Declaration of Climate Emergency – Full Text and Comments

Here is the full text and comments of the proposed “Declaration of Climate Emergency” from Brattleboro Common Sense. The issue is on the agenda for the next meeting of the Brattleboro Selectboard.


Whereas this article, to be known as the Declaration of Climate Emergency, is in accordance with a resolution promoted by the selectboard in 2003, and with resolutions on energy and climate change promoted by Brattleboro Common Sense through votes of the people in 2010, 2014, and of town representatives in 2018; and whereas the youth of Brattleboro are calling on today’s town leaders to formally acknowledge the truth of the emergency;

Whereas U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders has said, “We must look at climate change as if it were a devastating military attack against the United States and the entire planet. And we must respond accordingly” in other words, we must respond as if in war;

Whereas war demands the strengths and discipline of soldiers, the conservation of resources and the virtues of thrift, truthfulness, and forethought, for lack of which our society has brought the world into this crisis;

Whereas climate change is causing immense human suffering and damage to the natural world and threatens to destroy civilization and kill billions of people, as if in war;

Whereas the United States government and large corporations have disregarded or concealed the truth about climate change;

Whereas we must feel immeasurable obligation and compassion for youth and for people in frontline communities in the U.S. and around the world, whose cultures are decimated by the fossil fuel industry;

Whereas reliance on technology instead of our virtues has also caused the crisis and cannot alone save the world;

And whereas Brattleboro can act as an example by converting to an ecologically and socially regenerative economy at emergency speed;

We, the people of Brattleboro, therefore declare:

That frontline communities have every right to benefit first from the conversion to a regenerative economy and to direct the remediation of the crisis as it affects them at all levels of government;

That we shall strive for zero emissions across all sectors of the economy by 2030, and that this effort be observed and reported by a sustainability coordinator or other appropriate office of the town;

And that the selectboard shall warn hearings of the people for proposing remedies for the climate crisis, and shall enact emergency ordinances per charter article 4 section 6 AA to test the proposals arising from those hearings.

For unity’s sake let no one scorn those of us who deny the crisis, since their inaction has been no worse than ours who believe it, and since their lives will be turned upside-down for a rescue against their will. We have all been living our lives and denying the climate crisis together. Let us bravely acknowledge and address the emergency we face together.

And therefore we the people of Brattleboro declare a state of emergency, and, matching the extreme of this emergency, we declare war on climate change. We will endure hardship and self-sacrifice like military men and women, exert our utmost energy, and summon the deepest truthfulness and courage, even without certainty, to secure the survival of our children, ourselves, all humanity and this divinely beautiful natural world, which has sustained us through the ages with unspoken love.


This declaration places a heavy emphasis on compassion and extolls the unity of the American people for the sake of climate rescue. But this it not a declaration only for leftists and liberals: it adopts an aggressive rhetoric that many prominent people are promoting recently. Several unique clauses concern precedent in earlier Brattleboro resolutions, loss of foresight and thrift contributing to the crisis, moderation in reliance on technology, compassion for youth and the peoples of the world who are suffering most, and a practical legal method of testing emergency proposals of the people. More than a list of disjointed “whereas” clauses, the declaration succeeds in being a readable, profound and inspiring document.

This point cannot be made too strongly.  Things HAVE already risen to the level of a devastating military attack.  Forced migrations are causing starvation and armed conflict.  People on the front lines of this war in south Asia and south Africa are dying — thousands daily / hourly ?  The war is not rhetorical exaggeration.  It is real. It is only by white privilege that we have the luxury of debating whether to call this a war or not.

The framing as a declaration of war is distasteful to liberals and pacifists, but to hawks and soldiers, war is some times a necessity. They want a team that takes a fighting stance. They understand teamwork, planning and sacrifice, and fight hard. People with such strengths will be valuable teachers in the climate rescue. The declaration speaks respectfully to them and to skeptics (deniers) of climate change. The rest of us should consider what is being asked of skeptics especially: their lives will be turned upside-down for the sake of something that they don’t believe, We are reminded that not even the Viet Nam war nor the Iraq war turned our lives upside down the way climate rescue will do. Now we must unite in a new kind of war on climate change and promise them the ultimate effort. Nothing else — no other word implies the ultimate effort of a nation. Its use is a beginning, a wake-up call for the hardships that will be required of us all.

Proponents realize that salvation will not come from technology or government, but first from the unity of the people, their unity within themselves, and with others, and that efforts connecting people through their hearts are essential to bring people into that unity. Consider the clause “For unity’s sake let no one scorn those who deny the crisis, since their inaction has been no worse than ours who believe it”. Some people say they don’t “believe” in climate change: they know it as a fact. But no one knows continental drift or the orbits of electrons as facts. No one has direct experience of such things. What we have is faith: faith that scientists have proved certain facts, and we have faith that scientists have proved climate change. So, our belief in climate change is also founded in faith, and so, we are not rationally superior to climate skeptics, whose faith stands elsewhere. The idea here is to put us all on equal footing, to allow for climate skeptics, and military men and women to be respected and included. Climate rescue will not be achieved like many political targets by a majority vote. It will be an enormous challenge requiring complete unity, like a team of acrobats crossing the high wire on a bicycle. Unity is our only chance.

Comments | 2

  • Yes, but

    Why do I get the feeling I’ll be writing a headline along the lines of “Selectboard Nixes Climate Emergency Declaration” later this week?

    I’d like to know a lot more about specific plans of how to accomplish all of this. For example “zero emissions across all sectors of the economy by 2030” is certainly possible, if we get rid of capitalism. How will that happen?

    ‘All sectors’ includes tourism and shipping. Will this war target tourists and truck drivers?

    How is Brattleboro a “frontline” community and what does that mean?

    “But no one knows continental drift or the orbits of electrons as facts. No one has direct experience of such things.” Yes we do. We all have direct experience with both. Continents didn’t stop moving when we were born, and I bet the people of Hiroshima would argue that the inner workings of atoms are quite well known.

    Sure, one can frame it as a war, but there are no winners in wars. And Americans haven’t had to mobilize much of anything since the 1940’s. We’re soft and lazy. We want our comforts. And we’d rather debate whether this is a war or not, or whether the selectboard or town representatives should take this up, and whether to call for a petition on this matter. We’ll sympathize but not sacrifice. We were told all of this long ago and did almost nothing. We’d prefer to hire someone on town staff to handle this problem for us. There are shows to stream, gosh darn it, and vacations to be taken, and a phone to fiddle with all day, and why should I do anything if my neighbor still drives the SUV?

    Also, who or what are we fighting? It says we are declaring war on climate change? What does that mean in practical, get-started terms?

    I agree that we likely have a climate emergency on our hands. I have a feeling that this declaration will be shot down by the board, too.

    What’s the plan if the handful of people on the board disagree and don’t make the proclamation an official town proclamation? Is there a plan for that likely outcome? If it is indeed a war, will there be trials and punishments of non-compliant officials? Will demonstrators occupy town offices until something is done, or will everyone politely go home when the board says no?

    Ultimately, I guess I’m questioning the strategy of demanding a declaration. It seems like a distraction, if this is a real emergency. Why involve (and wait for) elected officials at all? Ie, hold the monthly meetings anyway, bring those items to the Town’s attention, do the education campaign, and so on. For example, George Harvey, to the best of my recollection, hasn’t ever reached out via iBratt to share his wealth of info with local readers, or point people to his vast resources. His site isn’t in the directory of local links. Maybe the war starts with some community education and outreach, so everyone will feel the urgency.

    What I see here is concern and good intentions, muddled by a declaration that the whole Town must agree to but likely won’t. The selectboard can’t save us from climate issues, nor can a sustainability coordinator, nor can town meeting representatives.

    What will we do?

  • What would the war look like?

    If we are really going to war against climate change, some massive changes are required. Here are 5 things we’d need to do:

    1. Stop flying. Anyone using airplanes to fly is harming the environment. It must be stopped.

    2. Stop having kids. Overpopulation is contributing to the climate emergency. New parents will need to be shamed and punished. New children will be rationed and births will be carefully controlled.

    3. Tear down and rebuild almost every building in town. Anything built before 2010 is probably an inefficient, energy-leaking abode. These all need to be taken off the grid, as well.

    4. No more cars or trucks. There can’t be purchases of new vehicles if they use oil or gas. This gets rid of gas stations as well.

    5. No tourists, or shipping of goods by truck, into town. We will need to crack down on other people destroying our carefully-crafted town space.

    This gets us started in our war, and the above will be early casualties of said war.

    Of course, most of us looking at those five will say “no way” for any number of reasons. “But I need to fly to get to Europe!”, “I have to have my car/truck…”, “MY kids aren’t the problem,” “We rely on tourism and trade!” and so on.

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