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Rep. Genevieve McDonald, a lobster boat captain, represents District 134 in the Maine House of Representatives. She is the House chair of the Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee and a member of the Marine Resources Committee.
In Maine, fishing is an intrinsic part of our cultural identity, our heritage, our sense of place and our future. Fishermen are stewards of the sea who depend on a vibrant and thriving marine ecosystem. Few people are fortunate to have as intimate a connection with the changes of the seasons, the weather, and the tides.
Anyone who works in a natural resource based industry — be it fishing, farming, or forestry — can attest to the changing environmental conditions we are experiencing. This is increasingly evident in the Gulf of Maine.
Extreme weather events like tropical storms, increasing temperatures, and rising sea levels are jeopardizing our state and its communities. We need a bold plan to transition the country to clean energy in order to combat climate change and protect Maine for our future generations. That plan can be found in the Build Back Better Act currently being debated in Washington.
Alarmingly, the Gulf of Maine has warmed at three times the global average over the past three decades, spelling out peril for our coastal communities, our tourism industry, and our fisheries and all those they employ. A hotter climate means massive maple syrup losses, another longtime source of income for many family farms and small businesses. While warming temperatures may be causing a lobster boom in the short term, they mean an irreversible bust in the long term — a death sentence for our key export.
By the year 2050, we can expect the number of dangerous heat days to quadruple to 40 annually, putting enormous strain on our current energy grid, which is not equipped for mass cooling, and in turn driving up energy prices. As it stands, over 30,000 Mainers are especially vulnerable to extreme heat. We need to cut carbon pollution, the driving factor of climate change, by transitioning rapidly to clean energy in order to protect Maine’s communities.
Despite all that we have to lose from climate change, we can gain so much from fighting it. The Build Back Better Act would put Mainers to work in clean energy, green manufacturing, infrastructure revitalization, and a Civilian Climate Corps that would work to protect our beloved outdoor spaces. These family-sustaining, union jobs would provide a boost for Maine’s local economies, benefiting us all.
Moreover, the Justice40 Initiative ensures that at least 40 percent of the benefits from the Build Back Better Act go towards communities that have borne the brunt of pollution and climate change, namely low-income communities and communities of color. This is an important measure to ensure that we are all at the table when it comes to our shared clean energy future, and no one in Maine is left behind. The Build Back Better Act must include measures that fight environmental injustice and work towards equity, such as block grants and the Weatherization Assistance Program, workforce training and development, and funding for community-driven environmental justice efforts.
These measures are extremely popular with voters here in Maine. In our state’s 2nd Congressional District, represented by Rep. Jared Golden, 69 percent of voters support addressing the challenge of climate change by shifting to greater use of clean energy, reducing carbon pollution from vehicles and industry, and making homes and buildings more energy efficient. We need Rep. Golden to continue fighting for Maine’s climate and communities by making sure these priorities are front and center in the Build Back Better Act.
We have so much worth protecting here in Maine. We are grateful to have leaders like Golden in Congress, who have worked tirelessly to ensure Maine’s communities are part of the fight against the climate crisis. We urge the rest of our congressional delegation to follow this example in order to do right by Maine, our coastlines, our forests, our fisheries, and our communities. This moment is make or break for our climate. For the sake of Maine’s future, let’s not waste it.