NASA astronaut Rusty Schweickart once shared an apt analogy for creating systemic change: Imagine trying to budge a block of near-infinite weight resting on a frictionless surface. Strike this block as hard as you can, and inertia will hurt you. But if you lean with consistent pressure, the mass will slowly begin to move. Grab a few friends to help apply additional consistent pressure and progress is all but certain.

Three dozen Mainers of all political persuasions and generations (13 younger than 18) recently traveled to Capitol Hill to apply some friendly pressure.

These Mainers joined a thousand volunteers from every state to meet nearly every lawmaker and advocate for effective and equitable climate legislation. These meetings have helped advance many recent climate successes: the bipartisan infrastructure law, the CHIPs Act and, of course, the Inflation Reduction Act. But as Canadian wildfire smoke shrouded the continent, we were reminded we had a lot more to do.

Fortunately, our small state can do more than any other to drive national climate policy. Maine is the only state with both senators in the bipartisan Senate Climate Solutions Caucus. States with far greater populations have zero senators in this distinguished caucus. We Mainers have unique leverage, and our volunteers take this opportunity very seriously.

Maine climate advocates studied and trained for their moment with the lawmakers who can make substantive systemic change. Knowing we cannot stabilize the world’s climate with personal carbon virtue, platitudes or political partisanship, our Maine volunteers advocated for concrete legislation to keep fossil fuels in the ground and from greenhouse-gas pollution from the air. Here are our goals.

For the U.S. to achieve the 40% emission reductions promised in recent legislation, our electrical grid needs rapid growth to accommodate the renewable energy boom. Clean energy permitting reform is a top priority to alleviate the bottleneck impeding our transition to renewable energy nationwide. Sen. Angus King has been a vocal champion on this issue, rightly stating that the climate crisis demands we move from saying “no” to bad policy toward saying “yes” to an accelerated clean-energy transition, even if that’s a hard choice. There are great bipartisan opportunities in this Congress, and Sens. King and Susan Collins and Reps. Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden can play central roles.


To achieve and exceed the U.N. Climate panel’s targets of 50% emissions reduction, we must start to  price industrial carbon pollution, a measure the U.N. calls a “necessary condition” to stabilize the climate. In a 20-year study of 142 nations, CO2 emissions crested and fell in all 43 countries with a carbon price, while carbon emissions increased in more than 80% of the 99 countries without it. There are now more “carrots” and “sticks” moving the world to price carbon pollution. New EU/UK carbon tariffs provide “sticks” for protection against imports from places where it is either too cheap to pollute (China) or free to pollute (United States).

As Tiffany Adams illustrated during ClimateWork Maine’s excellent May summit, the “carrot” is U.S. manufacturers’ unmonetized “carbon advantage” over less carbon-efficient foreign competition – leading to increased U.S. market share and profits that would only accelerate should the U.S. join every other developed nation and price industrial carbon pollution. Sen. King’s recent sponsorship of the so-called Prove-It Act shows a bipartisan interest in measuring and using this American advantage. Carbon proceeds returned to citizens become a net  financial benefit  for low- and middle-income earners. New Brunswick will soon join Canada’s Climate Action Incentive and a family of four will receive  $736 in rebate payments annually, growing yearly, without increasing federal deficits or the size of government. That could be us.

Our Maine climate advocate volunteers come to this opportunity from all walks of life: young professionals using their skills for a better world; business owners motivated to stabilize energy costs; new Mainers knowing the plight of climate refugees; retirees fighting the injustices of pollution, and students rejecting cynicism to build the political will for a livable world.

Despite our different motivations, we work together because we know it’s our only shot. Support these efforts by writing Sens. King and Collins and Reps. Pingree and Golden through As Margaret Mead is so often quoted as saying: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed individuals can change the world. In fact, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.