Earth Matters to join climate change conference

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MANCHESTER — Former secretary of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources Deb Markowitz will be the keynote speaker at the Vermont Interfaith Power and Light Conference, to be hosted at Manchester's First Congregational Church on Saturday, Oct. 21.

The conference, which will host six climate action workshops between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., is sponsored by the local activist group Earth Matters. Recently, the group hosted a climate leadership training at the Smokey House Center in Danby and was subsequently designated a "node" of the larger environmental organization 350VT.

"Seven members attended the 350VT leadership training, and it was very empowering and inspiring," said organizer Anne D'Olivio. "That allowed us to become a node for 350VT."

For their first major event since that designation, the group is working closely with organizers from Vermont Interfaith Power and Light prior this Saturday's conference.

"They do an annual conference, and they chose to do it at the First Congregational Church in Manchester this year," said D'Olivio. "We're lucky to have it in our backyard. We'll have an event table, and hopefully we can recruit some more members to the group and inform people on what we do."

This is the first time the annual conference will be held in Manchester. It will feature workshops on topics such as building resilient communities; watershed stewardship; financial and technical resources for energy projects; skills for effective organizing; talking climate with legislators; and understanding climate change and its policy implications.

"We host the conference annually but rotate it around to connect with different regions of the state," said organizer Betsy Hardy. "We did have it in Rutland three years ago, but we've never gone as far southwest as Manchester."

Though Vermont Interfaith Power and Light does place an emphasis on faith-based activism, the group shares many goals with Manchester's own Earth Matters.

"We're a nonprofit working statewide with communities of faith, with a single focus on global climate change," said Hardy, noting educational and advocacy initiatives in particular. "We're also an affiliate of the National Interfaith Power and Light Network, which is actually in 40 states."

Beyond keynote speaker Deb Markowitz and the six workshops planned for the day, the conference will also feature lunch, music, and networking opportunities.

"We have a musician Matt Witten who is going to be with us, and in addition to our workshops we'll be hosting Todd Walker from Wells," said Hardy. "He'll be leading a divestment discussion to help people who may want to divest their own finances, but also congregations who are looking to do so."

That discussion provides an appropriate prelude for protests planned by Earth Matters later in the week to urge divestment.

"This is a global event, and we have decided that we will do a silent protest outside of TD Bank in Manchester," said D'Olivio. "TD Bank is the seventh-largest investor in the Dakota Access Pipeline and also invests in the Keystone XL pipeline. We feel very strongly that fossil fuels belong in the ground."

These demonstrations will coincide with a meeting of 92 of the world's largest banks in Brazil to discuss policies on climate and indigenous people's rights between Oct. 23 and 25. On October 23, Earth Matters will host their "Divest the Globe" demonstration from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. outside of TD Bank on Bonnet Street.

"We have rallied outside of TD Bank before, but this will be bigger as it's part of a global movement," said D'Olivio. "Everyone's welcome, and we encourage people to bring signs urging divestment."



Reach Cherise Madigan at 802-490-6471.

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