Memorial Day weekend couldn’t have been much better weather-wise. Even if the preceding weeks hadn’t been so disappointing in that regard, three days of prevailing sunshine and pleasant temperatures seemed especially celebratory in welcoming in the unofficial start of summer. That midday tides would perfectly coincide so as to provide for the optimum exposure of local sandy expanses was yet another Vacationland wish fulfilled.  

Except for the conspicuous absence of some cherished iconic pilings, and the disappearance of Percy’s landmark presence, Popham’s still picture-perfect. Its historic fort still stands guard and distant Sequin remains as photogenic as always. The majestic Kennebec continues to fill the Atlantic while the ever-changing shoreline narrows and widens in step to a never-ending moon dance with both. On that Saturday, that piece of shoreline fully earned its reputation as a destination point few places along Maine’s coast can rival for public-access postcard-worthy scenic beauty.  

Given that no Percy’s meant far less available parking, that always-challenging roll of the dice required a bit more luck than usual but ultimately providence provided a spot just as we were about to give up. Less parking. Fewer people on the beach. Yet full capacity at Spinney’s. License plates confirmed that those from away still know where to find a classic Maine dining experience.  

Out in the river, gulls and osprey snatched lunch from the mouths of seals roiling the surface in pursuit of an obviously pleasing seafood special. Such frenzied nature was a heartening sight recalling when that stretch of water once teemed with striped bass and mackerel. When elbow to elbow fishermen lined the beach stacking bluefish like cordwood.  

Back then there wasn’t any difficulty finding an array of diverse and perfect seashells. Sand dollars, sea urchins, scallops, mussels and oysters. Jackknife clams and whelks, limpets, quahogs and moon snails. Now one can’t count on finding any, fewer still of any size, or intact.  

Shorebirds still make a showing, but many have gone the way of the posted signs once warning of disturbing their nesting habitat. No need for those signs now as there are no longer any dunes to trespass upon.  

None of that happened naturally or couldn’t have been prevented. How ironic that so much of mankind, those powerful enough to imperil all planetary life, believe themselves either blameless or powerless to act. Others remain convinced that individual small acts of environmental correctness can still turn back the tide. That optimism will somehow defeat denial, when both are major impediments to immediate realistic action whatever the discomfort or expense. That’s what governance should require. Personal lifestyles and market forces haven’t cut the mustard. As Greta Thunberg declared in addressing Parliament: “You did not act in time.” She’d similarly stand before Congress but for her commitment to ending air travel.  

Memorial Day opens the floodgates to Maine’s annually hoped for a tsunami of tourism. Unfortunately, that desired wave of economic stimulation won’t arrive by way of electric cars, though hopefully far more will be observed proselytizing along our coastal highway and byways. You can probably guess where I’m heading.  

Notwithstanding her “Corridor” and 5G technology boosterism, our new governor seems genuinely concerned with environmental correctness. How that concern is realized despite the massive carbon footprint of Vacationland’s continued encouragement of fossil-fueled conveyance throughout the state is a real head-scratcher. Another third rail that nobody in politics wishes to go near and few voters want to touch upon. The whole point of tourism creates myriad “destination points.” The farther those “from away” come the better. The whole point of being a Mainer is about going “Upta Camp” has often as possible.  

All summer long, municipalities compete in luring natives and visitors alike to journey to their signature events. Art, music, food and heritage festivals abound. Maine’s Cool Little City traditionally hosts five consecutive days of such celebration. Its claim to the state’s largest July 4th parade boasts a city-wide conga line of idling civic supportive vehicles, some even promoting eco-awareness. Though postponed until 2020, Brunswick’s Great State of Maine Air Show beats Bath’s Heritage Days hands down for encouraging a bygone days’ environmental tone-deafness. Totally clueless, the Common Ground Fair’s own mega vehicular footprint evades everyone’s environmental radar.  

Meanwhile, Popham’s beaches remain a year-round destination I’ll continue frequenting as often as possible. I rationalize that personal environmental impact by way of comparative degree. Until light rail or an e-shuttle bus avail themselves, or 209’s shortened, I’ll do the best I can to offset that planetary offense by other means. That’s the best most of us will realistically ever do on our own.  

That will hardly remedy our escapist culture’s overall disregard. We’ve been environmentally penny wise, pound foolish for way too long. Even if we take our political thumbs off the scales and really try to overcome an already tipped tipping point, governments convinced us that we can’t afford to change our ways. Vacationland’s feel-good economic engine can’t stop itself from driving up environmental costs. Its ongoing bottom-line opposition to planetary responsibility is a dead-end rationale we must speedily make extinct.  

Gary Anderson lives in Bath. 

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