Inside MDI’s grassroots movement to fight climate change

Inside MDI’s grassroots movement to fight climate change

One year ago, a group of Mount Desert Island residents calling themselves the Climate Solutions Group began meeting regularly. Concerned about climate change and the lack of action on the part of political leaders, these community members decided to take matters into their own hands and focus, as their name suggests, on solutions.

A Climate to Thrive (ACTT) developed from these meetings. Inspired by the urgent need for action consistently demonstrated by science, the initiative set for itself the ambitious goal of energy independence for Mount Desert Island by 2030. In January, ACTT held a launch event attended by more than 200 community members.

“People today are looking for local examples that address climate change, particularly as disillusionment spreads regarding the ability of our elected leaders to adequately address the issue,” said Gary Friedmann, chair of ACTT’s advisory board. “MDI is the first community in Maine to set a goal like this of energy independence. We’re also the first to set a time frame that actually corresponds with the scientifically demonstrated severity of climate change’s threats. We don’t have 50 or even 20 years to figure this out.”

“ACTT is working from a grassroots approach, too, which I believe has been important to our funders,” Friedmann adds. “The island of Samsø, which showed a project like ours can succeed, used a top-down approach resulting from a competition sponsored by the Danish government. Here in Maine we’re not getting much help from either our federal or state governments, so we’ve taken on this challenge ourselves.”

Since the launch, ACTT’s advisory board and six committees have been meeting regularly to identify opportunities and initiate action towards its  members’ goal. The six committees are focused on alternative energy, building efficiency, food systems, transportation, zero waste and policy.

In less than a year, ACTT has gained local, regional and national attention. The project has received about $35,000 in grants from significant local foundations, supporting the hiring of a Project Coordinator.

On Sunday, A Climate to Thrive hosted its most high-profile event yet, a gathering at Mount Desert Island High School featuring keynote speaker Senator Angus King as well as Julia Dundorf, Executive Director of the New England Grassroots Environment Fund and Lisa Pohlmann, Executive Director of the Natural Resources Council of Maine.

While moving MDI toward energy independence, ACTT is striving to foster economic and community thriving. It’s members believe broad community involvement is central to the initiative’s success. For more information on ACTT, visit aclimatetothrive.org.

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