PHOTO COURTESY OF JOHANNAH BLACKMAN

Earth Day celebrations to combine action, reflection



BAR HARBOR — The return of single-use shopping bags to grocery stores notwithstanding, the current pandemic emergency is not stopping the local movement to combat another global emergency, that of human-caused climate change. 

There are reports of a drop in air pollution as much of the economy has paused to slow the spread of the coronavirus. But that doesn’t mean the climate movement isn’t important right now, activists say. 

“We’re falling into this sense of ignorance; we like to ignore one crisis in favor of the other,” said Sirohi Kumar, a Mount Desert Island High School sophomore and youth representative on the Bar Harbor Task Force on the Climate Emergency. 

Climate change is “a deep-rooted issue in our society and our economy, and it’s not going away because we slow down for a couple of months,” she said. 

“In this culture of consumption, where things happen instantaneously, we’re not used to slow-acting poison, and that’s what the climate crisis is.

“People confuse slow with nonexistent, and that’s just not true,” she continued. “People think that because you can’t see the effects of the climate crisis every day that it’s not important. But by the time (we do) see the effects every day, the damage will be irreversible. We have a 10-year window to make as much change as possible.” 

The intergenerational groups of activists here continue to work on issues and projects at the local, state, national and international levels. 

Maine Youth Climate Strikes is planning three days of webinars, a “virtual mobilization,” April 22-24. Some sessions are intended to be for youth only; others are open to all. 

Some of the organizing work was happening over video conference anyway, and teen activists have been able to help older allies get comfortable with those tools, said Ania Wright, a College of the Atlantic student and member of the Maine Climate Council. 

The Natural Resources Council of Maine is also presenting webinars that week, including a “Stories of Success” event April 22 for which Wright is one of the presenters. 

But the groups are also using this time, when many folks are staying home, for some reflection. 

A Climate to Thrive (ACTT) is celebrating Earth Day this month with a project called “Cultivating Wonder,” in which Mount Desert Island residents are invited to spend time outdoorsreflect on that experience in creative work, be it visual art, writing, music or something else; and submit their creations to be shared online. 

“This time is full of death and loss and there’s nothing quite like that to make us reflect on why we love and why we care about life,” said Johannah Blackmann, co-chair of the ACTT Board of Directors. 

“There are so many overlaps of climate change and what is happening with the pandemic,” she said. “The frailties of human society that are being exposed by the pandemic,” such as health disparities along lines of economics and race, are exactly those that need to be addressed within climate change.” 

But also, the collective strengths on display in the health crisis “are those that have already been rising to address climate change,” she said. So it seemed like a good time to take an opportunity to “reflect on the ‘why’ of this work,” she said. 

Lawson Wulson, the organization’s executive director, is curating the creative works as they’re submitted. A few are already posted at aclimatetothrive.org. 

In a moment when many people are feeling more anxious than normal, he said, “it feels good to be thinking about celebrating our planet. It changes your posture, the way you breathe.” 

Liz Graves

Liz Graves

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander reporter and editor Liz Graves grew up in California and came to Maine as a schooner sailor.

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