Nonetheless, we brag on our Vermont Difference as if a “better-than-environment” is good enough. It is not. In 1981, historian Charles Morrissey described how Vermont had begun to resemble too many other spoiled places in America. He questioned our self-centered sense of superiority, “Vermont is different? The question is asked sardonically. The trouble with Vermont is that Vermont is not different enough.” Since then, Vermont, as with the rest of the nation, has further defaced the land, despoiled the waters and denied the inexorable consequences.
Earlier, the Green Mountains were islands of safety to many of the early white pioneers, refuges high above the swampy lowlands that bred mosquitoes and disease. Over time, the settlers moved downhill to populate the valleys and create the early infrastructure of industry, having infamously destroyed the high slopes of the hills for profit and gain. This Great Folly of Vermont Deforestation is well known. Less known is that some forests were left untouched, saved not by human virtue but by geographic inconvenience: The forests of the higher ridgelines and those too distant from transportation were simply uneconomical to exploit.
Today is different … and the same. Today, the implements of destruction are sophisticated and abundantly available. Mountaintop destruction is no longer unprofitable in a purely economic sense. Green Mountain Power Corporation needed little more than a wag of the hand to get the State of Vermont’s blessing to use a rumored 700,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate to blast away the ridgeline of Lowell Mountain, an act of incalculable ecological violence. That is one hundred times what Timothy McVeigh used to blow up the federal building in Oklahoma City.