Climate change threatens mussels
As soon as I was old enough to scramble down to the tidepools in front of my grandparent’s house in Harpswell, I was plucking fresh mussels for my grandmother to cook my family for dinner. As a child, I took the abundance of our local creatures for granted.
In 2016, Maine fishermen only caught 1.8 million pounds of the mollusk, compared with the typical 4 million pounds usually caught. There are several factors — toxic algal blooms, warming waters and acidification — that may be leading to their demise.
Mussels are a humble crustacean. They do not carry the high economic and international fame that lobsters do, but they deserve to be recognized as an important local species. Living in an environment that is slightly too warm or slightly too cold produces stress reactions, decreases efficiency of immune systems and leaves the organism very susceptible for disease and predation.
We need to combat climate change not only because these organisms have intrinsic value within our coastal waters, but a cultural value as well. Across coastal New England, ancient Native American grounds and our earliest settlements are littered with the pearlescent blue shells of mussels.
By not creating and upholding policies to combat global warming, we are forgetting about the organisms that fed our ancestors. The mussel is just one organism we are at risk of losing, and if we don’t urge our elected officials to act now on reducing our greenhouse gas output and to combat climate change, we will lose much more of our identity as a coastal state than erosion and flooding from rising seas.
Act on climate pollution
Last week’s heat spell in Maine was not just uncomfortable, but also part of a trend with deadly impacts. High heat alone can endanger our health, but warmer temperatures also create more ozone pollution, which can cause asthma attacks, respiratory illness and even early death. Heat and drought increase the frequency and intensity of wildfires, which create particle pollution.
Air pollution affects everyone’s health, but children, seniors, and people with asthma and other lung diseases are most at risk.
I can speak from experience, as someone living with severe chronic-obstructive pulmonary disorder. High levels of air pollution and bad air quality days are crippling and have resulted in me having to go to the emergency room because of respiratory distress.
While we all can reduce our risks by checking the Air Quality Index and avoiding certain activities on days with high levels of air pollution, that is not the solution. We need to burn less gasoline, heating oil and other climate-changing fossil fuels. Instead, we need to invest in energy efficiency, and we need to use more clean energy sources to heat our homes and businesses.
We also need to enforce policies like the Clean Air Act, which limit the air pollution that comes into Maine from other states, and support standards that are working to make our cars and trucks less polluting and more energy efficient.
We’re all noticing it — heat waves are more frequent and more intense. Let’s do everything we can to stop this deadly cycle.
Bond for Congress
We have a unique opportunity this November: a chance to elect Tiffany Bond, who is running as an independent to represent Maine’s 2nd Congressional District. She is truly different. How is she different?
Politicians don’t listen to constituents. At best, their staff will make a note of your position on policy, but never your reasoning. They don’t care about your reasons; they think they already know everything they need to know.
Bond is an exception to this rule. She engages you in a conversation. She will talk to you, and with you — not at you. She listens and carefully considers what you say, and addresses what you actually said, rather than just spouting talking points. She gives every indication that she actually respects the people she wants to represent. It’s a strange feeling.
Politicians frequently don’t even read the bills they are voting on. Bond is prepared to do the real work involved in making good law.
Politicians spend at least a third of their time on the phone fundraising, and as a result, with or without corrupt intentions, big money donors get access and influence far above their constituents.
Bond doesn’t accept any campaign donations. In fact, she asks that anyone wishing to make a donation instead to invest in the 2nd District by supporting local charities and businesses.
In addition, for the first time ever, ranked-choice voting in Maine’s national races this November means you can vote for the best candidate first with no worries.
Be kind to lobsters
The annual Maine Lobster Festival kicks off in Rockland on Aug. 1, and as a native Mainer, I hope folks will steer clear of this cruel event. Boiling animals alive for a fleeting taste of flesh is nothing to celebrate.
I grew up in South Portland, so I’m well aware that this opinion won’t be popular with many Mainers, yet I’ve always felt this way. As kids, my three older sisters and I couldn’t stomach the idea of eating lobsters — boiling them alive, dismembering them — something that we witnessed every year at my grandparents’ house during our family’s annual cookouts.
Lobsters feel pain, as all animals do. Because they have ganglia — which are masses of nervous tissue — spread throughout their bodies, they may feel even more pain than humans would in similar situations. Without an autonomic nervous system, they don’t go into a state of shock, so even if they’re cut open or dismembered before being plunged into boiling water, they still experience pain until their nervous system is finally destroyed during cooking.
Let’s celebrate these interesting and intelligent animals — who use complicated signals to establish social relationships, remember past acquaintances and can live to be over 100 years old — by letting lobsters live. Creative and compassionate cooks can boil mock lobster (available online), substitute hearts of palm in vegan lobster rolls and whip up creamy lobster mushroom bisque.
Vice president of marketing
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals