Here comes the sun
On Saturday, April 12, the BDN carried this headline, “LePage vetoes solar energy bill.” No one was surprised. Only the timing was newsworthy, because the very next day we had the latest warning from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: To avoid dangerous interference with the climate system, we need to move away from business as usual.
What is to be done? Some remedies fall under the rubric of mitigation, such as regulating greenhouse gas emissions and taxing carbon.
Or we can “adapt,” such as developing a new fishery when all the lobsters have moved to Canada, or eating less meat. Neither a carbon tax nor eating more veggies strikes me as draconian, but most of us stick to basic habits, especially when the results of doing nothing are incremental.
Nearly 40 years ago, when climate change was novel, I had a letter published in the Wall Street Journal in which I paraphrased work by my colleague, Dr. Ronald Ridker. To wit, if the threat is rising levels of sea water, a common remedy is to build a dike or jack up a building. Indeed, one sees precisely this approach being provoked by Superstorm Sandy.
But this “solution” almost certainly is temporary at best and potentially catastrophic. When you build a dike or raise a building to accommodate a 2-foot rise in sea level, what happens when still another 100-year storm slams ashore after a 3-foot increase?
Mitigation and adaptation are fine in the short term, but in the long, we are going to have to change our ways of life. You, too, governor.
Dignity and rights
Health care is a human right, and every person in the state of Maine deserves full coverage that is humane, equitable and meets all of their needs. This is possible through a publicly funded, universal system.
The debate over MaineCare expansion shows that politicians are not willing to take even the most modest steps toward more insurance, let alone real care for everyone.
Furthermore, the health care debate in Maine and nationally has brought to the surface nasty anti-poor and racist claims, including the charge that people have low incomes because of moral failings and “should just get jobs.”
This is especially cruel in a state where there isn’t enough work to go around, let alone full-time work that pays a living wage. When you consider the 41,600 involuntary part-time workers who want more work but simply can’t find it, our state’s comprehensive unemployment is 13.7 percent. This is not a failure of individuals. It’s a failure of the economic system.
The blame-the-poor argument reveals something even more sinister — the implicit claim that people with low incomes should be denied care and, ultimately, the right to well-being and life.
Those of us organizing for universal health care with the Southern Maine Workers’ Center think it is unconscionable that people who are vulnerable, marginalized and dispossessed would be left to die.
Change is not going to come from Maine’s halls of state power. It’s going to take a movement of workers, unemployed people and those directly impacted to shift the debate — toward dignity and human rights.
Year after year, politicians talk, but little gets done. Rural communities are still without high-speed Internet service sufficient to process multimedia or perform a business activity. Watching a video, shopping or taking a class online is a routine activity in much of this country, but not here. Only Montana is worse than Maine when it comes to Internet service.
Maine isn’t in the slow lane on the information highway. It’s stalled on the shoulder. Broadband is key to improving education, business, communication, public service and health care. The market has failed to meet user needs because there is no profit in rural areas. The state government has failed citizens because it doesn’t know what to do.
The Three-Ring Binder project, a $25 million high-capacity fiber-optic cable nailed to power poles along Maine highways, has been in place for two years. Some compare it to a freeway with no offramps. As it looks now, less populated areas will wait a long time to get service. Today, there are businesses in Maine that can’t process a credit transaction and make a phone call at the same time.
For those in rural Maine, making high-speed Internet a reality may become a do-it-yourself project. With current technologies, some encouragement and authorized access, individual towns and nonprofit cooperatives could build their own network. But this type of approach is why Maine continues to struggle — redundant efforts, insufficient funding and failure of leadership.
Our gubernatorial candidates must articulate this issue, get elected and get us connected.
William N. Welsh