Venu Rao of Hollis, N.H., speaks to a packed house Sunday at the Neighborhood House in Northeast Harbor. More than 200 people attended the launch event for A Climate to Thrive, an effort to make Mount Desert Island energy independent. PHOTO COURTESY OF RICHARD SASSAMAN

Energy future draws crowd

MOUNT DESERT — A kickoff event Sunday for A Climate to Thrive, an effort to make Mount Desert Island energy independent, drew a crowd of more than 200 interested folks to the Neighborhood House in Northeast Harbor. All four MDI municipalities were represented. Other people came from around the state and region to learn about efforts here and share their own experiences.

“I see this effort as part of the Maine tradition of self-sufficiency, Yankee ingenuity and New England frugality,” organizer and Bar Harbor Town Council Vice Chairman Gary Friedmann said in opening remarks. “We’re hoping to move forward in a way that protects the things we cherish about our island, like clean air and water and vibrant fisheries.”

Keynote speaker Vanu Rao described efforts in his town of Hollis, N.H., to move municipal buildings off of fossil fuels and make them more energy efficient.

Motivating the community is essential to getting municipal projects off the ground, Rao said. “You can’t act unilaterally in social projects,” he said, “and you have to fine-tune your message.” In Hollis, they touted that efforts would reduce the local tax burden and keep dollars spent on energy in the region (going to wood pellet producers, for example, within New Hampshire).

The launch event included breakout groups discussing solar and other alternative energy sources, building energy efficiency, transportation, food, waste and public policy. Those groups hope to continue to work together.

“Most groups will be in touch via email and continue to meet to initiate steps forward,” organizer Johanna Blackman said.

Conversations continued over dinner supplied by the Brown Family Farm, Food for All, August Moon and Sassafras Catering. Groove ME (Phil Kell, Michael Anderson and Mike Bennett) provided live music.

“We were delighted with the turnout. It is our intention to continue the momentum forward with dedication, and we hope many will be involved,” Blackman said. The group’s webpage and Facebook pages will be updated with notes and minutes, and next steps and future events will be announced there. Email [email protected].

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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