As a shellfish farmer on Chebeague Island, I have the incredible joy of spending my days on the water, growing young oysters into beautiful, briny bivalves that are a celebrated part of coastal living. It makes me proud that I can serve my community by providing such a great product and good local jobs, and can help other oyster farms do the same.

It also means that I am out here most every day, rain or shine, and I see first-hand all the changes and the challenges that are facing our shores because of global warming caused by carbon pollution. These changes are already affecting my business and those beautiful oysters you love. As part of the Shellfish Growers Climate Coalition, I’ve met farmers just like me from all over the country who are seeing the harm climate change is doing to our farms, our industry and our communities.

Here in Maine, we’ve seen increased ocean acidification caused by the increased levels of carbon being stored in the ocean that changes the chemistry of the water, making it harder for young oysters to grow shells. We’ve also seen problems from increased rainfall. Maine’s annual precipitation has increased more than 6 inches since 1895, and extreme precipitation events are becoming more frequent. Too much rainfall can result in increased freshwater runoff into the saltwater where my crops grow. During those events, the state will require us to close down so they can test the water and make sure that it’s safe to harvest shellfish.

One of the things that we’re hearing a lot about lately is our nation’s flagging infrastructure. Without reliable, functioning infrastructure, our businesses and our communities will not thrive in the 21st century. The oysters I grow on Chebeague Island are sold to wholesalers, restaurants, seafood shops and directly to consumers. My business employs local people, and the businesses that buy my product employ chefs, servers, shuckers, salespeople and many others. It would be easy to romanticize my business as a few people in a boat harvesting oysters, but in fact I am part of a much larger web of employers who are all reliant on our ability to grow healthy, plentiful protein, package it and ship it to others.

As part of the Shellfish Growers Climate Coalition, I’ve had the opportunity to share experiences with policymakers like Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King, so they understand the harm climate change has already done to our farms and our industry. It’s why as members of the SGCC, we advocate for direct resilience efforts to address the impacts affecting our businesses now, and for efforts to curb the carbon emissions that cause climate change in the first place. I am pleased with the proposals that the Senate has laid out in the bipartisan infrastructure package, but this legislation is just a first step in terms of addressing climate change.

Supporting the businesses and communities of the future means decarbonizing our economy as much as we can, as fast as we can. It means building a stronger, reliable electric grid that can support more renewable energy. Because transportation emissions are now the largest contributor to carbon emissions in the U.S., it means supporting the transition to electric vehicles, with more high-speed EV charging stations. All of these big transitions also need to be backed up with increased investment in research on next generation energy technologies, and investment in the communities like ours that need next-generation employment.

All these investments allow our communities to share in economic prosperity, breathe cleaner air and look forward to a future that is more resilient against the impacts of climate change. For me here on Chebeague Island, I hope that the changes I’ve been seeing every day on the water will not worsen; that my business has a fighting chance to keep bringing you the beautiful, briny oysters you love; and that my children and grandchildren – and yours – will have the opportunity to do the same.

Bob Earnest is co-owner of Chebeague Island Oyster Company.

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