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The Vermont Conversation

The Vermont Conversation

VBSR's The Vermont Conversation hosted by David Goodman, airs live every Wednesday from 1-2 PM on WDEV Radio Vermont. The show features interviews with people who are making a difference locally and nationally in the worlds of socially responsible business, politics, education, the environment and activism, as well as serves as a way to keep current on VBSR's events, policy work and program happenings. Scroll down to listen to recent shows or Tune into WDEV at 1:00 PM every Wednesday!

Join the Conversation! The Vermont Conversation welcomes call-ins at (802) 244-1777 or comments and questions via email. Have a great idea for a show or interest in joining us yourself? Let us know!

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Did you miss an episode? Scroll down to hear the most recent shows. OR, view the archives to see past guests and topics.


August 24 

Filmmaker Bess O’Brien shines spotlight on eating disorders

Award-winning filmmaker Bess O’Brien is the director All of Me, a new feature length documentary film focused on the lives of women, girls and some boys who struggle with eating disorders. Bulimia, anorexia, binge eating and other eating disorders are among the most difficult addictions to treat and to cure. The percentage of young girls who start dieting as young as 10-12 years of age has risen dramatically over the last fifteen years. The film will premier in September and tour throughout Vermont this fall (tour dates here).

Bess O’Brien is also the director/producer of the documentary films The Hungry Heart, about prescription drug crisis in Vermont and the compassionate work of Dr. Fred Holmes. The film became as a catalyst for opiate addiction awareness in the state of Vermont. Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin said, “Every state in the Union should be so lucky to have Bess O’Brien working for them in support of children and families!” 

Bess O’Brien, filmmaker

Listen Now 

From Disabled to Enabled: Wheel Pad accessible homes

Wheel Pad, a new Vermont-based company, is creating eco-friendly temporary accessible housing for people newly using a wheelchair, allowing friends and/or family to provide support until permanent accessible housing can be arranged. Utilizing technology from the design of RV, Wheel Pad is a 200 square foot accessible bedroom and bathroom module
that can be temporarily attached to an existing home. The units can be leased or purchased. Wheel Pad president Julie Lineberger discusses the living challenges confronting people who have just begun using a wheelchair, and this innovative solution that she is taking from Vermont to the rest of the country. 

Julie Lineberger, president, Wheel Pad

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August 17

The inside story of a nuclear power whistleblower

Arnie Gundersen is a nuclear engineer who defended the nuclear industry for 20 years, managing and coordinating projects at 70 nuclear power plants in the US. In 1991, after complaining about lax nuclear safety to his superiors, he was fired, and the industry turned on him. That’s when he and his wife Maggie Gundersen, who worked as a sponsesperson for the nuclear industry, became leading critics of nuclear power, forming FaireWinds Energy Education. Arnie Gundersen now consults on nuclear power issues for the Sierra Club, the State of Vermont, the New England Coalition. This spring Arnie visited Fukushima, Japan, the site of a 2011 nuclear meltdorn. The Gundersens discuss their lives in the nuclear industry, the high personal cost of whistleblowing, the future of nuclear power, and their advice to young people interested in working on energy issues. 

Arnie Gundersen, nuclear engineer and nuclear industry whistleblower

Maggie Gundersen, former nuclear industry spokesperson, founder, FaireWinds Energy Education

Listen Now

August 10

Paul Millman: From bartender to VBSR's socially responsible businessperson of the year

Paul Millman is CEO and president of Chroma Technology Corp. an employee-owned manufacturing company in Bellows Falls, Vermont. He is the recipient of the 2016 Terry Ehrich Award for Excellence in Socially Responsible Business, given annually by Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility to a person exemplifying a commitment to the environment, workplace, progressive public policy, and community.

Millman attended Antioch College and is a graduate of the New School and the Antioch New England Graduate School. He is a director of the Vermont Business Roundtable and Valley Net. He is a member of the Steering Committee of ReThink Health in the Upper Valley and president of the Westminster Fire and Rescue Association. He is a former director of VBSR and former chair of the Vermont Employee-Ownership Center. Prior to moving to Vermont he worked as a bartender in New York City. He hopes to return to that profession when his days as a business big shot are over. He talks about his journey from being a bartender to business owner in Vermont and the progressive social issues he is passionate about. 

Paul Millman, CEO Chroma Technology, recipient of 2016 Terry Ehrich Award for Excellence in Socially Responsible Business from VBSR

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August 3

Vermont’s Senior Olympians Shatter Records and Stereotypes

Vermont has produced many Olympians, including some of the world’s top senior athletes. We talk with two of the world’s top senior athletes about the joys and challenges of competing into their ninth decade, and how it has prepared one of them to confront a life threatening cancer. These athletes compete in the Vermont Senior Games and the National Senior Games and encourage others to join them.

Flo Meiler, 82, Shelburne, Vt., participated in 13 National Senior Games (formerly the Senior Olympics), winner of over 702 medals, holds 26 world records in track & field

Barbara Jordan, 80, So. Burlington, Vt., holds several world records in track & field

Elliot Burg, photographer who documented senior athletes

Listen Now

July 20

Race, policing, Black Lives Matter and reform: Mark Hughes, Justice for All

The last few weeks have seen police killings of African American men in Baton Rouge and Minnesota, and the killings of police in Dallas and Baton Rouge. These incidents have shined a harsh new spotlight on the issue of race, policing and reform. Mark Hughes, founder of Justice for All, discusses race and racism in Vermont, and how “to ensure justice for ALL through community organizing, research, education, community policing, legislative reform, and judicial monitoring.” (July 20, 2016 broadcast)

Mark Hughes, founder and director, Justice for All

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Vermont’s mountain bike revolution

Mountain biking has taken off in Vermont, with estimates that there are as many as 50,000 riders in the state. We discuss the explosion in popularity in mountain biking, its implications for recreation and the economy, and what the future holds for riders with two leaders of the sport in Vermont. (July 20, 2016 broadcast)

Tom Stuessy, executive director, Vermont Mountain Bike Association (VMBA) 

Sabra Davison, founder and director, Little Bellas, a mentoring and mountain bike group for girls

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July 13

Have Justice-Will Travel: Wynona Ward, domestic violence crusader

Wynona Ward grew up in poverty on a rural back road in Vermont where family violence was common. She and her husband drove long-haul trucks. She began to realize she could combine her vocation as a trucker with the desperate need for victims of domestic violence in rural communities to have access to legal and other services. In 1998, Ward founded Have Justice-Will Travel (HJWT) with a grant from the Vermont Women’s Fund and a fellowship from Equal Justice Works. The idea was simple: HJWT would provide free legal services, with Ward traveling rural backroads in her 15 year old Dodge pickup truck. HJWT is now an innovative, mobile, multi-service program that assists victims of domestic abuse through the legal process, from the initial interview and relief from abuse order through self-sufficiency and independence. Ward speaks about her personal journey growing up with domestic violence and the work that does today throughout Vermont to end generational cycles of abuse. (July 13, 2016 broadcast)

Wynona I. Ward, founder & director, Have Justice-Will Travel

Listen Now

Steps Against Domestic Violence: Kelly Dougherty

Between 1994 – 2014, half of all Vermont homicides were a result of domestic violence. Steps Against Domestic Violence — formerly known as Women Helping Battered Women — provides services to those affected by domestic violence in Burlington and Chittenden County, Vermont. Established in 1974 as Women’s House of Refuge, StepsVT fielded 4,800 hotline calls in 2015 and provided services including housing, counseling, and education to many more. StepsVT executive director Kelly Dougherty discusses the warning signs of an abuse relationship, the changing face of domestic violence in Vermont, and the four decades of work of her organization.

Kelly Dougherty, executive director, Steps Against Domestic Violence

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July 6

Jay Karpin: Airman in WWII D-Day on liberating Europe, reality of war, and PTSD

Jay Karpin, 92, was a bombardier in the first wave of bombers that attacked Normandy in the famous D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944. The invasion marked the beginning of the liberation of Europe, but came at a staggering price: over 200,000 Allied troops were killed, and an equal number of Germans died. Karpin, who has lived in Grafton, Vermont since 1959, is among the most decorated living veterans. He flew 39 combat missions over Europe and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. This year, he was named a Chevalier, or knight, of the French Legion of Honor, the highest award given to a non-citizen. Karpin did not speak about his WWII experiences for 50 years, until his wife and daughter pressed him for  stories. He said that he now realizes he has suffered from PTSD. Karpin went on to work as an engineer and safety consultant for many Vermont companies, served on the Grafton selectboard for decades, and continues to work several days per week. Karpin talks movingly about his experience during D-Day, the realities of war, his own PTSD, and why he thinks that if today’s politicians want to go to war, “they should carry a rifle.” 

Jay Karpin, WWII veteran, recipient of Distinguished Flying Cross, Chevalier in French Legion of Honor

Listen Now 

June 22 

Capt. Ingrid Jonas: Vt’s Top Woman Cop on racial profiling, bias-free policing & diversity

On July 1, 2016, new bias-free policing policies were enacted for all police in Vermont. This followed charges of racial profiling leveled against multiple Vermont police agencies. Capt. Ingrid Jonas of the Vermont State Police is the highest ranking female police officer in the state. She is the Director of Fair and Impartial Policing and Community Affairs at the VSP, a new position. Jonas is blazing a new path in state’s largest police agency. Until 1977, VSP was an all-male institution, and early efforts at integrating the ranks with women and minorities went badly. Jonas speaks about her own journey from domestic violence activist to police officer, the challenge of diversifying the police and confronting bias, her desire to see more LGBT officers, and how to change the traditionally macho culture of the police. 

Capt. Ingrid Jonas, Director of Fair and Impartial Policing and Community Affairs, Vermont State Police

Listen Now 

June 15

Kim Fountain: The LGBTQ Struggle Continues

In the wake of the massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, 1,000 people marched in Burlington, Vermont — and in numerous other cities — in solidarity with LGBTQ people. Achieving marriage equality was a milestone, but the struggle for LGBTQ rights continues. As the New York Times reports, “Since the marriage ruling, several Republican­-led state legislatures and Republican governors and federal lawmakers have redoubled their fight against legal protections for people on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. So far this year, more than 200 anti-­L.G.B.T. bills have been introduced in 34 states.” Kim Fountain, executive director of the Pride Center of Vermont, a “comprehensive community center dedicated to advancing community and the health and safety of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Vermonters,” speaks about larger effort to achieve safety, dignity and acceptance of LGBTQ people. 

Kim Fountain, executive director, Pride Center of Vermont

Listen Now

Migrant Justice: Human Rights & Food Justice

There are approximately 1,500 migrant workers on Vermont’s farms, especially in the dairy industry. Often working up to 80 hours per week, many migrant workers live in isolation on rural farms and earn less than minimum wage. Migrant Justice is an advocacy organization with a mission “to build the voice, capacity, and power of the farmworker community and engage community partners to organize for economic justice and human rights.” On June 13, 2016, Migrant Justice scored a major victory when the Grand Isle Sheriff’s Department agreed to pay nearly $30,000 to settle a case regarding discriminatory treatment against an immigrant dairy worker, Lorenzo Alcudia, who was turned over to Border Patrol after a traffic stop in which he was a passenger. We talk with farmworkers and activists from Migrant Justice. We also speak with a representative from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a nationally known farmworker’s organization that has won landmark agreements with Taco Bell and other major restaurants.

Will Lambek, Enrique Balcazar, Gilberto Lopez Morales, Migrant Justice
Gerardo Reyes, Coalition of Immokalee Workers

Listen Now 

June 7

Twincraft: New Americans build a business & lives

There is a Vermont connection behind national brands of skin care products such as Estee Lauder, Burt’s Bees, Neutrogena, and Whole Foods. Twincraft Skincare makes soaps. lotions, sunscreen and other products from its manufacturing facilities in Essex and Winooski, Vermont. Twincraft has become a booming business with a special story: the numerous New Americans, many of them refugees who have been relocated to Vermont, who are part of the 200-person workforce. We go on location to company headquarters in Winooski to learn how Twincraft’s commitment to employ a diverse workforce — including senior citizens, non-English speakers, ex-convicts, and others — has translated into success in business, and changed lives

Pete Asch, CEO and owner, Twincraft Skincare
Joel Marquardt, VP Operations
Angela Ibragamova, employee from Azerbaijan
Kaji Rai, employee, refugee from Bhutan

[Part 1 features Asch & Marquardt; Part 2 includes all 4 interviewees]

Listen Now 

June 1 

Paul Bruhn: Preserving Vermont and Fighting Sprawl

Paul Bruhn went from becoming a UVM dropout, to managing Sen. Patrick Leahy’s first campaign, to the job he holds now as the executive director of Preservation Trust of Vermont, an organization known nationwide. He has served as director since the nonprofit’s inception in 1980. Under his leadership the Preservation Trust has worked with Vermont communities to preserve nearly 2,000 structures and properties, from churches, barns, and general stores to hotels, town theaters and county courthouses. These formidable efforts have saved and solidified the essential character of Vermont and are revitalizing Vermont villages and downtowns, a critical aspect of the smart-growth framework for the state’s future.

This year Bruhn finally received his degree from UVM — an honorary degree, which notes: “Bruhn has used his talents as an advocate and adviser to preserve the most unique and defining aspects of Vermont and to advocate for a future based on smart land-use development and vibrant community centers. It would be difficult to find a nook or cranny, village or gore in Vermont that has not felt the influence of Bruhn’s vision.”

Bruhn discusses how he engineered Sen. Leahy’s victorious first statewide campaign, to preservation, sprawl, and what he is proudest of. 

Paul Bruhn, executive director, Preservation Trust of Vermont

Listen Now 

May 25

Andrew Solomon: Reporting from the Brink of Change – 7 Continents, 25 Years

Andrew Solomon, Ph.D., is a writer and lecturer on politics, culture and psychology, a Professor of Clinical Psychology at Columbia University Medical Center, and President of PEN American Center.

Solomon’s 2012 book, the best-selling Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity (Scribner, 2012), tells the stories of families raising exceptional children who not only learn to deal with their challenges, but also find profound meaning in doing so. Far from the Tree has received the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction; the J. Anthony Lukas Award and numerous other awards.

Solomon’s latest book is Far and Away: Reporting from the Brink of Change – 7 Continents, 25 Years,  which collects his writings about places undergoing seismic shifts — political, cultural, and spiritual. From the barricades in Moscow in 1991 to the rubble of Afghanistan in 2002 to the cautious optimism of Myanmar in 2014, Andrew Solomon provides a unique view into some of the most crucial social transformations of the past quarter-century. (May 25, 2016 broadcast)

Andrew Solomon, author

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May 11 

VBSR Spring Conference 2016

Sonia Kowal is the president of Zevin Asset Management, where she incorporates sustainability issues into investment decision making. Kowal spoke about about impact investing in her keynote talk .

Strategies to Improve Workplace Culture & Include ALL Employees — Dawn Ellis, President of Dawn M. Ellis and Associates, and Vermont Human Rights Commission 

Taming the Monster in the Machine: Engaging Employees Around Cyber Security — Kerin Stackpole, Paul Frank + Collins

How to Train Anybody to Do Anything —  Andy Robinson, Trainer, Consultant, Author

[May 11, 2016 broadcast — No audio]

May 4 

Working more, getting less: Vermont’s working women struggle to get ahead

A new report, “Where Women Work and Why It Matters,” developed by Change the Story VT paints a disturbing picture of the plight of working women in Vermont. 43% of VT women who work full-time do not make enough to cover basic living expenses. Women who work full-time are disproportionately employed in low-wage jobs – across every age group, at every level of education. And Vermont women are especially vulnerable in their senior years, when their median annual income from Social Security ($10,000) is half that of men ($20,000). The report was backed by the Vermont Women’s Fund, Vermont Commission on Women and Vermont Works for Women. We discuss the state of working women in Vermont and potential solutions. 

Tiffany Bluemle, director, Change the Story VT
Marybeth Redmond, director of development & communications, Vermont Works for Women

Listen Now 

April 27

David Bronner: Fighting soap maker

David Bronner is Cosmic Engagement Officer (CEO) of Dr. Bronner’s, the top-selling brand of natural soaps in North America and producer of other organic body care and food products. The iconic soap brand is noted for its famous label that espouses a philosophy of world peace it calls ALL ONE.

David Bronner is a grandson of company founder, Emanuel Bronner, and a fifth-generation soap maker. Under David and his brother Michael’s leadership, the brand has grown from $4 million in 1998 to just under $100 million in annual revenue in 2015.

David has been a high profile activist on hemp legalization, organics, drug policy reform, GMO labeling, and livable wage. Dr. Bronner’s soap currently features a label advocating “Fair Pay for All People.” Bronner has been arrested in front of the White House for protesting about restrictive hemp laws.

David Bronner talks about his grandfather’s legacy, his company, and his activism. 

Listen Now

April 20

Earth Day 46: Can businesses be environmentalists?

On April 22,1970, 20 million Americans took to the streets across the country to demonstrate for a sustainable environment. “By the end of that year, the first Earth Day had led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts.” []

On Earth Day 2016, activists and sustainable businesses came to the Vermont State House for a People’s Lobby Day. We speak with participants from two leading Vermont businesses about the role of businesses in advancing environmental goals and the challenges that their own companies face in trying to meet them. [April 20, 2016 broadcast)

Ashley Orgain, Manager of Mission Advocacy, Seventh Generation
Chris Miller, Manager of Social Mission & Activism, Ben & Jerry’s
Shay DiCocco, brand manager, Seventh Generation

In the second half of the show, we discuss the carbon tax and other initiatives to address environmental and climate change goals:

Daniel Barlow, Public Policy Manager, Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility
Johanna Miller, Energy Program Director, Vermont Natural Resources Council

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April 6 

Where to Locate Renewable Power

Should communities have more say in where renewable power is located? A group of farmers wrote to the Vermont Legislature this week to defend their ability to locate renewable power on their farms. We talk with a farmer and a solar power provider about some of the challenges in siting renewable power. (April 6, 2016 broadcast)

James Moore, co-founder, Suncommon
Meg Armstrong, sixth generation Essex Junction farm family

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How the FIght for $15 Caught Fire 

When fast food workers walked off their jobs and launched the Fight for $15 in late 2012 in New York City, few people would have predicted that a few years later, the $15 minimum wage would become law. We discuss how the fight for $15 caught fire to become law in California and New York, and beyond. (April 6, 2016 broadcast)

Yannet Lathrop, Researcher and Policy Analyst, National Employment Law Project

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Champion Members!

Sponsor: All Earth Renewables Sponsor: Ben and Jerrys Sponsor: Dinse/Knapp/McAndrews Sponsor: Gardeners Supply Sponsor: Green Mountain Power Sponsor: Keurig Green Mountain Sponsor: Marketing Partners Sponsor: New Chapter Sponsor: NRG Systems Sponsor: Seventh Generation Sponsor: SunCommon Sponsor: Villanti & Sons, Printers, Inc. Sponsor: Vermont State Employees Credit Union