The pandemic has commanded our attention so much over the past year that it has been hard to have any energy left over (renewable or otherwise) to worry about the grave environmental problems we face, let alone to try to fix them.

That’s the story for me, anyway, but as we paged through the nearly 70 Source Maine Sustainability Award nominees early in March, I was heartened to realize that many other Mainers were able to keep their focus. Our six 2021 Source award winners, our seventh class of awardees, did not merely get depressed about all the plastic shopping bags and gloves we have been using during the pandemic. They didn’t see the disposable masks littered on our streets and simply sigh, or fret about the empty buses going to and fro to Portland or Boston, as environmentally smart public transportation lost its luster overnight.

Instead, they rolled up their sleeves and got on with it. Because even with a pandemic, with a divided citizenry unable to agree on the most basic facts, and with abhorrent structural racism, our environmental problems won’t magically disappear. In these pages, we honor Anne “Andy” Burt, longtime environmental advocate; Peter Dugas, tenacious citizen lobbyist for Citizens’ Climate Lobby; Tom Klak, champion of the American chestnut tree; Carrie Mayo, hometown environmental activist; Heather McCargo, dedicated native plants promoter and educator; and Partners for World Health, a Portland-based nonprofit that has kept millions of pounds of medical supplies out of landfills and incinerators.

We also recognize Harvard Pilgrim Healthy Champion Alivia Moore, of the Eastern Woodlands Rematriation Collective; Lee Auto Mall Community Farm Champion Liberation Farms; and three young MOFGA Russell Libby scholars who fill us with local food – and hope.

Because if the pandemic exacerbated some of our environmental problems, it alleviated others. To a not small extent, traffic – and emissions-spewing commutes – disappeared for a time. Mainers discovered bicycles, gardening and the great outdoors. Many of us closely observed wildlife just steps from our new home offices – turkeys and foxes in the garden, house finches nesting under the eaves. However frightening the circumstances, the year gave us the opportunity to make a sea change. And it’ll take a sea change to repair the planet.

Peter Dugas told the Press Herald that ever since his college professor observed we’d “extinguish ourselves through our own doing” if we didn’t quickly improve our relationship with the climate, “I’ve been freaked out.” We think he’s underestimating himself. We’d say he, and the other Source award winners we honor today, have been inspired to act.

Peggy Grodinsky, Source Editor

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