Making MDI an inspiration

By Dennis Kiley and Johannah Blackman

The choice to have a child is always a big one, whether treated so or not. It is a life-changing decision. Today, with frequent examples of suffering, violence, injustice, hardship and climate change all around us, the choice to bring a baby into the world can seem questionable and dubious.

What future will that child face? To what degree will they grow up in a world where hatred and fear rule, where wars are fought over scarce natural resources, where a changing climate leads to unpredictability and instability, and where it is difficult to make a living in rural communities?

These are very real possibilities. But there also is the chance that our child will grow up with strong communities, local economies, safe neighborhoods, and proactive and sustainable approaches to a changing world.

We spent the past few years caught up in questions like these as we considered starting a family. What did we decide? Well, we are excitedly expecting our first child in early May.

We reached our decision despite not knowing how successfully human society will come together to deal with our changing environments. We reached our decision in part because we hope our offspring can be part of the desperately needed solutions. That hope is bolstered by the many examples of positive change we see around us.

Whether it’s pioneering new technologies, recognition of social inequalities, economic initiatives to uplift everyone or the Paris Climate Accord, there are reasons for hope everywhere.

Perhaps even more so, that hope is bolstered by powerful local efforts around the world to create strong, resilient and self-sufficient communities.

A prime example of this is the Danish island, Samsø, and the sweeping economic, social and environmental benefits that energy independence provides their community. We learn of these initiatives and feel motivated to make our beloved Mount Desert Island, the place we have chosen to make our child’s home, a similar model and inspiration for others.

As we face the New Year, we are setting intentions for the type of parents we want to be, driven by the type of world we want to give our child. We easily can feel helpless to make the world a significantly better place for that new being; the tasks at hand, particularly around issues like climate change, often seem overwhelming.

That is why we are so excited to help launch “A Climate to Thrive,” an island-wide project with the goal of moving MDI toward energy independence by 2030. While at first glance this might seem purely an environmental effort, we see a comprehensive initiative that will facilitate social, economic and communal thriving.

We are committed to making MDI not only a vibrant year-round place to live for many but also an example for other communities and parents to look to for hope and optimism.

“A Climate to Thrive” will officially launch on Sunday, Jan. 24, at 3 p.m. at the Neighborhood House in Northeast Harbor. This exciting event will begin with a keynote speech by Venu Raom, followed by breakout groups on topics like heating and energy, transportation and alternative energy led by experts in each area. Each breakout group will work together to identify possible actions for our island and next steps.

The event will end with food, catered by August Moon, Sassafras and Food for All, and live music. It will take all of us, with our diverse backgrounds and talents, to make this effort a success, so we hope you will join us. More information is available at or by searching for “A Climate to Thrive” on Facebook.

We don’t have to wait for our children to be a part of the solution. We can start that work now. We can lead by example. Mount Desert Island can lead by example. We can come together to show the impact local efforts do make. And as our new little one fills our lives with love and wonder this coming New Year, we can provide that new life with hope for a thriving future.

Dennis Kiley and Johannah Blackman reside in Bar Harbor.

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