By Jessie Forand/ECHO Between work sessions Friday at the Leahy Center Environmental Summit, two experts on the climate change and resili...

Experts Talk Resiliency at Leahy Summit

By Jessie Forand/ECHO

Between work sessions Friday at the Leahy Center Environmental Summit, two experts on the climate change and resiliency shared with the about 150 participants gathered to share their experiences and insights. 

Sue Minter, Vermont's Secretary of Transportation, and Kim Stephens, executive director of Partnership for water Sustainability in British Columbia, discussed the importance of being resilient. 

Minter spoke about Tropical Storm Irene, which devastated the state in 2011, which she called a "watershed year."

Sue Minter addresses summit attendees. (Jessie Forand/ECHO) 

After a winter with record snowfall, including the largest snow event in the state's history at that point, April proved to be the rainiest on record, which then led to massive flooding in May. 

Irene then hit in August. Homes and land were destroyed and lives were lost, Minter recalled. She showed summit attendees a slideshow of images from the devastation, paired with a song including the lyrics, "Mother Nature do what you want, you can't break the spirit of Vermont," 

After it rolled, Minter said "I always am moved by those photos, I'm sure many of you are in them." They reflect the attitude of healing by helping, and through that tragedy a number of lessons were learned and positive results came about, including flexibility, understanding vulnerabilities, and sharing of stories. 

But, Minter reminded the crowd, "Our changing climate isn't about the future, it is about now." Through the resiliency process, Vermont will be better prepared and able to manage damaging weather events when they occur. 

Environmental leaders share ideas. (Jessie Forand/ECHO) 

Through her work, Minter has seen a sense of hope, realizing the President Barack Obama, his cabinet, and federal agencies are a part of the process. Sharing with other states is working, and she told summit participants, "What you do matters." 

Stephens during his talk compared the Lake Champlain region to Vancouver Island in British Columbia. 

Kim  Stephens shares his experiences in British Columbia. (Jessie Forand/ECHO)

While 2011 was a teachable year here, 2003 proved to be one in B.C., he said, with a "yearlong parade" of weather disasters. 2015 is likely to be another, he added, as a light snow pack in the area could result in a drought. 

In working to combat issues faced in the Vancouver Island area, Stephens shared some of the lessons his group has learned. 

It helps to have a champion, he said, which he found in former Premier Gordon Campbell and through water-centric planning. Stephens' group is a non-profit, but works with the government - he said success calls for a top-down/bottom-up approach. 

A new-found sense of stewardship, which wasn't present 15-20 years ago, has helped, as well as an understanding of goals to help create a changed future.  

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