Community forum: Global worry, local hope

By Glenon Friedmann

In January, I like to hibernate. Give me food, a warm fire and a place to take a nap. My excuse is that I am a farmer and am due for a rest after a long season in the field. My work isn’t any harder than the rest of the community members who house, entertain and feed all the visitors who come across the bridge every summer. I hope everyone is taking a break.

If someone wants my attention during naptime, they have to try pretty hard to get it. Let the newspaper sit, unread, on the dining room table. Everything I want to know about the world I can learn by taking a peek out the window. Brrr! It is cold outside!

I’ve done my share of reading bad news: horrors about climate change and record-breaking environmental and economic disasters looming ahead. These dismal thoughts are good cause to burrow even deeper under my afghan. Sometime before ‘rest on the couch’ becomes ‘paralysis on the couch,’ the voice of my long-lost mother prods me to sit upright, “Glenon, there is work to be done!”

Ultimately, what inspires me to move is not the work that needs to be done but the opportunity to work together. Sitting on the couch alone, on a cold January day, reading bad news, is a recipe for despair. Fortunately, the antidote is close at hand.

There is a rising tide of activism on Mount Desert Island. Neighbors making phone calls, sending emails, attending community potlucks and kind strangers lending a hand have shaken off their hibernation and are designing a new, more sustainable path forward.

This Friday, a crowd of people dedicated to buying locally produced food at the first weekly MDI FarmDrop stood in a line snaking out the door at Floret in Somesville. A group of volunteers recently accepted a grant to install electric car charging stations in this region. Seventy-seven households decided to install solar panels last year, doubling the capacity for solar power generation on MDI. A group of neighbors meeting monthly over potluck dinners are planning to double solar use on MDI every year for the next five years. Landowners are stepping forward with possible solar farm sites. A group of Pemetic middle school students want to stop the use of plastic bags polluting our environment and are starting to make noise.

Whereas the gloomy climate forecasts in national news feed any predilections for overwhelming apathy, local initiatives designed by neighbors getting together offer a path of hope.

A Climate to Thrive (ACTT), the local, grass-roots movement to claim MDI’s future in the face of climate change, is holding a summit next weekend to celebrate progress made and launch new projects moving MDI toward energy independence in the next decade.

People engaging their hearts and minds to solve problems will be at this summit, making the bold assertion, “What we do does matter.”

After a good winter’s nap, it is helpful to open my eyes and have that explained to me again by a friendly neighbor who has a few ideas about how to get started. We are not alone, and together, step by step, we can figure this out. The future really is in our hands. I look forward to seeing everyone at the summit, after your nap.

Glenon Friedmann co-owns Bar Harbor Community Farm.

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