With so much change happening in the environment, it can be important to take a step back and look at how we discuss a fundamental aspect of our work – climate change. Our responsibility as a sustainability department is to effectively convey the meaning of climate change and to support education and introspective behavior change within our home community.

Storm systems have become more frequent and intense as a result of rising global temperatures and sea levels, which bring impacts like increased wind, storm surge and flooding. Dan King photo

Today, let’s refresh our collective mind about anthropogenic or human-influenced climate change.

Climate change

Climate change is the human-influenced change of the global climate and weather patterns. While it is true that climate naturally fluctuates across time, over the past two centuries earth’s global climate has warmed more dramatically than any other recorded time, mostly as a result of the burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas.

Our task in sustainability is to help the city of South Portland identify reduction strategies for the use of fossil fuels and to ultimately help to turn back the clock on climate change at the community level.

What this means in South Portland


South Portland will continue to see the impacts of climate change in the near term. We are experiencing more high heat summer days and warmer, wetter winters with less-than-average snowfall. Storm systems have become more frequent and intense as a result of rising global temperatures and sea levels, which bring impacts like increased wind, storm surge and flooding. Regionally, the Gulf of Maine is warming faster than 99 percent of the world’s oceans, which has created a changing environment for all coastal communities who rely on fishing, aquaculture, and the ocean to power the economy, as transportation and as other resources.

South Portland is working to mitigate these challenges through the implementation of One Climate Future, our joint climate action plan with the city of Portland. Ultimately, our collective action and implementation of sustainable practices like beneficial electrification and climate resilient lawn care help us to move the needle towards a more sustainable future.

Living with climate change

Climate change has an impact on our lives in so many ways. Beyond those we have discussed, emotions come to my mind all too often. Learning about climate change can be scary. It has incited fear and anxiety, sadness, and even despair in my own life as I have continued to learn and work within the environmental field.

Some have experienced guilt or astonishment at the level of global change being experienced, while others have been more hopeful or excited at the possibility of designing a more sustainable, climate resilient future. However you might feel, know that your emotions are valid. As an environmental writer, I have to delve deeply into each of these emotions with every column and article I draft and effectively convey them through my work. Hopefully I do so as consciously as possible of all perspectives.

Ultimately, community is our most important tool in combating climate change. Collectively by working toward community resilience through renewable energy adoption, coastal resilience planning, and regenerating our connection with the land that we steward and food systems that we maintain, we can reverse the climate change impacts we are experiencing. It will be emotional and take so much work on all of our parts, but together we can achieve the change we need to see here in South Portland and beyond.


A community call for input

Are there topics that you’d like for us to discuss either here in the Sentry or elsewhere in publication? We want to hear from you. You can reach me at sgenovese@southportland.org to share.

Our Sustainable City is a recurring column in the Sentry intended to provide residents with news and information about sustainability initiatives in South Portland. Follow the Sustainability Office on Instagram @soposustainability.

Steve Genovese is an AmeriCorps/Greater Portland Council of Governments Resilience Corps fellow serving in the South Portland Sustainability Office through September 2023. He can be reached at sgenovese@southportland.org.

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