As of the time of writing, Maine’s rate of administered first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine has reached near half of the state’s population, which is something to be celebrated. Both in the sense that we respected each other and safety guidelines to make Maine the state with the fourth lowest rate of COVID-19 infection relative to population, and in the sense that we are on pace to reach a point when such precautions are unnecessary.

Altogether, it is a triumph of our ability to come together (metaphorically) when faced with a common crisis. In the same collective spirit, we need to turn our attention to our rising sea level and acidifying ocean, our increased risk of natural disasters like flooding and our gradually warming climate.

Too often we have thought to face climate change as individuals with individual actions, like recycling and energy conservation. While both make an impact, they are not sufficient. To draw a parallel with COVID, individually you can wear a mask to lower your personal risk, but the effectiveness of masks in stopping the spread of the virus is multiplied when more people wear them. Our response to COVID-19 was only possible through the advisement and regulation of the state government and then the buy-in of businesses and people.

Scientific evidence demonstrates that ocean acidification harms the shells of lobsters and other shellfish, leading to less healthy shellfish for our fishing industry. Similarly, warming temperatures have led to more invasive green crabs which are more resistant to the ocean’s acidification. These green crabs threaten soft-shell clam populations and compete with lobsters for the same food. Coupling this with the potential coastal damage stemming from sea-level rise, Maine’s tourism industry is also under threat. Similar to our COVID response, we can amplify our efforts by expanding recycling and other sustainability projects in our towns, hardening waterfronts against sea-level rise and flooding, and building renewable energy infrastructure.

If we wanted, we could call all three of these “political solutions,” but that would be like saying that the COVID vaccine was a political solution. First of all, just as not catching and spreading a deadly disease is of universal importance, protecting our homes, the lobstering industry, and the future of our state is as much a common cause as we could possibly find.

Second, while the federal government did pay for some of the research leading to the development of several vaccines such as the Moderna and J&J vaccines, it was doing as it almost always does–by outsourcing development to private companies. Similarly, local contractors who would spend their money in-state could be the ones getting paid to renovate and construct infrastructure to prevent and resist the effects of climate change.

The extent of politicking in the usual sense of the word would be convincing our representatives in government to take action and protect the interests of us all.

Naturally that’s where we come in as stake-holders in this project that we call “society.” One possible first step is to attend your town’s public meeting on climate change, sustainability, or some variation thereof. If your town has one, you should be able to find it on your town’s website under the government tab.

There arealso some promising bills before the Maine Legislature, such as LD 49, “An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue To Invest in Infrastructure To Address Sea Level Rise” and LD384, “An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue To Fund the Transition from a Fossil Fuel-based to an Electrical Energy Economy” and you can call your local representative about them. It’s naturally difficult for lawmakers to gauge the feelings of thousands of people you’ve never met. That’s why we need to engage our representatives and officials and tell them what they can do to represent us.

— Special to the Press Herald

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