There are few things more important to our existence than our environment. From the air we breathe and the water we drink, to our working woods, fields and waterfronts, our day to day lives are dependent on the natural resources that surround us. Today, we can enjoy clean beaches, pristine rivers and crisp mountain air. But it hasn’t always been that way.

This month, we celebrate Earth Day. It’s a day celebrated nationwide, from elementary schools to the White House. Back when it was originally founded in 1970, our environment looked much different. Factories and power plants dumped waste directly into rivers. Smog-choked cities caused serious health problems for miles around. Even in Maine, the effects were felt as the jet-stream carried emissions from the west coast to the east coast, earning us the title of “the tailpipe of the nation.”

Thankfully, things have changed. At the national level, the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, championed by Maine’s own Sen. Ed Muskie, took critical steps in protecting the vital natural resources we need to live and thrive. Our work continues today, at the national, state and local level.

In Maine, our economy and environment are inextricably tied. From our heritage industries to tourism and hospitality, Maine’s economic health has always and still does rely on the health of our environment. While we’ve made great strides to curtail industrial pollution, we now face the crisis of climate change. You only need listen to a lobsterman or a clammer describe how their catch has changed over the last few years to understand that the climate crisis is impacting Maine lives right now.

Last session, I was proud to sponsor a bill updating Maine’s renewable portfolio standard, ensuring that our state’s energy is coming from renewable sources. Not only does this help to protect our environment and combat climate change, it supports good-paying jobs in our ever-growing green energy industry. This year, I’ve sponsored a bill to make sure Maine’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC) is pursuing even more opportunities to support green energy projects. By ensuring we generate energy from renewable sources, we not only support new green energy jobs, we also take a stand in combatting and mitigating the effects of climate change.

At the federal level, the Biden Administration is proposing a major, long-overdue investment in mass transportation. This includes extending Maine’s passenger rail system up to Rockland and enhancing existing services. We know that emissions from transportation account for nearly 28 percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions in the country. By investing in mass transportation, we make it easier for people to travel and commute, while at the same time working to decrease one of the biggest contributing factors of climate change and air pollution.

Anthropologist and activist Margaret Mead famously said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Earth Day started out as a grassroots movement to increase public awareness around the problems caused by water and air pollution. Today, it is recognized around the world. The duty to protect our environment is widely seen as vital to both our personal health and the health of our economy. I’m grateful to those thoughtful, committed citizens who first stood up to corporate polluters, and to the people today who continue that good work to make sure our natural resources and way of life are preserved and protected for generations to come.

If you have any questions or ideas about bills protecting our natural resources, or any other issue, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at eloise.vitelli@legislature.maine.gov or 207-287-1515.

Eloise Vitelli is a state senator representing District 23.

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: