" “When we start to act hope is everywhere. So instead of looking for hope — look for action. Then the hope will come.” — Greta Thunberg, 16-year-old climate activist "
This could be an exciting moment for Rockland! On Monday, May 20, at 5:30 p.m. at Rockland City Hall, the city’s Energy Advisory Committee will present its proposed Climate Action Plan, along with a workshop hosted by the City Council. We are members of the committee, but we write this column as individuals.

For over a year, the committee has been working to develop policy recommendations for Rockland around energy and climate change. To see the full proposal, go to tinyurl.com/rockland-climate. Among other things, the Action Plan recommends that Rockland set a goal of our entire community becoming carbon-neutral by 2045. It also recommends that by 2025, all municipal electricity be 100-percent renewable. These are ambitious goals and would establish Rockland as a leader on energy efficiency and independence, resilience and climate change intervention. Are these radical, unachievable goals? No. As of March 2019, over 110 municipalities throughout the United States have adopted goals to transition to 100-percent clean, renewable energy by no later than 2050. But as far as we know, Rockland’s goals would be the most ambitious of any municipality in the state. The organization A Climate to Thrive on Mount Desert Island has set a goal of 100-percent energy independence by 2030 for the entire island. More locally, Belfast, Camden and Lincolnville all have impressive solar arrays. We would love to see Rockland become a leader in this.

It is easy to feel despair over the global climate news: accelerating heat, bigger storms, wildfires, mass death of fish and insects, etc. Here in the midcoast, we are experiencing more extreme cold days in winter, more hot days in summer, one of the highest ocean temperature rises in the world, rising seas, tick-borne diseases, browntail moth infestations, more major precipitation events, as well as more droughts than a hundred years ago. While disputed, The Gulf of Maine Research Institute working with NOAA estimates that by 2050, the lobster population may drop up to 62 percent from its current level. Also by 2050, according to the University of Maine’s report on “Maine’s Climate Future,” we will get 40 percent less snow than we currently receive, which is already less than a few decades ago. At a recent talk at Merryspring Nature Center, “Adapting Maine Farms for Climate Change,” researcher Sonja Birthisel said that by 2100, the coast of Maine may become a Zone 7 gardening climate.

Eleven years. In 2018, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a major report, which said we had only 12 (now 11) years to make urgent and unprecedented changes to reach the target of keeping global temperature rise between 1.5°C and 2°C, to hopefully avoid some of the worst effects of climate change. And earlier this month, the UN Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services released a report warning that around a million species of plants and animals now face extinction. Climate change is not the only cause of this likely mass extinction, but the report notes that it is “a direct driver that is increasingly exacerbating the impact of other drivers on nature and human well-being.”

This is enormous information to take in. On the plus side, after eight years of stagnation, there’s finally some progress at the state level and a flurry of environmental bills (though we think the governor’s energy goals aren’t nearly ambitious enough, and her support for the CMP transmission line is misguided). If we join together to work on this problem, we could stem some of the worst outcomes for the planet. It also makes good economic sense to go renewable — we maintain more independence, and many new jobs will be created.

We support the committee’s recommendation that Rockland hire a staff sustainability coordinator to implement efficiency, renewable energy generation, and other sustainability projects, since the scope and responsibility of such projects exceeds the capacity or authority of a volunteer municipal committee. The committee has assembled evidence that similar positions elsewhere have paid for themselves through efficiency savings and grants. We know that the city is perpetually under financial strain, but we think we can get the potholes on Main Street fixed, while taking steps to try to make sure Main Street isn’t underwater in a few decades! The fact is that if we are truly serious about preparing for our future, we will budget the small amount it will take to hire someone in this position.

Come help make Rockland a leader in building a sustainable future for Maine! Consider reading poems, quotes, or other words expressing your passion about these issues. Even if you don’t want to speak, you can be a supportive member of the audience. Dissent, critique and other ideas are welcome as well. If you need transportation or childcare to attend, please contact limecitylove@protonmail.com.