“If ocean temperatures go up 5 degrees, I might actually swim in it,” proclaimed Tom Doak, executive director of the Small Woodland Owners Association of Maine.
I’d need at least 20 degrees, I responded. But Tom was making an important point about climate change: It’s not all bad.
Yes, there will be no skiing in Maine, but waterskiers will enjoy a long season. Farmers will have longer growing seasons, although some current crops won’t do well. As we plan for these climate changes, it’s important to include the benefits along with the bad impacts.
The June conference on Maine’s Economy & Climate Change, organized by Alan Caron and Envision Maine, was both fascinating and troubling. Last week, I told you a bit about the conference, and today I will focus on the three dozen people who spoke briefly, from 10 minutes to 1 minute.
“Eat Hake, not Haddock.” That must be our new slogan, said Andy Pershing of the Gulf of Maine Research Institute. Fish species are changing in the Gulf of Maine, he said, and hake eat cod. We’d like to eat cod too. But first, we must eat hake. And the real question is this: Will tourists eat hake? Just for the hake of it?
Doak talked about changes landowners are seeing in the forest. White pine fungus was seen occasionally in the past, but it’s every year now. Steve Getz noted that, weather-wise, we no longer have “normal years.” Volatile weather is challenging our farming community, including dairy farmers. Si Balch of Manomet’s Climate Change Smart Network reported seeing more road washouts and wind and ice damage.
Doug Baston of North Atlantic Energy Advisors was blunt, noting that Massachusetts is investing $5 billion in alternative energy sources, and suggesting that Maine will need to get 50 percent of its energy from wind, but predicting that NIMBYs will prevent us from reaching that goal. “Our enemy is the democratic process,” Baston said.
I was surprised by Sam May’s information that soil produces as much carbon as energy production. Large-scale agriculture and synthetic fertilizers are real problems, he said. Paul Williamson of the Offshore Power and Wind Initiative called for more interstate cooperation, with energy producers working together across state lines.
I was fascinated to hear from Nate Johnson of Ocean Renewable Power Company, which is generating hydropower in remote Alaskan communities, and Kathleen Meil of Evergreen Home Performance, which works to reduce energy consumption in homes. Sue Gold of Community Solar said 10 Maine towns are working on community solar systems.
Yes, lots of people right here in Maine are working on these problems, issues and opportunities.
Patrick Gold of SolidDG and Eimskip Shipping, a company that manages marketing for Maine harbors, offered some really good advice as we struggle to address climate change. “It’s all about relationships,” he said. “It can’t be us against them. I didn’t start my marriage with my demands.” Smart man.
Barry Woods of Plugin Vehicles reported we’ll get electric SUVs this year, and outlined a list of problems blocking expansion of electric vehicles including “lack of awareness. These vehicles are fun to drive,” he exclaimed.
You can check the veracity of that statement on Sept. 15 when the Natural Resource Council of Maine sponsors “Drive Electric Day” in South Portland.
You should check out the website of e2TECH (www.e2tech.org), the Environmental and Energy Technology Council of Maine, an energy, environmental and clean technology business and economic development organization, and a clearinghouse for objective information. As e2Tech’s Jeff Marks reported, Maine’s technology sector has tremendous potential.
I lined up for the free-for-all Lightning Round, when audience members were invited to respond to the question: “What’s your big idea,” and given one minute to do so. I wouldn’t classify my remarks as a “big idea” but I do think my message is important.
I suggested that those who are working on climate change issues could connect with and activate more people by focusing some of their time on wildlife and inland fisheries issues. No one spoke about this at the conference.
Fifty to 80 percent of Maine’s moose cows and calves are dying from ticks these days, a calamitous situation. We desperately need more research on this problem, and a solution. Maine has 97 percent of this country’s remaining native brook trout, and they depend on cold water. While Tom Doak and I may enjoy swimming in warmer water, brook trout do not.
Envision Maine’s next conference, a Summit on Maine’s Economy, is scheduled for mid-November at the Augusta Civic Center, and I can’t wait. More information about this event and organization can be found at www.envisionmaine.org.