May 28, 2018
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Belfast author to keynote Earth Day festival in Orono

By Roxanne Moore Saucier, BDN Columnist

ORONO — Celebrating hope and our connections to each other are more important than ever with so many struggling to survive in these hard times, say organizers of the 17th Help Organize Peace Earthwide Festival.

Entertainment, information and interaction will be on the menu during the HOPE Festival, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, April 30, at the award-winning “green” University of Maine Student Fitness and Recreation Center in Orono.

The HOPE Festival celebrates Earth Day — a week earlier this year — and people’s connections to each other. The keynote speaker this year will be Jim Merkel of Belfast, author of “Radical Simplicity”. As the price of gasoline continues to rise and there is more extreme weather due to climate change, Merkel will offer a toolbox to help reduce one’s global footprint.

Originally a military engineer trained in foreign military sales, Merkel was prompted by the Exxon Valdez disaster and the invasion of Iraq to devote his life to sustainability and world peace. Merkel founded the Global Living Project and initiated the GLP Summer Institute, where teams of researchers attempted to live on an equitable portion of the biosphere.

Merkel also founded the Alternative Transportation Task Force in San Luis Obispo, Calif., which helped create an interconnected bike lane system throughout the city and county. He was elected to the board of the Environmental Center of San Luis Obispo County and to three terms on the Sierra Club’s executive committee. As a lobbyist in Washington, D.C., he has worked to promote wilderness legislation, peace and Native American rights.

In 1994, Merkel received an Earthwatch Gaia Fellowship to research efficient resource use in Kerala, India, and visited communities in the Himalayas. The next year, he founded the Global Living Project in British Columbia and initiated the GLP Summer Institute for the measurement and reduction of biospheric impact.

In 1996, he developed a permaculture demonstration site where teams of researchers monitored biospheric consumption for a six-week period. He taught courses on wild edible and medicinal herbs, alternative construction, renewable energy, timber framing, ethical money management, ecological footprinting, bioregionalism, the science and practice of sustainability, and gardening for self-reliance.

He is the author of “The Global Living Handbook” (2000), “Radical Simplicity” (2003) and “Simplicidad Radical” (2005).

Merkel initiated the “Cycling for a Sustainable Future” speaking tour that has more than 17,000 miles delivering lectures and workshops at some 40 colleges and universities. He has led more than 1,000 workshops on personal and institutional sustainability. He is a homesteader, bike commuter, thrift store patron and co-director of the New Forest Institute. For information, visit

Other special events at the HOPE Festival will include a concert with renowned Maine folk singer David Mallett, an opening with the community chorus of Hope Festival Singers, the amazing juggling of Zachary Field, and activities organized by the Maine Discovery Museum, Fields Pond Audubon Center and Windover Arts Center.

Participants will be able to browse among more than 60 organizations working for social change and sustainability, attend workshops and demonstrations, and purchase bumper stickers, buttons, crafts and clothing. There will be an opportunity to contribute to a “wall of hope.” Delicious food by local producers will be on sale.

There will be something for everyone at the 17th annual HOPE Festival. All are welcome to attend the free event made possible by many dedicated volunteers. Those who can help put up fliers in their neighborhood or help at the festival with setting up, cleaning up, working at the food concession or with children’s activities are asked to call 942-9343.

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