Miles to go? New England

I’d meant to post updates of our yearly migration but as always, the blog got sidelined. At the start of the year, I spent far more time than is healthy rearranging our finances. We’ve managed to cobble together a modest retirement and it would be a shame to lose it to the fiscal irresponsibility of our government. That, however, might be unavoidable.

My wife and I are young but retirement isn’t all that distant. (Though, as a writer, I’ve sworn to never retire. I can’t imagine not obsessing over some project, some story.)

Still, what’s twenty years when your son recently turned twenty two?

As full-time nomads, we sometimes get the question – are you retired? Neither of us look the part. I’m sporting a bit of gray in the beard when it grows out and a patch of hair up top that stubbornly refuses to grow much at all. So anytime the question is asked it’s done with a great deal of skepticism.

No, we aren’t retired. We’re just unconventional. A bad habit of ours.

We’ll settle down one day. And New England has always been near the top of the list. We enjoy the history, the bucolic countryside, and the rugged coasts. Plus, the upper Northeast may fair better than most areas of the U.S. when it comes to the impact of climate change.

Also, they don’t seem afraid to do something about it.

Recently, Vermont lay claim to the cleanest energy grid in the country. Solar farms are abundant in the hills and pastures. They enjoy the benefit of cheap hyrdopower (some of which has been in place since the early 1900s), wind turbines, and innovative uses of renewable biomass as energy.

Transportation and heating make up the state’s biggest carbon emitters. With the cold winters, replacing propane and oil with zero-carbon alternatives could be tough. But as EV usage grows, emissions from transportation should see reductions. That’s not a problem local or even statewide initiatives can tackle. Lingering pandemic-induced damage to markets and clogged supply chains have slowed adoption of that transformative technology. Until then, we’ll all be stuck guzzling gas albeit at a higher and higher cost to both the environment and those retirement savings I’m trying to protect.

Still, it’s refreshing to be in a place that has had the guts to both vote for an independent candidate and tackle this generational problem head-on, two things I believe are key to the survival of this fractured union.

Embracing independence is at the core of Vermont’s success. Community-owned utilities are the backbone of many renewable programs. Burlington Municipal Electric being one of the first to lay claim to a truly sustainable city.

By contrast, my former hometown of Denton, Texas, the “community-owned” municipal electric decided against citizen input that buying two massively expensive natural gas-fired plants to supply electricity beyond the local grid was part of their renewables strategy. (I’ll spare you the details and messy aftermath. I’ve ranted about this before.)

Here in Vermont, they seem to have doubled down on sensible solutions.

The plan isn’t perfect. There are credits and offsets and other necessities in place designed to wean usage of fossil fuels. But it’s a start and one begun by forward-thinking engineers a century ago. A start even as we approach the climate endgame.

Truly, our favorite places to be are out West. Thinking too long about the magnificent peaks and those desert sandboxes where the gods once played could move me to tears. But as reports come in of earlier fire seasons around one of our haunts near Ruidoso, New Mexico and as both crucial intake valves and bodies arise from Lake Mead’s retreating waters like some dark prophecy, it’s hard to justify those divine, craggy regions taking in the extra population.

I could be happy here when the travel bug gives way. Greater writers than I have found inspiration roaming the woods and relaxing by the streams. I might even have time to enjoy the sparsely populated hills before the looming disaster drives everyone to seek shelter here.

Melancholy, I know. I’m not overstating the case though. The situation is dire. Politicians speak bravely about conservation and measures they’ve taken to reduce waste. Many, on either side of the illusionary aisle, do this while increasing reliance on fossil fuels and quietly blocking measures to end it.

But politics are what they are. We could each be doing so much more.

While my wife and I cover more fresh ground now and with greater purpose, gradually, the miles of our life have wound down. From the full-time commute of two, to one, to our current seasonal migration. From the over-sized house guzzling energy to stay cool in the Texas heat to a roving shelter seeking equilibrium. Our consumption is tapering off.

We don’t have that many more miles to go. Eventually, we’ll park and settle down. Retire. When we do, I hope to leave little more than words behind.

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