Group envisions sustainable MDI



Venu Rao, an adjunct professor at Southern New Hampshire University, has helped lead municipal energy independence projects in his small town of Hollis, N.H.. Rao will be the keynote speaker at the “A Climate to Thrive” launch event Sunday, Jan. 24, at the Neighborhood House in Northeast Harbor. PHOTO COURTESY OF A CLIMATE TO THRIVE

Venu Rao, an adjunct professor at Southern New Hampshire University, has helped lead municipal energy independence projects in his small town of Hollis, N.H.. Rao will be the keynote speaker at the “A Climate to Thrive” launch event Sunday, Jan. 24, at the Neighborhood House in Northeast Harbor.
PHOTO COURTESY OF A CLIMATE TO THRIVE

MOUNT DESERT — A Climate to Thrive, a group of Mount Desert Island residents concerned about the environmental and economic sustainability of the island’s communities, are scheduled to present their work on Sunday, Jan. 24, 3-6 p.m. at the Neighborhood House in Northeast Harbor.

“We are committed to efforts that will build MDI’s local economy, benefitting all MDI residents, while also making this island a leader in practices and policies that reduce our carbon footprint,” spokesperson Johanna Blackman said. “We aim to create jobs, preserve the beauty of this island and be a resource and leader for communities around the world.”

A large group started meeting in the summer, composed of anybody interested in local solutions or actions to promote sustainability.

“A lot of the solutions can actually create jobs and bring a community together and contribute to a sense of economic thriving,” she said. “We’re hoping as diverse a group as possible gets involved to ensure it really benefits everybody. People have different ideas about how to move forward and what would be most beneficial.”

The launch event Jan. 24 will include a keynote speech by Venu Rao, who has helped lead municipal energy independence efforts in the town of Hollis, N.H.

Breakout group topics include solar power with Gary Friedmann and representatives from ReVision Energy and Emera Maine; waste management with Lisa Bjerke; building weatherization with Meredith Randolph and Clayton Cole of Solartechnic; food systems with farmers Maggie O’Neal, Rose Avila and Glenon Friedmann; policy with Blackman, David Hales and Rep. Brian Hubbell; transportation with Dennis Kiley, John Kelly, Anna Demeo and Island Explorer system designer Tom Crikelair; and other energy sources with John Craigo.

The event will conclude with food, supplied by August Moon, Sassafras Catering and Food for All, and live music.

The group has been inspired by the example of Samso, an island community in Denmark that gets all of its electricity from wind power and biomass. “There are also other stories from the states,” said Kiley, Blackman’s husband and a member of the Planning Board in Mount Desert.

For Blackman and Kiley, this work is very personal, connected to their decision to raise a family here on MDI.

Blackman has worked at several area nonprofits and is currently part of the team at the Bar Harbor Community Farm. She’s interested in local businesses in small, rural communities and what they need to thrive. “I want our child to grow up in a community that’s thriving economically,” she said.

Kiley is a yoga teacher and counselor, and is excited to apply his passion for eco-psychology to community planning and development work.

“Humans do well when they adopt and incorporate elements of the natural world into their lives,” he said. He sees the Climate to Thrive effort as right in line with MDI’s history of taking “large bold progressive steps,” like the founding of Acadia National Park, which at first was controversial.

“There was no clear link about how it would support the local community. But now, 100 years later, we have all these environmental, economic and community benefits.”

He said the island’s municipalities can share resources, even as their governing bodies pursue different projects and priorities. For example, Mount Desert invested in a feasibility study of converting streetlights to low energy LEDs.

“We discovered it was going to pay for itself,” he said. “Now that we’ve done the study, the data is applicable for all the other towns too. We have so much in common.”

“We hope everyone will join us, as it will take all of us and our diverse experiences and expertise to move this project forward,” Blackman said.

Visit aclimatetothrive.wordpress.com or A Climate to Thrive on Facebook.

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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