Chloe Maxmin, 18, of Nobleboro, last week was honored with The Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes.
Maxmin is the first Mainer to receive the $2,500 national cash award, which recognizes her contributions to raise awareness on environmental issues, conceive solutions and rally others to become responsible stewards of the earth.
But Maxmin wasn’t there to receive her prize. She was busy trekking through the Andes mountains and visiting remote villages as part of a three-month immersion program to practice her Spanish and learn about South American culture and biodiversity before heading to Harvard in 2011.
The pattern is typical for Maxmin. the time most accolades come her way, Maxmin has moved on to the next big adventure to change the world around her.
The environmental advocacy work began at age 12 when Maxmin took on the Plum Creek Timber Company and its plans to develop a resort and condominium project in the Moosehead Lake region. Maxmin attended all the public hearings, conferred with environmental advocates and researched the issue before embarking on a letter writing campaign to the governor and other state officials. She even addressed a crowd of nearly 800 in a speech so moving, it left many in tears.
In finding her voice to speak out, Maxmin also found her calling – not merely as an advocate for the Moosehead Lake region but for the planet.
Maxmin went on to found the Climate Action Club at Lincoln Academy to promote healthy green initiatives locally and abroad. The club has headed several efforts to reduce energy consumption, recycle energy sources and pursue funding to advance its work. Then, she created “First Here, Then Everywhere” an Internet site that serves as an interfacing hub for young environmentalists.
Maxmin’s mother, Shoshana Zuboff, said, “From the start, Chloe’s focus was to create a movement and a level of awareness for global warming, sustainability and green issues — not just for the school but the wider community. “
For those who don’t know Maxmin, the website purpose statement makes her intent clear: “To make global warming the defining mission for my generation.”
Her generation was among the first to see the devastating effects of global warming. And, she believes the responsibility also falls to them to influence positive change.
And that message is being communicated.
The website boasts 40 members from eight countries. And, last year, a Sundance Channel crew came to Maine to film an episode detailing Maxmin’s influence and work for its show “Big Ideas for a Small Planet.”
Maxmin has received several awards recognizing her academic excellence and leadership — some of them cash awards to continue funding her causes, such as for the installation of solar panels at Lincoln Academy and to invest in a highly successful bag-reuse program that has kept an estimated 700,000 plastic bags out of the local landfill.
Through it all, Maxmin remains mindful that this is no solo effort. Before graduating as valedictorian in spring 2010, she made sure that incoming student leaders were empowered to carry on the work and realize their own projects.
“My mission is to create long-lasting change,” said Maxmin. “It’s rewarding to see others accept these ideas of sustainability and conservation and apply them to their daily lives. This is not a one-time thing, but an ingrained change in behavior.”
John Dillman, who mentored Maxmin at Ashoka’s Youth Venture and nominated her for the Barron Award, said her method of environmental stewardship is effective as one that engages rather than confronts.
“(Chloe) is a wonderful communicator and a passionate leader,” said Dillman. “I have no doubt that the model for change she pioneered in Damariscotta is the way forward. I can’t wait to see what she achieves as a college student and professional. Supporting her work has been a true honor.”
Staff Writer Deborah Sayer can be contacted at 791-6308 or at: [email protected]