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Out & About: New group works to halt mass extinction

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 9/18/2019 7:00:19 PM
Modified: 9/18/2019 7:00:09 PM

Last year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change announced that the world has only 12 years to limit climate change catastrophe.

A new organization, called Extinction Rebellion, isn’t taking the news lying down. Formed in the U.K. in 2018, Extinction Rebellion now has chapters all over the world. According to its website, the group’s goal is to use nonviolent action in an attempt to halt mass extinction and reduce the risk of social collapse. 

“At the core of Extinction Rebellion’s philosophy is peaceful civil disobedience,” the site states. “We promote civil disobedience and rebellion because we think it is necessary. We’re asking people to find their courage and to collectively do what is necessary to bring about change …. This means economic disruption to shake the current political system and civil disruption to raise awareness. We are deeply sorry for any inconvenience that this causes.”

Extinction Rebellion now has an Upper Valley chapter, headed by Karen Ganey, a landscape designer and owner of Permaculture Solutions of Norwich. On Friday the group will be participating in a peaceful gathering from noon to 2 p.m. in Lyman Point Park in White River Junction as part of a day of global action, strikes and walkouts dedicated to drawing attention to climate emergency. 

In an email Q&A, Ganey discussed Extinction Rebellion and its other plans for local action. The exchange has been edited and condensed.

Question: How and why did the Upper Valley chapter get started?

Answer: Stephen Leslie, a farmer at Cedar Mountain Farm at Cobb Hill in Hartland, put a call out to local farmer and activist networks about a presentation, called "The Talk," about Extinction Rebellion as a movement and understanding the climate emergency. After the first meeting, where 75 people packed the room, we decided to start our own chapter and organized a series of meetings in Woodstock, South Royalton and Randolph. We formed around a unified urge to be a part of a movement that is grounded in nonviolent actions and also to make space for acknowledging our grief and despair and wanting to transform it into empowerment and solutions.

Q: What happens at your meetings?

A: We have what's called a General Assembly that meets every two weeks. We also have resource groups that are working on getting Vermont towns and government to declare a climate emergency, a regenerative agriculture group working with farmers to network and develop regenerative agriculture practices, an arts group working on creative and beautiful imagery, a facilitation group that facilitates meetings, a just transition group that is working on connecting issues of racial healing and environmental justice, and a nonviolent direct action group.

We try to always have some food and make time for people to connect and talk. We strive to be intersectional and inclusive while having fun and staying focused on the short time frame we have to awaken into a more just, regenerative possibility. 

Q: What kinds of projects are in the works?

A: A lot of our efforts have been focused on forming as a group and working on encouraging towns and the state to declare a climate emergency. Currently, we’re focused on answering Greta Thunberg's call to strike for the climate on Sept. 20. We’re also working with groups around the state and country, like, to engage in events like helping to plant berry bushes, fruit trees and pollinator gardens along the Mascoma River Greenway on Sept. 21.

We’re aiming to build a movement that looks beyond mass actions and toward helping to build a just, regenerative, healthy bioregion. There are lots of opportunities to engage. We need help with things like getting the message out to a wider audience, writing press releases and raising funds to cover the costs of training. We’d like for folks to come and do what they love. It's all needed!

Q: How does your day job fit with your efforts with Extinction Rebellion?

A: Permaculture is a fancy word for gardening like, and with, nature. It’s based on three simple ethics: Earth Care, People Care and Fair Share. It fits into my work with Extinction Rebellion because, while we have to stop the systems of exploitation and extraction, we also have to be re-wilding and building diverse edible landscapes, creating pollinator corridors, connecting with nature, seeing solutions in soil and working to restore balance with nature. Permaculture provides a framework to do this, and it can be applied or scaled to any system, economic, ecological or otherwise.

Editor’s note: For more information, contact Ganey at or 802-432-8164.

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