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When I think about my upbringing in Maine, I remember the wonders of Maine’s environment. Whether swimming along the rocky coast, exploring vast forest wildernesses or fishing on our lakes and rivers, I was raised to value and cherish Maine’s natural resources.
When I think about my future, though, my feelings turn to deep concern. I see the challenges and dangers that climate change will bring to Maine, which threaten our environment, our people and communities and our economy.
That is why I believe we must act now to address climate change.
For young Mainers like me, who are starting their journey into the workforce, the potential economic harm from climate change to Maine is clear. Nearly all sectors of the economy, particularly the agricultural and forestry industries that support my home in Aroostook County, will be affected by climate change. I fear how rising sea levels, increasing precipitation rates, warmer winters and more will affect favored tourism activities in winter and summer. Rising ocean temperatures, marine algal blooms and acidic ocean waters are foreboding trends for our legendary seafood harvesters.
Maine is already facing challenges building a workforce for the future, and these changes will damage our economy and make it harder to live and work here. This is disheartening for me, and for my generation, who grew up loving this state.
For my family in Maine, who reside in northern Maine, a place known for its tendency for colder temperatures, I’m concerned about the public health effects of climate change. The increased heat from rising land and ocean temperatures will put them at risk of obtaining chronic diseases such as Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, babesiosis and more.
Increases in extreme weather will lead to storm related injuries and death, outbreaks of waterborne diseases, carbon monoxide poisonings and foodborne illness, as well as mental health stress.
These reasons, and many more, are why young Mainers like me are turning to our government to take these threats to our way of life from climate change seriously and to craft strategies and solutions to seriously address it. My generation doesn’t have the luxury of letting someone else fix this problem.
This summer, I was proud to have interned for the Maine Climate Council, which was created by Gov. Janet Mills in 2019 with bipartisan support of the Legislature. The council is developing a four-year Climate Action Plan to both reduce Maine’s greenhouse gas emissions and ensure that Maine’s people, economy, and communities are more resilient to the impacts of climate change.
In short, the council is charged with protecting my future, and the future of my fellow young Mainers.
In June, the council was presented a series of draft strategies to combat and adapt to climate change, on everything from transportation, to energy, to coastal and marine issues, to public health and more. In these strategies, I see the blueprint for action that will preserve, protect and propel Maine forward. On behalf of the youth of our state, there is no time to wait.
The Maine Climate Council needs the public to weigh in on these strategies. If you visit climatecouncil.maine.gov, you will find ways to share your thoughts, opinions and suggestions with the council, which will help the council members prioritize which strategies should be included in Maine’s four-year Climate Action Plan.
I encourage you to take a few minutes, read the strategies and let the council know where you stand on them. For the youth of our state, it’s a small act that can have an immense impact.
Like so many others, I am lucky to have grown up in Maine. What we want now is a clean future. What we want now is an active Maine citizenry that will support climate change adaptation plans that benefit all. What we want now is action that will protect and ensure our future in Maine.
Please don’t let us down.
Elizabeth Theriault of Madawaska is a 2020 graduate of the University of Maine. She was an intern for the Maine Climate Council.