June 11, 1999
It's Not the Environment, Stupid ... It's Greed
It seems like nearly everyday, we talk with yet
another hard-working, talented person who's at some
point in the process of leaving Vermont. Sadly we
live in a state that has been exporting its children,
especially the best and brightest, for years. Now
we're losing some of the best imports we've acquired
over the last ten, twenty and thirty and even forty
One simple answer is that they can't make a
living here. Sometimes what they do best is not done
Sometimes their fellow citizens decide that they
and their specialty, and particularly their reckless
habit of telling the truth about what's going on in
their communities, should consider living and
prospering far, far away. If that sounds like
something that couldn't happen in Vermont, think
Why would their fellow citizens do this?
One not-so-simple answer is greed - greed which
takes several forms.
Greed in Vermont.
The OMYA case (arguably the worst decision by the
E-board since their 1993 denial of C&S Grocers'
petition - one that is still costing the state
millions upon millions of dollars) that's reported
elsewhere in this paper is one outstanding example:
All the talk, all the aesthetic and historical
rhetoric about the importance of basically rolling
back the clock on downtown Brandon - to the point that
one imagines strollers in hoop skirts, parasols, and
high button shoes wandering from building to building
in a slight revery over the architecture - all of it
goes out the window when the party of the first part
is willing to drop their suit if they get paid enough
money by the party of the second part.
Here we have a good old fashioned dollars and
cents type greed hiding behind quasi-environment,
Even Governor Dean said he was "very, very
disappointed" with the board's decision. "There are a
lot of policy issues in the decision, and I'm not sure
the board appreciates what the implications are."
We would like to make it very clear that in this
example and the others to follow, there are good
people whose sympathies have been taken advantage of,
who get drawn into some of these hidden agenda
controversies. Unfortunately their presence often
helps give the appearance of a legitimate public
debate and helps divert attention from what's really
Perhaps the most incidious form of greed going on
in Vermont, the one that has hurt the state and its
people the most, is not about lining one's pockets
with big bucks, but is instead about power and
When we moved from Vermont to New Rochelle, New
York, in the mid seventies, we saw this sort of thing
going on there. The case in point was a nearby house
that went on the market. When an Afro-American doctor
and his family looked like they were going to buy the
house, his wealthy neighbor-to-be offered a far higher
amount to "protect" his neighborhood.
That sort of protectionism, we submit, is, and
has been, going on all over Vermont for many years
now. Not necessarily aimed against Afro-Americans
(although isn't Vermont still the "whitest" state?)
It is a form of an economic and ideologic racism that
keeps native Vermonters in their diminished place and
even is directed at flatlanders who come here without
realizing there is a "noble" experiment going on in
the laboratory that they think of as the State of
Those conducting the experiment need not concern
themselves with lining their pockets - they arrived
here with with all they need in income (a few
examples, the well known anti-growth protesters in
Williston who live off New Jersey shipping money; the
the husband and wife doctors from the Big Apple who
moved in recently with the idea that it was going to
be nice to live at a slower pace where nothing ever
changes, and even at the slower pace in their medical
practices, they had set aside plenty to get by on; the
wife and husband doctor and lawyer team who have been
here longer, but with about the same attitude; the
U.V.M. graduate who, being one year out of U.V.M. and
having worked hard in the 12 months following his
graduation, gave U.V.M. about a million dollars - the
list goes on and on, but its members are all people
with money and a desire for a status quo ... they want
Vermont to stop all forward progress.
General Electric's slogan for years was "Progress
is our most important product." What has happened to
that concept in Vermont? What if our foreparents
decided not to pave roads, that horses were good
enough; not to allow electricity into the state; not
to use up potential farmland for airports; and on and
on. We can't and shouldn't stop progress, but we sure
can hobble it. When we do, some get hurt far more
Make no mistake, real hurting is going on.
People losing their property. People going hungry -
or without medication - because their taxes have been
raised excessively. People losing their ability to
earn a living in their chosen field. People being
hurt by accidents caused by improperly repaired roads.
Why are people so willing to allow harm to be
caused (remember the statements by representatives of
the state saying that it was okay to sacrifice a few
hundred for the greater good of Act 60)?
The question has been puzzling us for a long
time. If people knew the harm some of their actions
are causing, we are certain they wouldn't do most of
On the other hand, maybe there's something in
nature that can explain this.
Ever watch a documentary on lions? When new male
lions take over an existing pride, they kill the cubs
and drive off the young male progeny so that
everything belongs to them and has their mark.
Sound like what's going on here?
Maybe. Maybe it's that simple. We are all the
product of hundreds of thousands of years of learning
survival. Only recently have we turned the behavioral
corner to become "modern man."