YARMOUTH – Giant creatures, a startling shade of blue, came striding by me under the hot tent set up on the Mall in Washington, D.C. They were actors on stilts painted to resemble life forms from James Cameron’s popular film, Avatar.

Rather oddly, they reminded me of the dancing clams in Yarmouth’s Clam Festival parade.

But this was not Yarmouth. I was in the nation’s capital with state Rep. Melissa Walsh Innes, D-Yarmouth, for the 40th Earth Day Rally.

It was a wild scene on the Mall, throngs of people congregated for free concerts by Sting, Bob Weir, Passion Pit, Roots and Willie Colon, interspersed with messages about the need for climate change legislation and local action.

Behind the stage tents were set up for the press and to allow people like me to have conversations with James Cameron, Philippe Cousteau and the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

I had left my home at 4:30 that morning.

Looking around, I didn’t know which was more startling — the blue creatures, the Washington Monument behind them, or the black-clad SWAT team members surveying the whole scene.

Just a few days earlier I’d been invited to come down to participate in the rally as part of a “Beyond the Beltway” initiative to connect local and national efforts for climate change.

For me, I’d had to think it over before deciding to go. What would people in Washington want to hear about rivers in Maine?

True, over 40 years, we have made tremendous gains. In Maine our rivers no longer run rainbow-colored from mill chemicals, nor do they stink from untreated sewage, nor are they covered with the bodies of fish killed by pollution and lack of oxygen in the water.

I thought about the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay that face challenges that are less visible but just as critical as they were 40 years ago, and make me nervous about the world my daughters will inherit.

Spring in Maine comes later than in Washington, but some of the same migratory fish would make their way to spawn in our waters, as they have for thousands of years, if they could.

Too many clean rivers are not free-flowing rivers, and the fish species that once thrived in our waters face barriers as small as an improperly installed culvert under a highway and as large as major dams with inadequate fish passages.

In Maine the effects of climate change are subtle, but in Washington I met people for whom the impacts are real and immediate. I spent a lot of time talking to Peter Solomon, a Gwich’in man from Fort Yukon, Alaska.

Peter, a four-time winner at the World Indian and Eskimo Olympics, sees forest fires occurring due to severe drought and increased insect infestation due to warming.

Average temperatures above the Arctic Circle have increased dramatically in the past decades.

Peter told me how the cellars cut into the permafrost that once served as natural freezers for their meat now flood with water each year.

Changes are impacting the caribou and salmon migrations, and they have become the new reality along with devastating floods along the Yukon River.

In the arctic the effects of climate change are amplified, affecting every facet of Gwich’in life, destroying key aspects of a culture that has survived for 20,000 years, and serving as warning to those of us thousands of miles away.

It was a short visit to Washington, and before long I’d be heading back home to Maine, to wait for the spring migration of alewives, eels and shad, thinking about the Gwich’in people, the long summer coming in Alaska, my daughters, and our changing climate.

Addressing climate change will take action at every level. We need national legislation that connects energy policy and green jobs.

We also need to improve the “connectivity” of our rivers by removing scores of obsolete dams and creating fish-friendly road culverts.

That will allow species like brook trout to seek cool waters and protection from the intense storms and floods that are becoming more familiar.

Our rivers recovered from decades of pollution. We must now increase the pace of restoration efforts to make it possible for our waterways and the life they sustain to adapt to our changing climate.

Rivers inspire us with their resilience and we all need inspiration.

Addressing climate change over the next 40 years will require inspiration, persistence and resilience from all of us.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.