I have the privilege of working on climate action full time in the state that I love, and I feel incredibly honored to be in that position. Even better, I have had the opportunity to interact with an inspiring array of Maine residents seeking change from myriad perspectives.

It is through these interactions that the picture of our collective future is most vividly painted. At events, on Zoom calls, through the phone, and even over email, I have heard the will to build a better future in the face of grim projections about climate change.

Moving through the Gardiner public school system I came to understand climate change first as a concept, then as a political sticking point, then as an avertable potentiality, then as an urgent call to action, and now as a desperate plea. I used to believe that the adults would figure it out, as adults seemed to do so consistently when I was young. But then I watched as promises were broken and attention was diverted in whatever direction the money lay.

It quickly became evident that action wasn’t happening fast enough, so I chose to equip myself with the skills needed to enact change. A couple years out of college with an environmental studies degree, a few election cycles under my belt, and a host of new activist connections, I now have the chance to work on climate every day alongside some really incredible people with meaningful reasons to advocate for change.

Renee knows that her grandchild, born this year, will be the same age as her in 2100 and will have lived a life defined by the climate action we did or did not take today. Maddy and Eben are college students looking ahead to an increasingly daunting job market that will only be squeezed by a continuing climate crisis.

Carrie is a fellow activist who now balances parenting with a full-time advocacy job because she didn’t see enough people stepping up to the plate. Bill recognizes that the shellfish industry that has provided his livelihood is under dire threat, and can’t recommend the same occupational path for young Mainers today.

Adolphe moved to Maine from Burundi in search of a more stable life for his family, but he continues to advocate against deforestation practices abroad while adapting to a new country. Liz is searching for a new home to raise her young children and isn’t sure how to balance climate safety with cost effectiveness.

Climate change is not just a future to contend with. It is an immediate reality that is shaping major life decisions for Maine people from all walks of life. I have seen the worry in people’s faces as they approach my event table, heard the concern in their voices as they ask how they can best contribute to a safe and healthy future. This anxiety is twofold: in part driven by fears of extreme weather and uninhabitable land, and in part motivated by the knowledge that people in power are not doing enough now to prevent unthinkable outcomes.

But this fear is balanced with a determination to make Maine a better place for everyone and to protect the environment that makes our state so special. We must capture this hope and work together to build a clean energy future that works for everyone and is centered in equality and fairness. To realize this future, we need Congress to act without haste.

The federal government has before it the largest investment in climate solutions ever proposed, but its success hinges on the votes of just a few politicians, including those in Maine’s delegation. After several delays and negotiations, the United States has yet again arrived to an international climate conference with no substantial greenhouse gas reduction policies to point to. And, if the Build Back Better Act isn’t passed by the end of the year, we may go to the next one with the same result.

Through my work, I seek to uplift, aggregate, and highlight Maine voices so that they can be better heard by decision makers. In this moment, it could not be clearer what these voices are saying: we need climate action now.

Josh Caldwell is the climate and clean energy coordinator for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. He lives in West Gardiner.


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