By Louise Chaplin
We are living in an era of crises. The global pandemic of COVID-19. An unprecedented mobilization for civil rights. A looming economic recession.
Graduating as an 18–year old from our isolated island, the last three months have been by far the most confusing, strange and downright terrifying of my entire life. And I’m sure that many, many people with significantly more life experience than me would say the same. I have borne witness to events that will shape the future of this world, and have altered how I view and interact with it forever.
I watched as President Trump denied the truth of COVID-19 to the people he swore to protect, watched as graphs of deaths rose higher and higher until they reached the hundreds of thousands. Locally, I watched a tight-knit community who didn’t have the means to handle a health crisis of this scale or the preparations to deal with the economic fallout in its aftermath. I watched with millions in horror as a Black man was mercilessly murdered by the very people sworn to serve and protect him. I watched as a nation in mourning for George Floyd and the thousands before him, named and unnamed, became more and more divided. The sense of doom settling over the United States and the world just seems to grow stronger and stronger.
Although I have learned and experienced so many new things in recent months, this hopeless feeling is not new to me. For many years now, I have been excruciatingly aware of the other pandemic, the other civil rights crisis, the other economic depressor facing the human race: the climate crisis.
If the past few months have taught you anything it should be that MDI is not the safe secluded bubble many believe it is. We are just as susceptible to racism, violence, sickness and recession as the rest of the world. So, even if you’re unfamiliar with the science it should come as no surprise that we are just as susceptible to climate change. Rising seas, increased temperatures, more extreme weather events, a lack of snow in the winter, increased tick-borne illnesses and lobsters moving farther north to seek colder waters are just a few of the many side-effects of this other crisis.
We are already seeing some of its impacts, but it is important – no, unbelievably vital – to our survival to act right now. We have the power to lessen or even reverse some effects of climate change, and the first step is for the town of Mount Desert to pass a climate emergency declaration.
This declaration would set into motion the creation of a plan to make the town exponentially more sustainable and environmentally responsible over the next 10 years. You have the power to make this change, and there are so many people relying on you to do it. I am relying on you as a young person who has to live with the impacts of decisions made by those who came before me. Minorities are relying on you, as this fight goes hand in hand with the fight against racism.
BIPOC are specifically and disproportionately affected by the climate crisis, which is a concept known as environmental racism. For example, Black people have a 54 percent higher health burden from air pollution compared to the rest of the population, according to the EPA. Water systems that violate safety regulations consistently are 40 percent more likely in locations with high percentages of BIPOC. If you still don’t believe me, research the Flint water crisis, cancer alley, the Dakota oil access pipeline, or many more examples right here in the U.S. The fight against climate change is also a fight against racism, and I cannot emphasize enough that you have the power to make a difference by helping to pass a climate emergency declaration in the town of Mount Desert.
Go to tinyurl.com/MD-Letter to sign a letter in support of the climate emergency declaration, and take the first step towards a sustainable future.
Louise Chaplin, a resident of Northeast Harbor, is a recent graduate from MDIHS. She will be attending the University of Maine to study environmental science in the fall.