University of Vermont

Ecological Economics Class Partners with Energy Film Project

Strengthening energy democracy through a crowd-sourced film

March 21st is the first full day of spring, which is usually cause enough for celebration after a long Vermont winter. But this year it also marks the last day of Vermont Yankee's current operating license, and an important milestone in deciding who's voice will be heard in shaping the state's energy future. To celebrate, March 21st has been declared Vermont Energy Independence Day by a network of environmental nonprofits, and the day has inspired a new crowd-sourced film project where anyone with a camera and an energy story to tell can participate.

"We live in a state where democracy is alive and well," says Johanna Miller of the Vermont Natural Resources Council (VNRC), who serves as the coordinator of the Vermont Energy and Climate Action Network, a network of over one hundred town energy committees. "Through wide-ranging grassroots efforts, each year we're using less energy and we’re sourcing more from renewable supplies that will benefit the Vermont economy and environment over the long run. Vermont Energy Independence Day is a celebration of these success stories and ultimately a film to share those stories with each other and the world."

The nonprofit Bright Blue EcoMedia – producers of the Emmy award-winning Bloom film series about phosphorus pollution to Lake Champlain – are facilitating the crowd-sourcing of video content at the project web site, march21st.org. Video submissions by will ultimately be woven into a documentary film.

"We want Vermonters to tell their own story, and express their vision for a responsible, sustainable energy future," says Victor Guadagno, film producer from Bright Blue. "We're hoping to hear and see the 'what' of these important steps, but perhaps more importantly the 'why'. We encourage everyone to tell their personal stories about why the transition to energy independence is important to them."

In addition to town energy committees, the project is built on a broad network of organizations laying the foundation for an energy renaissance in Vermont.  The Vermont Energy Education Program is networking with schools. VNRC, 350 Vermont and the Vermont Public Interest Research Group are creating citizen coalitions around climate change and renewable energy action. And the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation, Vermont Green, and Renewable Energy Vermont are building the business opportunities and job training networks that make Vermont a nationwide energy leader.

"Renewable energy is already supplying over 40% of Vermont's electricity, and the growth in new business opportunities in solar, wind, efficiency, geothermal, hydro, and biofuels is unprecedented," says Gabrielle Stebbins, Executive Director of Renewable Energy Vermont. "Vermont's energy path is bold, smart, clean, and green and we can lead the nation. Assembling these stories is a great way to express our common path."

This leadership is certainly stemming from a new era of energy development and community-based partnerships, but also through the optimism of student and citizen action networks.

"The success of 350 Vermont in creating greater awareness around climate change has been from translating the complexity of science into the power of action by building a peoples' movement to achieve real change," says David Stember from 350 Vermont. "Vermont Energy Independence Day is a perfect example of our open source organizing because it allows many people to share their inspiring, hopeful stories in one amazing film."

Students and teachers are encouraged to use this as an educational event by filming energy projects, interviewing leaders in their communities, and recording conversations between anyone and everyone about Vermont's energy future.

"This semester's class on ecological economics is using this opportunity to learn about the energy and climate change challenges facing our state," says Jon Erickson, a University of Vermont professor and board member of Bright Blue. "I can lecture about the fundamental relationship between energy and economy and greenhouse gases, but my students will surely learn more by grabbing a camera and revealing these connections for themselves through interviews, conversations, and the power of film."

To learn more about how you can get involved and to contribute your film to Vermont Energy Independence Day, visit march21st.org for all the details.

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