Climate activists converge on Norway for 3-day conference

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The Saturday morning sun shines on people gathered outside for one of dozens of workshops during the three-day Vision 2030 climate convergence at Cottage Street recreation area in Norway. Lokotah Sanborn, a middle back in a red chair, spoke Friday night about how colonialism is at the heart of climate change. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

NORWAY — More than 100 people from across the state gathered at Cottage Street Recreation Area on Saturday to get inspired and exchange ideas about fighting climate change in Maine.

Organized by the Center for an Ecology-Based Economy, the 2030 Vision Climate Convergence featured guest speakers, workshops and other activities aimed at inspiring urgent climate action locally and nationally.

The three-day event kicked off on Friday evening and will continue until early Sunday afternoon.

At the convergence on Saturday, four young climate activists from Maine shared their insights during a panel discussion.

“In 2030, I’m going to be 25,” said Audrey Hufnagel, a sophomore at Lincoln Academy, of Damariscotta. “I’m just going to start my adult life and the climate crisis is then, if we don’t do something it’s going to be extremely serious. The impact this is going to have on our future is extremely serious, and it has certainly caused me a great deal of anxiety.

She thinks most students her age don’t understand the seriousness of climate change and that schools need to teach the subject more thoroughly.

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Fryeburg’s Luke Sekera-Flanders also criticized his upbringing, which he said often focused on how humans can exploit natural resources for profit.

“We would go into the forests, not to study their beautiful diversity, but to study the calculated board feet of timber that could be cut from a tree, and as seventh graders…we were indoctrinated with the idea that nature had to be extracted. from,” he said.

Four Mainers shared their experience as young climate activists during a panel discussion on Saturday at the 2030 Climate Convergence Vision organized by the Center for an Ecologically Based Economy in Norway. From left to right, panel moderator Deb Paredes, Audrey Hufnagel, Kosi Ifeji, Madison Sheppard and Luke Sekera-Flanders. Vanessa Paolella/Sun Diary

They urged older people to listen more when younger people speak.

“We are much more informed than people actually perceive,” said high school student Kosi Ifeji from Bangor. “I have been on this planet for almost 18 years now. But during this time, I have acquired a wealth of knowledge thanks to the experiences (and) the people around me.

“There are a lot of negative things around the climate crisis, but we need to have at least some optimism, and I think that’s what (young people) bring to the table,” they added.

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Renee Igo, communications and project coordinator for the Center for an Ecologically Based Economy, said there was a need for more local events to connect in person with people interested in driving the action. climatic.

The climate crisis “is super stressful, like an overwhelming problem, if you think about it,” she said. Working to solve problems in “your own little dark corner” can be difficult, she added.

“People don’t think Norway and western Maine, Oxford County, is like a hotbed for climate action, and so it’s important to highlight that and let the people who live here go” see the rally, she said.

Katherine Bessey leads a Saturday morning workshop on solar projects during the three-day Vision 2030 Climate Convergence at Cottage Street Recreation Area in Norway. The workshop was one of many throughout the day, with more scheduled for Sunday. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Ellen Gibson of West Paris said she came to catch up with people she hadn’t seen in a long time and to be inspired to push for meaningful climate action.

“I guess what I would like to do is come away (from the event) with an idea that I will work with this community to move forward in terms of climate action,” Gibson said. “How do I want to spend my time and what can I do specifically? »

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Lucas Brown from Norway attended the convergence on Friday and Saturday. He was particularly interested in hearing from Lokotah Sanborn, a Penobscot community organizer and food sovereignty advocate.

“It was really hard (to listen to),” he said. “It put a lot of ideas and a kind of urgency in my mood last night.”

On Saturday afternoon, Maine author and environmental activist Sue Inches described the importance of making her support for climate action heard in public and with lawmakers.

“If we don’t have citizens speaking out, the balance of power is completely skewed,” Inches said. “It’s completely biased towards these anti-environmental groups. So we all need to speak up for what we care about, because the majority of Americans care about the environment.

She said it only takes five phone calls from voters to sway a lawmaker’s vote.

Another speaker, economist Richard Silkman, presented a plan to replace fossil fuels with electricity and become carbon neutral by 2050. To generate enough electrical energy for processes currently powered by fossil fuels – such as transportation and heating – he calculated that Maine will need to create three and a half times more electricity than it does today.

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“It’s not about energy, there’s a lot of energy that we’re flooded with energy in,” Silkman said. “The question is, can we harness it and can we deliver it when we need it?”

Maine will need to invest tens of billions in renewable electricity generation, he said, including solar panels, offshore wind turbines and hydroelectric power.

“A lot of people care about the climate here,” Brown said. “I feel like a lot of people care about each other as well, which allows me to participate and engage in events that (the Center for an Ecologically Based Economy) organizes specifically.”

The 2030 Convergence Climate Vision was first organized by the CEBE in 2020, moving to a virtual format in 2021 due to the pandemic.

Sunday includes talks on water justice in Maine, including workshops on political organizing in rural Maine, the transportation revolution, and the impact of climate change on agriculture. The event is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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