I never met my grandfather. He died quickly from cancer. Maybe curable today. He left his wife, my mom and her little brother in this world back in 1957. Mom would tell us “he was so hard-working, and kind, and a community leader.” One of my seven siblings would cut her off: “Yeah, yeah, Mom, but what about the time he lifted the car when you were stuck in Harrison?”

“And you know he carried every single one of these huge stones down the hill to build this patio,” my sister would chime in.

“And you know he built this whole camp himself and that was before World War II,” another would add.

“And you know, he used to have to throw Uncle Robert over his shoulder to get him out of the bars alive.”

“OK, OK,” mom would say to simmer things down. “Now you know. Look, the sun’s out, go outside.”

Oh, outside. Outside on Crescent Lake in Casco. We’d test the water upon arrival in June. COLD! Breathe and giggle, breathe and giggle, make it to the raft. Get tossed back in from a king of the raft defeat. Repeat. Fish: sunfish, pickerel, white perch, yellow perch. Snag crayfish and turtles by hand. Don’t even get out of the water for a few dog days of August and then watch the trees begin to turn before heading home on Labor Day, the only day of the year that mom was (a little) grouchy.


We and our neighbors made some mistakes. Sloppily gassing up a boat, leaving rings in the water and a bad taste in our mouths as we swam. Taking down trees that held the soil near the lake from washing in. Launching boats with foreign plant species that can spread and suffocate the water. We all learned and like most of our region have quickly and impressively taken action. But if those human errors were the equivalent of my grandfather’s cancer, I definitely would have met the man. Call those fixes like a polyp removal or basal cell procedure. Impressive but not legendary.

Will we be legends? Our entire Lakes Region is in trouble because our entire planet is in trouble. We have taken carbon and methane out of the ground and turned it into gas that acts as a blanket and is increasing average temperatures. This has led to strange weather events and yearly changes to our region. The June Crescent Lake water is like a bath now, the sunfish and crayfish are gone and the leaves turned in October this year.

Still, our sickness is curable today. Unlike in 1957, we actually have the technology to heat and transport and feed and entertain ourselves without burning coal and oil anymore. It will take an effort – and it might not feel like it while you’re doing it – but it will be legendary.

Like in World War II, the U.S. will need to first join and then quickly lead. The first key step is putting a price on the carbon that’s building up this massive blanket above us. There is an excellent bill in Congress, HR 2307. Endorse the bill. Call Sens. Collins and King and Reps. Golden or Pingree. Let your voice shake (I’ll bet my grandfather’s did a few times in his short life), and tell them that we need policy that moves us to clean energy. Tell them the first key step is a fee on carbon at the mining or refining level that escalates every year with the proceeds handed back to families to invest in clean technology. It gives us a chance to be seen by our grandchildren as we ourselves remember our grandparents.

Now you know what to do.

Kevin Butterfield of Raymond is a member of the volunteer group Citizens Climate Lobby, based in Portland. He invites people to join the group at citizensclimatelobby.org/chapters/ME_Portland.

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