How are Vermont businesses coping with the COVID-19 pandemic? For some, it means reinventing themselves. Caledonia Spirits and Silo Distillery have transformed from distilling spirits to making hand sanitizer for area hospitals and residents. Vermont Glove has transformed from sewing handmade leather gloves to making hand-sewn face masks for health care providers and public servants. Twincraft Skincare, a leading manufacturer of soap, is hiring to meet unprecedented demand. But other businesses are struggling with layoffs and uncertainty about what the future holds. We speak with Vermont businesspeople about how they are innovating, adapting and worrying about the uncertain future, and the chance to enact long-term change as a result of the crisis.(March 25, 2020 broadcast)
In our second COVID-19 conversation (first episode here, article on Medium), Stanford epidemiologist Dr. Steve Goodman discusses the latest scientific information emerging from Europe and China about how COVID-19 is spread and stopped, the evolving response, how lockdowns work in containing the pandemic, the ongoing US testing debacle, how the outbreak could have been handled in the US, and what lessons must be learned. (March 18, 2020 broadcast)
Congressman Peter Welch (D-Vt.) discusses how the federal government is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, saying it has evolved from “a slow response, to a little bit of denial, to a cavalier response…to a sense of urgency and action.” He explains emergency funding that Congress is approving to assist businesses and individuals, and guarding against bad legislation slipped through during the emergency. “There is going to be massive unemployment. This is a time when there absolutely has to be a governmental response. We are in such a state of urgency that all of our energy has to go into how best to respond. It’s really really serious.” We also discuss Bernie Sanders’ presidential run and how the pandemic will affect the 2020 election. (March 18, 2020 broadcast)
The coronavirus pandemic is sweeping across the globe and has arrived in Vermont. Stanford epidemiologist Steve Goodman discusses the uniquely dangerous dimensions of this new pandemic, the botched federal response, the impact of the Trump Administration’s misinformation, and why he calls COVID-19 “a tsunami.” (March 11, 2020 broadcast)
“The problem isn’t really individuals making money. The problem is having an entire system that grows the wealth of billionaires at the expense of everything else we care about — including our democracy,” writes Chuck Collins in an op-ed for CNN Business, “The US would be better off with fewer billionaires.” Collins, who is the heir to the Oscar Mayer fortune, has long championed raising taxes on the rich and campaign finance reform, and writes extensively about inequality. Collins discusses Mike Bloomberg, the problem with philanthropy, and the many ways that billionaires undermine the middle class and democracy. (March 11, 2020 broadcast)
Chuck Collins, co-editor, Inequality.org at the Institute for Policy Studies, author, Born on Third Base
2020 marks the 50th anniversary of Act 250, Vermont’s signature land use and development law. It was passed at a time when Vermont was undergoing significant development pressure. Two new interstate highways, I-89 and 91, had recently opened, increasing development pressure. But in the late 1960s, Vermont had no environmental regulations or land use controls. So Gov. Deane Davis appointed a commission to explore how to deal with these new challenges. The result was Act 250, which the Vermont legislature passed in 1970. The law provides a public, quasi-judicial process for reviewing and managing the environmental, social and fiscal consequences of major subdivisions and developments in Vermont.
Fast forward a half century. In January 2020, the Scott administration and the Vermont Natural Resources Council, which are often adversaries on environmental issues, proposed a package of Act 250 reforms. This reform plan has generated controversy among environmentalists and legislators. Last week, the legislature stripped out a key reform proposal to professionalize the development review process. What is the future of Act 250 and reform efforts? What has Act 250 contributed during its half-century? (February 26, 2020 broadcast)
Peter Walke, commissioner, Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation
Brian Shupe, executive director, Vermont Natural Resources Council
The Trump administration is proposing to kick over 3 million people off of food stamps, about 8 percent of the total the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. In Vermont, over 13,000 people would lose 3SquaresVT benefits, some 13 percent of the current caseload that equates to an approximate loss over $7.5 million in annual benefits for Vermonters. This includes 4,600 children who are expected to lose 3SquaresVT benefits under this proposal, and many of these school-aged children are at risk of losing access to free meals at school as well. We discuss this threat with Anore Horton, executive director of Hunger Free Vermont, which is leading a campaign to oppose the cuts. We are also joined by officials from several Vermont schools to talk about the face of hunger in children and the threat of losing financial support. (August 28, 2019 broadcast)
What do the war on drugs, the military-industrial complex and Elvis Presley have in common? They are all the subject of films by filmmaker and Vermont resident Eugene Jarecki. Jarecki is an Emmy and Peabody award-winning documentary director who has twice won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. Jarecki has spent his career exposing and exploring American capitalism and culture in works such as his 2006 film about US militarism called “Why We Fight,” and his 2012 film, “The House I Live In,” about systemic racism in the “war on drugs.” His other film subjects include Henry Kissinger and President Ronald Reagan. Jarecki discusses how he bought Elvis’s 1963 Rolls Royce and drove it across American for his latest film, The King, his life in films and why he declined an opportunity to interview Donald Trump for his film. (June 19, 2019 broadcast)
Thirty years ago, journalist, author and activist Bill McKibben wrote The End of Nature, the first book for a general audience about climate change. He went on to found 350.org, the first global climate change movement, and he has helped launch the fast-growing fossil fuel divestment movement. McKibben, who is the Schumann Distinguished Scholar in Environmental Studies at Middlebury College, has a new book that details where we’ve come in the 30 years since he first warned about the dangers of climate change. Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out? argues that climate change is proceeding at a far more rapid pace than scientists once predicted and humans are losing the race for survival and their own humanity. McKibben on his 30 year journey, where we are now, and where we are going. This Vermont Conversation was recorded live at Bridgeside Books in Waterbury, VT. (June 12, 2019 broadcast)
Bill McKibben, founder, 350.org and author, Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?
In January 2019, public interest advocates weighed in on the Vermont Conversation with their priorities for the 2019 legislative session in Vermont. Five months later, they return to discuss what happened: who won, who lost, what’s still in play on key legislation including banning plastic bags, $15 minimum wage, paid family leave, medical monitoring for toxics and campaign finance reform. (June 5, 2019 broadcast)
Paul Burns, executive director, Vermont Public Interest Research Group
This year, the Vermont House Judiciary Committee passed legislation on a number of national hotbutton issues. This included passing the strongest abortion rights law in the country, enacting a 24-hour waiting period for handgun purchases and removing the time limit for victims of child sexual abuse to bring claims against their abusers. Democratic Rep. Maxine Grad is the chair of the Vermont House Judiciary Committee. This is Grad’s 19th year representing the Mad River Valley towns of Waitsfield, Duxbury, Fayston, Warren and Moretown. This year saw her featured in a NY Times article about Vermont’s landmark abortion rights law. Grad discusses the challenge of confronting tough issues and her priorities going forward. (June 5, 2019 broadcast)
Rep. Maxine Grad, chair, Vermont House Judiciary Committee
Ron Dellums is an American political legend. A native of Oakland, California, Dellums was first elected to Congress in 1970 as an opponent of the Vietnam War. He became an expert in military and foreign policy, he rose to become chair of the powerful House Armed Services Committee. He was re-elected 13 times, retiring from the House in 1998.
Dellums used his leadership positions to question US policy on weapons systems and foreign intervention.He also led the fight against apartheid in South Africa, winning passage of the US Anti Apartheid Act of 1986 over the veto of President Ronald Reagan. His efforts helped win the release of Nelson Mandela. In 2006, Dellums emerged from retirement and was elected mayor of Oakland from 2006 – 2011.
Dellums reflects on his lifetime of social change and service, from Vietnam to helping free Nelson Mandela to his advice to Black Lives Matter activists today.