Note: This column is broken into two installments, the first appeared last month (Anticipate and Participate).
by Robert Zulkoski, Social Entrepreneur, and Edward Cameron, Climate Advocate and Strategist Recently there were two powerful commentaries in VTDigger: the first by Dante DiBiase, 19, entitled Vermont’s no longer a place for young nonconformists; and the second by Karen Gross, the former president of Southern Vermont College, entitled Why aren’t more people fighting for Southern Vermont College’s survival? A common theme of these two articles is anger over apathy. When the neighbor’s cows get loose and wander on over to your field to munch on your tender grass for the fifth time, getting riled up and yelling at the cows won’t do any good. Cows don’t care if you are angry; they’re just looking for greener pastures and tastier turf. Don’t get mad at the cows – let the energy brought on by your anger motivate you to quit bitching and get to work. Mend the fence!
In last month’s column a thesis was proposed suggesting constructing a Vision for Vermont around people development and that we execute on that vision by building on the State’s global reputation for sustainability and social entrepreneurship. This proposition imagines Vermont and the wider New England region as a center in a global transformation and a prime beneficiary of the new climate economy and tantalizes about a blueprint for a “Green Mountain Institute for Climate Justice” (GMICJ) as a global center of excellence on climate justice.
As set out in the vision for this proposed Institute, “Climate justice is a vision of a world in which everyone can lead a prosperous and dignified life within the boundaries of the Earth’s natural resources.” What’s more “Vermont” than this?
The Green Mountain Institute for Climate Justice is a reimagined use of any one of a number of campuses (alive or dead) that fits perfectly with a major global opportunity and the DNA of the State of Vermont. Historically a campus is a center of academic learning, but more recently the term has been used to describe innovative clusters, where creative thinkers work collaboratively with each other, co- creating solutions to complex problems, and translating those solutions into real-world impact.
Recently, Paul Costello, who is the executive director of the Vermont Council of Rural Development, has written in Digger “We need to consider the science around climate change, and work out how we can systematically advance our economy, preserve affordability, incite and inspire the creativity of entrepreneurs while dramatically reducing our carbon impact.”
According to Patricia Moulton, president of Vermont Technical College, who wrote in this magazine, “Vermont’s clean and ‘green’ reputation is alive and well. Yes, Vermont is the Green Mountain State, but it’s also a leader in clean energy initiatives that boosts the other ‘green’ – our economy.”
At Vermont Technical College they get it and are fueling the new climate economy with graduates from a variety of programs and degrees. Let’s not stop here, let’s build on this.
The Green Mountain Institute for Climate Justice can be a global center of excellence on climate justice, bridging the divide between the global aims and local practice, and offering a model to governments, business and individuals on how to holistically go about creating a low-carbon, climate-resilient, inclusive economy.
The campus could consist of four integrated organizations: The Green Mountain Institute for Climate Justice - The Institute would offer advisory services to governments and businesses seeking tailored strategies for reducing emissions and enhancing resilience; The GMI Academy - Offering vocational training to 18-23-year-olds in areas such as installation of solar panels, weatherization of homes, building of wind turbines, sustainable farming, forestry and soil protection, where students will also receive training in entrepreneurial skills so they may also be equipped to begin their own small businesses in these fields; The GMI College - The College would offer post-graduate education to professionals that are required to address climate change in their work but lacking academic credentials and/or an advanced understanding of where to begin; and The GMI Incubator - The GMI Incubator would mobilize finance and mentorship for advancing climate justice locally and globally. It would serve as an angel investor for the best ideas emerging from the Academy and the College with a focus on promoting innovative ideas that require seed funding to take off. In addition to providing seed capital, it would serve as a competitive advantage in attracting students to both the Academy and College.
Finally, too much of the conversation is about a future we need to fear rather than a better world we can build collaboratively with bold collective action, imaginative leadership, and human ingenuity. We believe our thesis not only encompasses all of these but is, importantly, achievable.
Robert Zulkoski is one of the founders of Vermont Works Management Company (www.vermontworks.co) and The Vermont Innovation Commons (www.vtinnovationcommons.com), whose objective is to deliver capital, mentorship, and connectivity to Vermont’s innovation ecosystem. The goal is to ensure that Vermont is a full participant in the emerging, technology-enabled “new economy.” Mr. Zulkoski sees the dynamic changes sweeping the country and the globe as an achievable opportunity for Vermont to create large numbers of livable wage and sustainable jobs that help retain and attract talent and innovation, while staying true to the “Vermont Brand” and what it represents to the citizens of Vermont. Mr. Zulkoski is also a founding shareholder and Director of Impact Investment of The Conduit (www.theconduit.com), which connects thinkers, leaders, and innovators in social change, business, and the arts to create impact for the greater good.
Edward Cameron (www.cameronclimate.com) is a climate activist and strategist; he is a dynamic and effective leader with over twenty years’ international experience supporting and leading high-impact organizations in progressively senior roles. Mr. Cameron has worked collaboratively across stakeholder groups for government, non-profits, philanthropies, the private sector, and international development agencies; and built effective teams to advance sustainable development in project locations on five continents. He is an innovator and policy entrepreneur with a history of designing and implementing pioneering initiatives on climate justice, corporate sustainability leadership, social development and resilience. Most recently, Mr. Cameron has served in an advisory role for BSR (Business for Social Responsibility), WBCSD (World Business Council on Sustainable Development), The Asia Foundation, Morgan Stanley, The Ministry of Climate and Communications of Ireland, and the Red Cross Climate Centre.