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The View from Vermont

2011 August 11

By Jeffrey Levy

Ah, Vermont. Where I go to get away from my job, but also where I’m reminded of why I do my job.

Every summer, we go to “camp,” the cabin on a Vermont lake built by my wife’s great-grandfather in 1913.  Think “rustic,” not “luxury.” The walls are plywood, the floors creak, there’s an abundance of spiders and usually a few mice, and it smells musty.  I try to convince my daughters that spiders help keep the mosquito population down, to mixed success. When I sit up late at night reading, or we stargaze, the world outside vanishes.  In other words, it’s heaven.

Camp is where we take stuff like furniture and appliances when we buy new things for home. The recliner chair where I’m sitting to write this is at least 50 years old. Some of the books on the shelves date to the 1930s. The cupboard is full of plates from when my mother-in-law grew up. People here were reusing long before we started talking about “reduce, reuse, recycle.”

Our water is another subject related to EPA’s mission. For the first 15 years I came up here, we couldn’t drink the water from the tap because it came out of the lake; we had to buy water. Now we have a well, but I worry about getting it tested regularly. There’s never been heavy industry here, so swimming has always been ok. But when I consider how many lakes and rivers were seen as places to dump toxic chemicals, I can see how most U.S. water bodies weren’t fit for swimming or fishing when EPA was founded in 1970.

One of the best things about camp is the clean air. We come in August, when DC is at its hottest and haziest. No code red days up here! When we hike up nearby mountains, and I’m sucking in lungfuls of air, I appreciate EPA’s efforts to make sure everyone has healthy air to breathe.

I don’t mean to say that I’m constantly thinking about EPA when I come to Vermont. But it’s good to be reminded so directly why EPA’s mission is so important.

Where do you go to get away from it all? Do you ever think about the environment when you do?

About the author: Jeffrey Levy joined EPA in 1993. Before becoming Director of Web Communications, he worked to protect the ozone layer and end acid rain.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action; and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog post.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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12 Responses leave one →
  1. Linda permalink
    August 11, 2011

    One of my favorite destinations is the beautiful white sand beaches of the Florida and Alabama Gulf Coast … which wasn’t so appealing last year, thanks to the massive oil spill in the gulf. Bad air quality, thanks to the burning oil; scary water quality, thanks to the chemical dispersants and tar balls; plus beaches covered by people in protective suits patroling for oil that reached the shore … not a good way to relax. Talk about a wake-up call! “Paradise” can be lost all too easily.

  2. Wanda Loving permalink*
    August 11, 2011

    I think about the environment more than ever, now, regardless of where I am. I took it for granted, up until I had children. I enjoyed your blog! I almost felt like I was in Vermont, camping and sucking in lungfuls of air. Enjoy your time, family, and environment in Vermont!

  3. armansyahardanis permalink
    August 11, 2011

    I’m at Home, Jeffrey……

    In our culture, “camp” to another place on another season is rarely. I just did it decades ago when the the member of boyscout. Here, we couldn’t move and traveling with some reasons beside our culture on. We are different culture, Jeff… Your cultures are acculturation of much experiences from the other continents. Amazing! So, sense of environmental approach between us and also among of yours’ probably cannot support of EPA’s and Environmentalist community missions. I hope next, the people in the world should be mobilize and aware about environmental problems. This main point, I am not Environmentalist…. Just observer !

  4. Joan permalink
    August 11, 2011

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts–your cabin get-away sounds like the best place on earth, and a reminder of why protecting the environment is so important.

  5. wade harter permalink
    August 12, 2011

    The Ah Vermont article sounds like paradise on earth. It sounds like something that existed 3 or 4 hundred years ago when several hundred thousand native americans habitated the land. Now there are several hundred million of us riding in our cars, living in our fancy houses, enjoying the convience of electricity, wearing our many changes of colorful clothing, enjoying the fredoom of air travel, trains, our many restrauants and shopping malls. Progress brings rewards but also at a cost. Some of the cost is what many label as pollution. Just think we could go back to native living.

  6. Alan Gregory permalink
    August 12, 2011

    I enjoyed reading your piece – a lot. Heck, I now live inVermont (Williston), having moved up here from the anthracite coal region of northeastern Pennsylvania where the local creeks are contaminated by acid mine drainage. I chose to come to Vermont as it is my wife’s home state by birth. When she passed on last September, I knew fairly soon that I would not be able to stay in Pa. Before moving to the Green Mountain State, I had probably spent at least a year here in cumulative vacation days, etc. And, three years of my career in the U.S. Air Force were spent at Plattsburgh Air Force Base on the New York side of Lake Champlain. Thank you again for your nice essay.

  7. Jeffrey permalink*
    August 15, 2011

    Hi, Alan. We just stopped at a Williston grocery store coming home from a few days in Montreal! And we’ve eaten at the Friendly’s. :)

    My mother-in-law grew up in Montpelier, and I’ve flown into Burlington over the years to get up here (my wife usually brings our kids for longer than I can stay).

    It really is a special place, but I’d hope we can get those PA creeks cleaned up. Thanks for commenting!

  8. Jeffrey permalink*
    August 15, 2011

    Too true, Linda, about losing paradise in an instant. I grew up in Atlanta, and spent a fair amount of time in Florida. One of my favorite memories is a rainy week in Destin. We played sand volleyball every day for hours on end. It was warm, so we didn’t care that it rained. I hope all of the efforts, by EPA and many others, will quickly return the Gulf to normal.

  9. Jeffrey permalink*
    August 15, 2011

    Hi there. I appreciate your commenting on our blog so often. I agree our cultures are different, but I believe the environment matters to all of us, from all countries.

  10. Jeffrey permalink*
    August 15, 2011

    Hi Joan. Thanks for saying so. I feel so lucky to be able to come here each summer. And for my kids, having this be part of their very being means they appreciate what the environment means for them.

  11. Jeffrey permalink*
    August 15, 2011

    Wade, you’re right that it’s more of a challenge than hundreds of years ago. There are definitely additional difficulties keeping our planet clean because of our modern way of life. But we’re not helpless, and while some pollution is probably inevitable, we can produce a lot less of it than we do. I’m convinced that getting people to think about reducing their waste first, for example, and only reusing and recycling what’s necessary, will greatly reduce the piles of stuff we throw out. And by showing people why they should take ownership of our environment, I’m convinced we can do better. That’s why I so strongly promote programs like Pick 5 for the Environment. Check it out!

  12. Jeffrey permalink*
    August 15, 2011

    Hi Wanda! Maybe we should get some of us outdoors one weekend in the Shenandoah. :) Doesn’t having kids change your perspective! I read that before, but boy it does it hit home more now.

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