BAR HARBOR — Residents from all of the Mount Desert Island towns packed into the bleachers in the high school gym Sunday for the summer meeting of A Climate to Thrive (ACTT), a community group with the goal of making MDI energy independent by 2030.
Speakers including Sen. Angus King highlighted local challenges from climate change, including changes in lobster habitat and ocean acidification, but also outlined opportunities for action.
King is famous in some circles for his “hockey stick” graph. It shows changes in the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide for the last several thousand years.
There’s a steep rise beginning in 1860, around the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. For many years, King kept the image on his smartphone to show people he met.
Now, he has business card-sized versions of the graph to give people.
“I went to Staples last night,” he told the gathering on Sunday. “I made 300 cards so everyone can take one.”
“This is a report card,” King told the group, holding a poster of the hockey stick graph. “Something is happening, and it’s going to continue. We don’t own the planet. We have it on loan. I said that on the Senate floor, and they laughed at me. But now they’re all repeating it.
“Here in Maine, we have what I call the rototiller rule,” he continued. “If you borrow your neighbor’s tool, you bring it back in at least as good a condition as you found it, and with a full tank of gas.”
Members of the Barn Arts Collective warmed up the crowd, leading a sing-along of the title song from their climate change-inspired musical, “We Run the Ship.”
ACTT advisory board Chair Gary Friedmann said he’s been heartened by what the group has accomplished in its working groups on alternative energy, building efficiency, food, transportation, waste and public policy. Each of those groups, and other related organizations, shared information in the school’s cafeteria following the speeches.
“Significant social change has always started at the local level,” he said. “This year, when we’re celebrating Acadia National Park’s centennial, we know it’s not enough to honor past accomplishments. We’re committing our generation to similar lofty, inspirational goals.”
“In 20 years of working with community environmental groups,” said Julia Dundorf, executive director of the New England Grassroots Environmental Fund, “this effort is one of the most exciting I’ve seen.”
National Resources Council of Maine head Lisa Pohlman congratulated attendees for “getting in the game.” Her organization has been working on state policies to support solar energy, she said. “Our comprehensive solar bill failed this year by just a few votes, but we will be back.”