Maine is coming off its driest summer, hottest June, and highest daily average ocean temperatures in history. “These are signs that climate change is here, and we’ve got to act now so that it doesn’t get worse,” says Kate Dempsey, state director of The Nature Conservancy. Dempsey is optimistic in light of the work being done around the state to reduce harmful emissions, adapt to rising seas and temperatures, and help the next generation build a more sustainable future. “This problem is too complex for any one person or group to tackle,” she says. “We’re lucky to have so many groups in Maine collaborating to make meaningful change.” Here, Dempsey highlights some of the initiatives supported by TNC Maine that are giving her reason for hope.
Cutting back the carbon.
Last September, Mount Desert Island High School rolled out the state’s first electric school bus with the help of a regional nonprofit called A Climate to Thrive. We really want to help show that Maine can continue to be a leader in acting on climate change. TNC Maine is funding an evaluation of the project so that more schools and potential supporters can see the value of an initiative like this. The transportation sector generates more than 50 percent of Maine’s carbon emissions — just think of the potential if every school switched to electric buses.
Letting rivers run free.
In Aroostook County, the Houlton Band of Maliseets has repaired a road stream crossing over Moose Brook, restoring miles of stream habitat for brook trout and other native fish. TNC Maine supported the project financially and helped build the relationship with state and federal agencies to move it forward. As climate change threatens the survival of sea-run fish like the Atlantic salmon, projects like these are especially important because they reconnect waterways for fish and help keep water temperatures cool enough for them to spawn.
Empowering the next generation.
Around the world, teens and young adults are leading climate action and demanding environmental responsibility. We want to increase the number of young people from Maine who are getting involved and ensure that the movement represents the diversity of the community. To support this, TNC Maine has partnered with the Maine Environmental Education Association (MEEA) to create two full-time residencies that give youth from underrepresented backgrounds an opportunity to gain professional experience in the field with MEEA and TNC. It’s been thrilling to get to know these young people who are leading the call for change. I can’t help but wonder if the next Rachel Carson is among them.