Name: Maureen DrouinAge: 45

Title: Executive director

Organization: Maine Conservation Alliance and Maine Conservation Voters

About: Maine Conservation Alliance unites the environmental community to voice support for our waters, clean air, natural areas and human health; Maine Conservation Voters helps pass laws that protect our environmental legacy and works to elect pro-environment candidates to office and hold elected officials accountable without regard to political party main conservation alliance.


What’s your biggest challenge right now? 

Maine Conservation voters is part of a national movement to transition our economy to 100% clean energy by 2050. We know that climate change threatens our health, environment and way of life. The biggest example in Maine is how the warming ocean is impacting the health of our lobster, shell- and ground fisheries. It can be overwhelming.

But the good news is that Maine people have already rolled up their sleeves to solve hard problems before. We have a long tradition of Yankee ingenuity. Maine people also have a strong stewardship ethic. We also know from recent polling that over 70% of Mainers think climate change is a problem and want their elected officials to take action. This past year, Maine Conservation voters and Maine Conservation Alliance worked with Gov. Janet Mills, legislative leaders from both political parties, businesses, and the Environmental Priorities Coalition to pass groundbreaking laws that will tackle the carbon pollution that causes climate change, build our renewable energy economy, and address the impacts of climate change, like on our marine resources that are already affecting our state.

We’ve had eight years of inaction on climate change in Maine. So there are there really near-term things that we could do that would help in a significant way, specifically on solar power and renewable energy development that had been stalled for the past eight years. And there was bipartisan support to come together to get Maine on the path to developing our clean energy economy. We had fallen behind the rest of New England on this. This year was a great course correction to get Maine back up to where we should be, which is as a  leader on the environment and on climate change and on renewable energy development.

How do you employ strategy to overcome obstacles that you encounter?  

You really have to be clear about what your one-year, five-year and 10-year goals are and be clear about the strategies you will employ to achieve your goals. Maine Conservation Alliance also firmly believes that no one organization can do it alone. We created and we lead the Environmental Priorities Coalition, which is a 34-member coalition representing over 100,000 Maine people that unites to protect  the good health, the good jobs and the way of life that Maine’s environment provides to us.

I’ll also say that it’s really important to stay connected to why you are doing this work. I park down by the Kennebec River in Augusta every day and I walk up to my office alongside the river. And for me it is so important to stay connected to nature because being outside reminds me of what is important — our Woods, water as wildlife. And to pass on a healthy, natural legacy to our kids.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received is if it’s not written, it’s not a plan and to have it and I’m just going to say again, you have to be really clear about what your goals are, because if you aren’t clear about what you’re trying to achieve, you don’t really know where you’re going. In the environmental community, there are so many issues that we could address — from protecting  our air to cleaning up our rivers working to get toxins out of everyday consumer products to  getting plastics out of the ocean. You could spend all of your time trying to do a little bit in each area, or you can be very deliberate about what your organization’s strengths are and your specific strategy for achieving your goal.

I mentioned earlier that climate change is our biggest challenge right now. I firmly believe that we have the ability to address it, but we need people in elected office to enact the policies that are needed to combat carbon pollution and to invest in renewable energy development. So for Maine Conservation Voters, one of the most important things we do is we elect conservationists to public office, knowing that the person who is elected will have a much greater influence over our ability to protect our environment and tackle climate change. So in the last election in 2018, we asked every candidate if they would support transitioning our economy to 100% clean energy by 2050.

I think the biggest example was Gov. Janet Mills, who as a candidate committed to tackle climate change and our political action committee, the Maine Conservation Voters Action Fund, supported her in the last election. We supported Republicans and Democrats running for the legislature who also committed to transitioning Maine to 100% clean energy by 2050. And that was a very specific, one-year goal. But we also know that by getting people in office who will work toward 100% clean energy will help us achieve our longer term goals, our five-year and our 10-year goals.

At Maine Conservation Voters, we elect pro-environment candidates to office. We also pass laws that protect our environmental legacy. After the election, we go into the legislative session and work with the environmental community to be really clear about what the priority pieces of legislation are. This year we had a specific agenda on climate change. We had a set of five bills ranging from reducing our carbon pollution by 80% by 2030.  (They are) very sort of big groundbreaking things that we knew would make a big difference and that we could pass given the political landscape in Augusta. After the legislative session adjourns, we put together an environmental scorecard to let people know how their elected officials voted. That is a really important piece of information for Maine people so they know how their legislators are stacking up. If they were elected saying that they would act on climate, it is really important to tell people if they did that or if they just talked a good game.

I think Maine is on the right track, too, in protecting our environment and on tackling climate change. But I fear that the current leadership in the White House is rolling back and weakening the foundational laws to protect our air, land and water. It’s hard to make progress at the state level when you see the laws and programs at the federal level being weakened.

What’s your biggest concern right now? 

Regardless if you’re in this line of work to protect the environment, you always need to have hope and optimism. For instance, I worked on the clean power plan, which is the first time under the um, the, it’s the first time the Environmental Protection Agency put a plan together to reduce carbon pollution at the national level. And this was specifically to address climate change. The Trump administration is dismantling that and that is distressing to say the least. But it is important to find those states and cities and places where you can make progress. And fortunately Maine is on the front line of solutions right now.

The legislation that was passed this year, it was game-changing legislation. But you will look at communities and cities across the state and they are taking  local solutions from installing solar panels and prioritizing energy efficiency, employing heat pumps, setting goals. So there are sparks of hope all across the state in addition to at the state level.

Who influenced you the most in choosing what you do?

My parents (Richard and Maureen Drouin)  had a profound influence on me. My mom gave me a strong work ethic and sense of responsibility. My dad gave me a love of nature and the outdoors. My dad took me and my sisters outdoors all the time and in all seasons, whether it was fishing or hiking or canoeing or camping. We had a big organic garden and chickens in our backyard, which was unusual at the time. We were always outside.

I remember one year my dad was selling Christmas trees and he had my sisters and I gathering pine cones at the beach in the frigid winter to decorate the wreaths he was selling. It was so cold and I was so miserable. But that was also character-building. All that time outside gave me a deep appreciation of nature in all its seasons and the importance of being good stewards of our air, land and water. And I know many Mainers share that stewardship ethic as well.

From my mom, I inherited a really strong work ethic and sense of compassion. She was an elementary school teacher and she had to work more than one job to make ends meet when my sisters and I were teenagers. She always gave to the homeless and needy, which was a powerful example that she set for me. It’s important to work hard and to take care of each other.

I have other role models or other people I look up to. I admire President Theodore Roosevelt,  who made the conservation of America’s natural legacy a priority. He also challenged us to be in the arena and to challenge the corporate structure of exploitation  of the worker, exploitation of children at the time, exploitation of our environment for the profit of a few.

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