forgiveness • peacemaking • reconciliation
equality • poverty • missions


The Good News From Vermont

June 18, 2019 by

solar panels on a field

In 2014, Burlington, Vermont became the first city in the world to go totally off the grid. No electricity has to be piped in from anywhere! Through solar, biomass, hydro, and wind power, they make their own electricity. No fossil fuels, no nuclear, nothing from the outside.

Now, Burlington does many things I don’t agree with, but when I read this I said, “Here is positive, concrete action, not just words, not just excuses.” Somehow, the residents have cooperated enough to get real results. The environment is not just a political football, it has become a priority.

A little more than a year ago I spent a day in Burlington. I was enchanted by the views, by the fresh air, and the friendly people. I asked a waiter in an Asian restaurant how he liked the city. He gushed, “I love it!” This says more to me than the energy sources or even the crystal clear waters of Lake Champlain; something really good is going on.

Do I like their liberal policies on abortion? Most emphatically not! But give credit where credit is due: they are leading the way on ecological issues in an amazing way.

The environment is not just a political football, it has become a priority.

Perhaps us religious people should take a hint. A picture is worth a thousand words, reality trumps theology. Are we coating our selfishness with well-worn platitudes? Are we justifying our arrogance by quoting scripture? I’m sure we would be much happier if we lived within our means and, to put a new spin on the aphorism, lived simply so that we can simply live. Spending excessively on ourselves has the potential to throttle our very existence and separate us from others.

Burlington is, perhaps, a tale of two cities: morally liberal, but also forward-looking and radical in a very positive way. We can take great encouragement from Burlington’s example, seek to emulate it, and thus leave a much better world for our grandchildren than scientists are predicting now.

The main thing the next generation needs to inherit is a frugal, happy attitude and a spirit that gives lavishly when the time is right. Entitlement is a disease that needs to be banished from the universe, and if we who are faith-based think we know better than our more liberal neighbors, let’s prove it in the nitty-gritty.


About the author

Simon Mercer

Simon Mercer

Simon Mercer is a free-thinking Anabaptist, would-be poet who lives at the Maple Ridge Bruderhof.

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  • Yes , and for your question , Mr Paul , I agree , the classification of liberal or conservative perhaps does not apply to real Christians , we should be avidly pro-life across the board ; against abortion and against pollution and we should be peacemakers without exception.

  • Thanks , everybody , great responses! We all need a bit of good news now and then and that was the impetus . Thoreau , the prophet of both civil disobedience and nature appreciation , pointed us to a smaller environmental footprint ; people and Nature need wilderness to breathe in , and for inner renewal . If a place as seemingly agnostic as Burlington can do so well on the environment scorecard , what can't we do when we work in faith?!

  • It is certainly true that our nature mother has all answer for our all needs. All we need is to protect it. The sun alone can supply 8000 more energy than we all people need in a year. We do not need to burn fossils to get energy for our daily life. So we people do not need to fight each other to get the energy sources. Would not be better? I am glad that there are people those who are trying to use renewable energies in their buildings. While they do savings from energy costs they also help to protect our beautiful world. Metin Erdem, HVAC Engineer/Teacher

  • Simon your last paragraph nails it. Thank you for your insights & honesty.

    Warwick Aubin
  • Like Ian told me once that I was a "divided soul" so this world also fits into this category!! On the one hand Environmental achievements while on the other support for issues like abortion and legall drugs to mention only two!! But Jesus said he did come to bring peace but a sword of division!! So this of course applies to us humans too including so called Belivers or Religious people as you chose to call yourself!! One foot in the Church the other in the World!!!! Unfortunately Jesus does not like lukewarness has to be either hot or cloud. So there we are ? Hey do me a favor and tell Chris Zim I will not be available in July going to Gordenville to spend the summer with Amish friends. Greet Jeanie and all there . All the best . UKW

  • To be truly Christian, one must believe in and be surrendered to Christ- and that means, you can't believe in human-created ideologies- neither "conservative" nor "liberal". The author of this article seems to equate "conservative" with "Christian", and liberal as not. The early Christian community was 'socialist'- people sold their private property and gave it to the Apostles (the "government" of the community) to be received according to need (Acts 4:32-35). While I agree that having a sense of "entitlement" is not good, putting into communal funds and receiving from it (such as Social Security and Medicare) isn't "entitlement".

    Paul Schryba