One of the most lasting intangible results from the impact of counterculture in the 1970s was a legacy of passionate civic engagement on a variety of issues.
The 1960s and 1970s were famous decades for activism, as the civil rights movement pioneered effective organizing and protest to advance social and political reform. Sit-ins, marches, boycotts, and other tactics were developed, improved upon, and ultimately led to lasting national change. The lessons learned from that tumultuous decade informed future activism in women's rights, environmental preservation, and anti-war movements.
Before they came to Vermont, many of those involved in the counterculture had training and experience in grassroots organizing and nonviolent protest. Colleges and universities went on strike and, instead of regular classes, held "teach-ins" in which students could learn how to register voters, how to passively resist arrest, how to register as a conscientious objector, and how to bring together like-minded people to effect change.
In Vermont, several of the colleges that went on strike after the Kent State shootings also held these classes, and students who had their first taste of resistance later joined with others off-campus to continue organizing. They often connected with members of the broader Vermont community, whether on communes or in town centers, to continue teaching, learning, and organizing. Thus, when the first acute wave of protests passed, the groundwork was laid for stronger and swifter reactions to subsequent problems.
The anti-nuclear movement in particular was a beneficiary of these new networks. Vermonters could meet up with other local advocates, learn about the broader strategy for any given event, and then share a car or bus ride down to another location to stage a protest. Ongoing waves of occupation and protest at the Seabrook nuclear power plant in New Hampshire were a powerful unifying force. This pattern has been duplicated many times in the years since - the same basic framework now supports the climate change movement in Vermont.
Many of the people who had been involved in these early protests had valuable skills that they then turned to other endeavors, channeling their energy into public health projects like women's health clinics and programs to combat domestic violence; food & farming projects like organizing buyers' groups and food co-ops; and more. It's no coincidence that many of those who came to Vermont and gained this experience went on to become elected to local and statewide office to continue effecting social justice policy.
When we first set out to study the 1970s in Vermont, it was this lasting legacy that drew us to the decade, and it was this fusion of passionate and involved people with pragmatic training and networking that laid the ground for statewide change.