WATERVILLE — Those who attended a rally Saturday outside City Hall urged area residents to elect people in November who will address climate change, help create jobs and work to reverse what they called cruel and abnormal treatment of immigrants.

About 50 people, including lawyers, educators, mental health workers and retirees, turned out for the event, hosted by 350 Central Maine, a grass-roots climate change organization.

Dick Thomas, a psychologist, gave a speech in which he quoted climate scientists, saying if people continue with business as usual, a climate catastrophe will occur.

“Plankton and forests would no longer be absorbing as much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere because it would be too hot for those plants to thrive,” Thomas said. “It’s not yet clear whether that would mean that life simply becomes very difficult or whether it would become unsurvivable,” he said.

Climate scientists have been warning people for 30 years about climate change, and politicians have ignored them because the fossil fuel industry is wealthy and has used that wealth to spread a conspiracy theory that climate change is a hoax, according to Thomas.

“So what can we do about it?” he asked. “We do not have the power of money that the fossil fuel industry has, but we have the power of people — the power to vote climate heroes into office.”

Peter Garrett, a hydrogeologist and member of the Citizens Climate Lobby, which goes to Washington, D.C., twice a year to educate members of Congress about climate change and offer solutions, said he had good news for the group. The number of people going to Washington as part of the group has increased, he said, and Republicans are paying more attention to the group’s proposal to develop a bipartisan, market-based solution that would drive down carbon dioxide and other emissions 50 percent in 20 years. A solution, he said, would be to impose a “carbon fee and dividend” on carbon fuel from coal, oil and natural gas, with the fee imposed at the port of entry, such as the gas well or coal mine. About 1,200 such companies would be charged a fee, he said. The fund would be kept by the U.S. Treasury Department and be dispersed to people, according to Garrett.

“We are proposing that it come back to you — everyone in the country — basically as a dividend. You would get a check every month.”

The money would help pay for the increased cost of items such as gasoline, as the price of gas will increase, he said.

“So in other words, it would be a benefit, particularly to low-income people to actually deal with increased costs, but also benefit all of us because it would help us to get off carbon emissions that cause air pollution. It’s kind of like the cigarette tax, if you like. It helps people to get off fossil fuels.”

Elizabeth Leonard, author, Colby College history professor and singer-songwriter, played a guitar and sang songs about helping to create a better world, as people held signs bearing logos including “Time for Us to Save this Planet.” After the speeches, the group took a walk downtown, carrying signs.

Jonathan Rogers, an attorney, emceed the rally, introducing speakers including Linda Woods, coordinator of Sustain Mid-Maine Coalition. Woods talked about the group’s successful effort to place a question on the November ballot a asking if residents will vote to place a plastic bag ban on retailers that are 10,000-square-feet in size and larger.

“According to an article in National Geographic, the working life of a plastic bag is 15 minutes,” Woods said. “The fate of the bag after that is ambiguous. Ecomaine no longer accepts plastic bags in our recycling bins on the curb because they gum up the conveyor belts and slow down the true recycling process. Some plastic bags go into trash cans and, therefore, to landfills, where they remain forever. Unfortunately, many are tossed on roadsides and find their way to the ocean.”

Woods said the average person uses 300 plastic bags a year, and most end up in landfills.

“A ban of plastic bags at stores (of) 10,000 square feet in Waterville, Maine, will not solve this problem of too much plastic, but it will be a step in the right direction,” she said.

Evan Fisher, an attorney who is defending Lexius Saint Martin, a Waterville resident deported to Haiti who has a wife and three children, said the situation in the United States concerning human rights has deteriorated and that is why he was speaking Saturday. Without naming the Saint Martin family, Fisher said he has seen firsthand the pain and suffering the Trump administration has caused the family.

“I know this family and I know their pain and I also know this is not normal,” he said.

Like the other speakers, Fisher said it is important that people vote in November to ensure people are elected who will address such situations.

He spoke of Saint Martin’s concerns about other people facing the same situation who do not have legal representation and said it makes him (Fisher) think about Syrians who cannot come to the United States because of the president’s travel ban on Muslims. It also makes him think about people fleeing gang violence in South America who, when they arrive at the U.S. border, are separated from children, he said.

“It’s not right,” Fisher said. “We shouldn’t accept this and that’s why I’m here — because I can’t be silent anymore.”

The country has an “abnormal presidency,” he said, with a president who calls neo-Nazis fine people, assaults women with his hands and others with his words — and attacks allies.

Karen Kusiak, Democratic candidate for the Senate District 16 seat, talked about knocking on doors during her campaign and hearing about people’s concerns. A priority among them is jobs, according to Kusiak.

She said one area Maine can focus on is investing in clean energy. The solar industry, for instance, has openings for sales people, project developers, installers and other positions.

“Right now, there are 572 solar-linked jobs in Maine, and that can be expanded,” she said.

Jobs also can be created in wind power, according to Kusiak, who said Maine has the knowhow, technology and natural resources to expand renewable, clean energy. She urged the group to help get candidates running for office.

“Volunteer your time,” she said. “Knock on doors. Join a canvas.”

Marian Flaherty, of Waterville, a member of Sustain Mid-Maine’s Rethink, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle Team, said she was impressed with Saturday’s rally.

“I think it went really well,” she said. “I think the speeches were terrific.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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