Eleanor Kinney is the owner of River House Maine in Damariscotta.
As a Maine farmer and small-business owner, I have a long held appreciation for how deeply Maine people depend on a healthy environment. I live on a diversified homestead and own River House Maine, a farm-to-table restaurant on the Damariscotta River. Our food comes from farmers and fishermen who we know, located here in the midcoast and across our beautiful state.
Those farmers and fishermen are increasingly concerned about the impact that climate change is having on our land and water. We are seeing crops suffer from drought and frost coming unexpectedly early and shortening the growing season. We are more susceptible to pests and invasive species that are spreading into our region. Fishermen are hauling smaller catches as the water warms and lobster migrate north to Canada. That is because the Gulf of Maine is warming three times faster than the global average.
Sea level rise and erosion are a major concern to our coastal communities. I notice it most when I see tree roots laid bare along the shoreline, their soil washed away. These undermined trees are a stark visual of the environmental threats we are facing.
Given the urgency of the climate crises, we do everything we can to prioritize sustainability on our farm and in the business. Solar panels at the farm provide electricity for both home and restaurant and local wood fuels our grill and wood-fired oven. We strive to minimize waste through recycling, composting, avoidance of plastic and careful management.
We are doing everything that we can, but unfortunately Sen. Susan Collins is not. She has voted to approve the controversial Keystone XL pipeline and also voted to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling. Burning the oil from Arctic refuge has the same climate impact as doubling the pollution from all U.S. coal-fired power plants for three years. Those kinds of votes could put coastal small businesses like mine underwater, both literally and figuratively.
That’s why I was surprised to read recent OpEds in this paper that attempted to frame Collins as a climate champion. An Oct. 10 column states that she has been endorsed by Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions without mentioning that the group is a Republican organization that only endorses Republicans. Another one of their “clean energy champions” is Sen. Thom Tillis, who for years denied that climate change was real and praised President Donald Trump for pulling out of the Paris climate agreement. It does not mention that the major environmental organizations that make endorsements — League of Conservation Voters, Sierra Club — have endorsed Collins’ opponent Sara Gideon.
Maine is largely made up of small-businesses owners, and our state relies heavily on our natural resource economy. Climate change is the biggest threat facing our natural resources and the communities and businesses that rely on them, yet our leaders in the White House and the Senate have been taking us backward in the fight to maintain a habitable planet.
Fortunately, despite the failure in leadership in Washington and Collins’ inconsistent positions, Maine has become a national leader on climate issues. At the state level, our leaders are making plans to reduce emissions, particularly in transportation and home heating, and to protect communities from climate impacts. We are focused on how to decarbonize our economy while creating good-paying green jobs.
Maine needs leaders in the Senate who are climate champions that will speak up when our environmental laws are being undermined and not support the creation of new fossil fuel infrastructure, especially on pristine public lands. We need someone who will be a consistent advocate for all the small businesses that depend on a healthy environment.