriving at a place where one can think critically about public narratives and begin to dispel the tales of happily-ever-afters that drench our society is not simple. One audience member who identified herself as the mother of a preteen attended Essig’s event as an avid opposer to the romance ideology, and said she actively works to counteract the powerful effects of “the Machine” that has made so much of our society numb and oblivious. In her household, her daughter doesn’t have a phone and is not allowed access to television. As a mother, the audience member tries to instill positive body image messages like encouraging her daughter to ask herself “What does [my] body need?” instead of succumbing to the pressures of mass media that sell fairy tales of what bodies look like to impressionable youth and adults alike. While navigating romantic relationships is ultimately personal and these decisions are different for everyone, Essig stressed that this personal experience is fundamentally political and collective as well. She writes, “in that happy ending we ride off into the future not with our prince or princess to a castle on the hill, but with each other, all of us — married, single, straight, gay, old, young, white and black and Latino/a and more — fighting harder than we have ever fought before for a collective future.”
Four million people across the globe went on strike last Friday, Sept. 20, because they know that for our world to understand the scale and urgency of the climate crisis, we must completely shatter our consent to the status quo that is killing us. Four million citizens of this world shouted and sang and screamed and cried that we cannot simply continue business as usual in a world of apocalyptic chaos. Though I use alarmist language to describe the climate crisis, I actually don’t think much about this emergency anymore. When I first realized the scale and urgency of our current moment, the fires, floods, refugees, hurricanes and images of our demise bled into my brain and stained every moment. But there is only so much literature I could pore through before it simply became unproductive and self-destructive; before the fear became all-consuming. That isn’t to say that I stopped this activism business. And it isn’t to say that I didn’t show up at the climate strike rally in Middlebury; that I didn’t stand on the steps of City Hall and pour out my thoughts on climate change to the 3,000 people who showed up to the rally in Burlington. And that isn’t to say that the climate crisis and all the contributing layers of oppression are not the reasons I get up in the morning, that I work to understand and combat this problem every day. They just aren’t the only reasons anymore. Like so many others, I was steeped in the fear of our impending doom after the 2016 election and the IPCC report of October 2018. The cardboard signs at the strike echoed these fears with phrases like “There is no planet B” and “March now or swim later.” This messaging resonates with Greta Thunberg’s call-to-action. The 16-year-old Swedish climate activist who started these school strikes famously declared, “Our house is on fire … I want you to panic.” Unflinching in their declarations of institutional and generational responsibility, Thunberg and major climate justice organizations like Extinction Rebellion echo the alarm and fear. The crisis bled into their rhetoric, rendering it desperate, drowning and daring. Thunberg’s rhetoric has a place. Extinction Rebellion’s cathartic actions have a place (wouldn’t you love to glue yourself to Jeremy Corbyn’s house?). They break down the blindness we have built up against our seemingly inevitable demise, and force us to reckon with our roles in the narrative of human history. Will I drop everything for this one thing that matters the most? [pullquote speaker="" photo="" align="center" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]I believe what sustains movements is the picture that appears in your mind when you think of why you wake up in the morning, and what you are striking for.[/pullquote] However, narratives of fear and chaos can also drive us deeper into the climate anxiety that grips our generation. They might even paralyze potential activists. Fear and urgency can catalyze moments of mobilization; these charged events in which organizers have managed to make something out of the panic of a generation. But movements cannot sustain themselves purely on the fear of loss. No, I believe what sustains movements is the picture that appears in your mind when you think of why you wake up in the morning, and what you are striking for. As I looked out at the crowd from the steps of City Hall at the Burlington rally, I felt the beauty of that truth, that picture, ripple through the crowd. Every person who flooded the street cared and wanted to be a part of a collective vision for a better world. When I spoke of the Green New Deal, the crowd cheered at the declaration of green job guarantees, decarbonization, regenerative agriculture, migrant justice and indigenous sovereignty. Those thousands of activists reminded me why I bothered to stand on those steps, to speak of legislation in Washington and Montpelier that does not even exist yet. It is the palpable enthusiasm for, and the faith in the concept of a Green New Deal, a vision, a promise to begin to untangle the web of oppression that has brought us here. So I don’t wake up thinking of death anymore, heart hammering to the beat of the latest alarm screaming from the headlines. I wake up in the morning because I love the smell of sycamores after it rains. I wake up in the morning because this summer I learned to crave and appreciate getting my hands dirty in the garden. I wake up in the morning because I love long car rides with activists, learning about their lives and their passions and why they took this new exhilarating and uncertain path. The reason I wake up is grand vision found in the promise of tiny actions: planted trees, real, regenerative food, connections that pull us from our corners of the earth towards something greater than ourselves. Those beautiful moments are the seeds of the Green New Deal, the political vision’s essence as it struggles against the brutality of our American politics. The climate strike was a gorgeous, human moment, but it was just that — a moment. Following this moment in history, it is our responsibility to deeply question What will I do now? What will I fight for now? Will I drop everything, change everything, for this vision that matters most?
The weekend before finals, Elise Leise ’22, Leif Taranta ’20.5, Connor Wertz ’22, and I traveled to Washington D.C., and two of us got arrested. While on the surface, this may look like a series of self-destructive decisions, in actuality, traveling to D.C. was one of the best decisions we ever made. The four of us went to Washington with the explicit purpose of lobbying Congress with about 1,000 other volunteers from the Sunrise Movement. Sunrise dedicates itself to the mission of drafting and passing the Green New Deal through Congress. Modeled off of FDR’s New Deal, the GND will make American industries more sustainable, transition our energy supply to 100 percent renewables, and create millions of green jobs. Most importantly, the GND confronts the “justice” component of “climate justice.” By breaking up fossil fuel monopolies in addition to providing a livable wage for all workers and universal health care, the GND aims to tackle the social justice problems that facilitate the exploitation of the environment. Without this component of social justice that so many previous climate policies lacked, the GND would not confront the root of the problem: human exploitation perpetuating environmental exploitation. Upon discovering the story of Sunrise in the news, including its successful sit-in in Nancy Pelosi’s office in November, Elise, Leif, Connor, and I knew we wanted to get involved. When the opportunity to go to D.C. presented itself to us, we soon found ourselves driving to Washington during one of the busiest weekends of fall term. On Dec. 10, we congregated with other Sunrise volunteers in the appropriately-named Spirit of Justice Park outside of the three congressional office buildings we would be visiting. Elise, Leif, and Connor lobbied Vermont Congressman Welch with other volunteers and persuaded him to publicly endorse the Select Committee for a GND. I collaborated with citizens of greater Reading and Philadelphia to lobby a representative from my home state, Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, Rep. Matt Cartwright (PA-08) has yet to publicly endorse the Select Committee for a GND, but as the legislation makes its way to the House floor, I have hope that this will soon change. After we lobbied 50 separate congresspeople, we combined to perform demonstrations in the offices of three high-profile representatives: Nancy Pelosi, Jim McGovern, and Steny Hoyer. Pelosi was a particularly important target, as the ability to create a Select Committee rests on the Speaker’s shoulders. Since December, Pelosi has established a powerless committee unable to create or pass legislation, but we have hope that this too will change. On the other hand, McGovern listened to the Sunrise volunteers and publicly endorsed the committee. Now, over 43 congresspeople and congresspeople-elect have publicly supported the Select Committee for a GND, and over 300 public officials have endorsed the Committee. Many volunteers, however, wanted to do more. Risking arrest is a method of social justice demonstration that symbolically reveals how committed individuals are to specific causes. Elise and Leif were arrested, though never convicted, of incommoding (civil disobedience). Singing and chanting with other Sunrise volunteers, both Leise and Taranta sat down in Hoyer’s office and refused to leave. After receiving polite warnings from officers, they were zip-tied and paraded out of the building. While their arrest was probably terrifying for them, watching so many people take this risk inspired hope not just in me but across the country. That is what Sunrise is — a movement born out of hope for a more perfect world, not a movement born out of fear and darkness. In this movement, the Democratic Party is finally standing for something instead of against it. It is standing for people fighting with words and songs and true human connections instead of the violence and hatred that brought us here. The taste of those values was so addicting and inspiring that the four of us knew Dec. 10 was not the end. Since then, we founded Sunrise Middlebury, a hub of the Sunrise Movement that can help mobilize individuals for regional, state and national actions. Now, in collaboration with Sunday Night Environmental Group (SNEG) and Middlebury townspeople, we are actively working to pass the Climate Solutions Resolution. This proposal would implement climate solutions in Middlebury like adding solar panels to schools and banning fossil fuel infrastructure in the town, but it would also petition the state government to stop construction of any new fossil fuel infrastructure. If registered Middlebury voters pass this proposal on March 5, we could stop the metaphorical bleeding of climate change in this state and could work towards additional future initiatives. Such future initiatives could include the Vermont Green New Deal, a state-level version of the national proposals of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ed Markey. Statewide legislation like the Vermont GND is imperative in our current political situation where federal environmental policies often do more harm than good. The Middlebury Climate Solutions Resolution and the Vermont GND will work hand-in-hand to make Vermont a national leader in sustainability. Sunrise Middlebury is working to make these initiatives possible, and Middlebury students can be a part of that. We often feel helpless in the threat of climate change, as if every mile we drive in our petrol-powered vehicles and every piece of plastic we use will be the literal plastic straw that broke the camel’s back, that will send the world over the edge. But being surrounded by so many hopeful environmentalists advocating for policy change that would shift the burden of sustainability from people like us to the people in power — that is uplifting, that is beautiful, and that is what a free, just, democratic America looks like. If you want to be a part of that America, come to SNEG on Sunday nights at 8:30 in the Orchard of Hillcrest and get out the vote in Middlebury on March 5.
In a world of sobering climate reports and inadequate national action, institutions that actively seek to propel the climate movement forward are the catalysts needed for national progress. Middlebury is one of those inspirational catalysts, and in choosing to attend Middlebury, I hoped to join its momentous wave of environmentalism. In learning about the student-led carbon neutrality campaign, the Environmental Studies Program, and the fossil fuel divestment campaign, I saw the drive, intelligence, and hope of the student body. Beyond that, I saw the unflinching support of an administration destined to pioneer true environmental stewardship. Now with four months under my belt as a Middlebury student, I can positively assert that the Middlebury students of Sunday Night Environmental Group (SNEG), a student climate justice organization, are addressing some of the world’s most challenging problems. With its support for divestment and internal carbon pricing, SNEG is taking comprehensive action to curb the effects of climate change. Upon encountering these initiatives on campus and witnessing the process of their incorporation in the Energy 2028 proposal, my preconceived notions about the College were confirmed. [pullquote speaker="" photo="" align="center" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]Middlebury is often recognized as a leader in sustainable higher education.[/pullquote] The Energy 2028 proposal provides a complete transition to 100% renewables, a 25% reduction in consumption, an internal carbon pricing system, the enhancement of sustainability education, and a response to the student divestment referendum. First proposed in 2013, the student divestment ask advocates for the complete removal of approximately $53.7 million of the College’s endowment from the fossil fuel industry. It was ratified by the SGA with 79% student support, followed by faculty support of 92%. Internal carbon pricing has also received popular support over the years, as have movements for sustainability literacy and emissions reductions. Because Middlebury is often recognized as a leader in sustainable higher education, the idea of sustained fossil fuel use and investments appear contradictory to the College’s identity. Through Energy 2028, the Middlebury community and Board of Trustees have an exciting opportunity to demonstrate their support for environmental justice. [pullquote speaker="" photo="" align="center" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]There is a need for a vision, a desire for a “so what” that can mobilize entire battalions of climate activists.[/pullquote] Being at the College now amidst the whirlwind of the divestment campaign, however, I understand the nuances of this 6-year project. I understand that change can feel impossible; humans have a tendency to wait for the 11th hour, the 59th minute. I understand that each community member acts with the best of intentions for the College and that the Board of Trustees prioritizes fiduciary responsibility to students and the school. Divestment from fossil fuels and the other components of Energy 2028 align with this goal. In acting on Energy 2028, the College can take leadership in the realm of climate action and its mission of global leadership, while also maintaining fiscal responsibility. This positive action provides an unparalleled opportunity for Middlebury to catalyze progress in the realm of environmentalism. Ultimately, positive action is part of a larger need within the environmental movement, a need for a broadening of the conversation around energy. There is a need for a vision, a desire for a “so what” that can mobilize entire battalions of climate activists. For it will not be fear that motivates and mobilizes but rather innovation and ingenuity that will charge the troops and launch them into action. What do we want to find when the dust settles and the noise dies? We must advocate for that world we want to see, not against an ungodly alternative. [pullquote speaker="" photo="" align="center" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]SNEG hopes to show the Board, the students, the faculty, staff, alumni, state, and country what our world can be.[/pullquote] When I went to Washington D.C. on December 10th to protest with the Sunrise Movement for a Select Committee for a Green New Deal, I saw a movement that painted a picture of that beautiful world so many of us hope to live in one day. I saw a diverse but equal society, a government that truly protects its people from the corrupting influences of fossil fuel money, a clean country, a green country, a society that is healthy and employed and happy. The kind of hope produced from a movement like Sunrise is the type of hope so close you can taste it. I taste this type of hope in the energy here at Middlebury. Yes, Divest Midd is against the idea of financially endorsing and enabling the activities of exploitative companies and individuals within the fossil fuel industry. However, more importantly, SNEG hopes to show the Board, the students, the faculty, staff, alumni, state, and country what our world can be. We can be a country that puts our money where our mouths are, a country that fully embodies leadership in progress and innovation, a country that actively chases the values of responsibility, integrity, creativity, and contribution we so espouse. Ultimately, though, that transition to a just, responsible, clean country can only come when institutions and individuals push for it, when they break the ground in acts like Energy 2028. We are asking our school to end its ownership of the industry poisoning our homes and our futures. We are making the economics of green initiatives more feasible. We are truly achieving the carbon neutrality that has been the face of our environmental identity and taking responsibility for the consumption patterns that have created this global problem in the first place. We are empowering students and magnifying voices, challenging the status quo and demanding the higher standards we know our school is capable of achieving. Taking positive action on Energy 2028 can propel our school and our country on a path to change the world. My only question is, why on Earth would you want to stop that? Note: Anyone wishing to support these causes can attend the following events: Thursday, 01/24: Personal Divestment Action 1:00 at ADK Divest Panel at 4:30 in Dana Auditorium Friday 01/25: School-wide Orange-Out All Day Letter-Writing Event at 1:00 at Mead Chapel Storytelling Event 2:00 at Mead Chapel
Palmer House will become the new location of PALANA, the Pan-African, Latinx, Asian and Native American intercultural academic interest house. After gaining approval from the Community Council, the redesignation will happen in time for the 2019-20 school year. Students involved hope that this transition will bring added support to students of color while simultaneously engaging the rest of the campus and providing a platform for dialogue. “PALANA is about fostering diversity in all of its different forms,” said Lynn Travnikova ’20, Community Council’s student co-chair. By prioritizing a space for diversity and inclusion, PALANA hopes to do just that. Part of the motivation for this change is that PALANA’s current home, located at 97 Adirondack View, has room for fewer than 10 people. This space can at times come across as inaccessible to the larger and whiter Middlebury community, according to Karla Nunez ’19, who first thought of relocating PALANA to Palmer. “Previous ideas of PALANA were very much like ‘you’re the other part of the world, the other, non-white part of the world. It seemed a little unclear as to who the house served.’” Nunez said. She feels that this confusion has limited PALANA’s membership, and hopes that the transition to Palmer’s larger space will foster involvement from a larger, more diverse community. Palmer House was previously a SuperBlock, a one-year opportunity for a group of students to apply to live together under a common interest. Last year, former Associate Dean of Students Doug Adams prompted students to create an idea for a new social house, and Nunez knew that she wanted to create a larger, more inclusive space for cultural organizations, minorities and conversations about privileges and experiences on campus. In the spring of 2018, Nunez, now Senior Associate Dean of Students Derek Doucet and staff at the Anderson Freeman Resource Center (AFC) started to draft a proposal which was first presented to Community Council at the end of October. With three large study spaces, Palmer can facilitate regular meetings and events hosted by cultural organizations on campus that often have to vie for use of the AFC. Nunez also wanted to make social experiences at Middlebury more accessible to people of color, and hopes that the reformed vision of PALANA will do this. “People of color can have more of a say in the social scene on campus,” she said. “The social scene on campus is very much white-dominated, and it feels somewhat exclusive. The only time I ever feel comfortable going to a party at Midd are ones that I throw, ones that my friends throw or Café Con Leche.” Nunez also emphasized the importance of creating spaces for uncomfortable conversations on campus. She encouraged white students or other students of certain privileges to ask questions and educate themselves on issues of race, gender, sexuality and other factors that often divide Middlebury students. Co-President of the Acting Board of PALANA Julio Tlachi ’21 hopes to see a change in how conversations about race and privilege are addressed on campus. He hopes that Palmer will act as a space where students can discuss race in a social setting, rather than in an educational context. Additionally, he hopes this will shift the dynamics so that students no longer have to act as representatives or teachers of their race, but rather can have open and honest conversations. Tlachi’s ideal social interaction between students of different backgrounds? A relaxed movie night at PALANA with enough ramen to go around. “Let’s just sit down, have a conversation,” he said.