Demonstrators at City Hall last Friday urge the state Legislature to take more action to combat climate change. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

PORTLAND — Youth from across southern Maine took to the steps of City Hall last Friday to urge the state to become the first in the U.S. to declare a climate emergency and to do more to  protect the environment from climate change.

Protesters held a lie-in for 10 minutes, each minute representing a year towards their desire for Maine to be carbon neutral by 2030. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

The 90-minute mid-day event, which included speeches, rally songs and a 10-minute lie-in at the City Hall plaza, was the latest in a series of youth-powered protests across the state.

“A climate emergency is not just paperwork,” said Anna Siegel, an eighth-grader at Friends of Portland School and a member of the Maine branch of U.S. Youth Climate Strikes, one of the organizers of the Dec. 6 rally. “It’s a movement. Forty-three U.S. cities have declared a emergency along side more than 1,000 communities in countries across the world.”

South Portland took the lead in October and declared an climate emergency, followed by Portland, Bar Harbor and Brunswick, Siegel said.

“No state has done that yet,” Siegel said of declaring a climate emergency. “We hope to be the first. We demand the Mills administration declares a climate emergency for the state of Maine. We want that for our youth, our children, the air we breathe, the water we drink and the planet we live on.”

The hope, she and other speakers at the event said, is for Maine to be carbon neutral by 2030. In September, in a speech before the United Nations, Gov. Janet Mills set a goal of having Maine be carbon neutral by 2045.


Lillian Hubbard, also a member of Youth Climate Strikes and a resident of Cape Neddick, said “change can happen if we make our voices heard.”

“If nothing is done by the end of the next decade, our planet will be unsalvageable,” Hubbard said.

Cassie Cain, a member of 350 Maine, a grassroots organization fighting for climate justice, said she still has “hope things can get better because this movement is led by youth and the organizations here today.”

She said that effort cannot let up until more communities “treat climate change like the crisis it is,” and she urged the state to “adopt bolder timelines” like South Portland and Portland have to be carbon neutral by 2030.

Lillian Hubbard, of Cape Neddick, shares remarks during a youth climate strike in Portland last week. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

Emma Sawyer, a student at the University of Southern Maine and a member of Maine Youth for Climate Justice, said “we absolutely must act now because we cannot treat this crisis without treating it as such,” she said.

Cecily Niese, a seventh grader at Waynflete in Portland, said she knew climate change was an issue, but it wasn’t until last year that she decided to take action, and compelled others to do the same.


“Although the thought of climate change is a terrifying thing, we can make a difference,” she said.

That difference can be made at home by reducing energy costs, she said, by using LED light bulbs, unplugging electronics when not in use, using reusable plates, cups and cutlery and not buying single-use plastics.

But demands also must be made on legislators, she said.

“If you can vote, we need to get people into office who know climate change needs immediate attention,” she said.

Anthony Marvin, a member of the Sunrise Movement, a grassroots organization fighting for climate justice and the Green New Deal, said push for climate change action must continue long after events like the one in Portland end.

“It’s a community conversation we need to hold in our hearts as we strike and we fight for our future,” Marvin said.

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