Isi Muñoz Segovia | Rural Youth Organizer: Hancock County
Questions of power, mining projects, community, water quality and access, belonging, and who are we including when we say “Mainer” were some of the many topics and questions that were raised on October 21st at the Bagaduce Music Library in Blue Hill, a small coastal town in southern Downeast Maine.
Climate Future: Community Resilience Envisioning is the name of the event organized by Isidora Muñoz Segovia, a Rural Youth Organizer with JustME for JustUS, Ezra Sassaman working with Maine Youth for Climate Justice, and Tony and Anne Ferrara with Climate Action Net, a Blue Hill based environmental organization.
“The Climate Crisis is also an imagination crisis.” (Amitav Gosh, 2020) This sentence was one of the main inspirations for this interdisciplinary and innovative approach to hosting climate change conversations and town meetings around the topic of climate justice – where food, live music and dance play a crucial role in changing the dynamics of talking about serious themes. This is the second event under this structure of Community Resilience Envisioning, the first one hosted successfully in Bar Harbor earlier this year. Why are we talking about imagination when trying to raise awareness of water quality or shore access to the public? The explanation lies in the complexities of the definition of “climate justice” itself. We can’t truly understand the impacts of climate change without talking about social justice. Understanding which communities are the most vulnerable and most impacted by the effects of sea level rise, floods, fires, among many other extreme climate events is key to comprehending our community needs. Beyond that, gaining awareness of the lenses through which we see the impacts of our decisions when trying to find solutions is fundamental to not only stop perpetuating historical oppression to minority groups but, rather, help us build a stronger community ready to tackle whatever difficulty our future might bring us. Imagination shines because we aim to acknowledge the inherited colonial narratives that we have been raised in and accept as the norm, and we want to challenge the status quo to truly imagine a thriving future for us, and for all.
This event gathered members from many different areas of our local community. Environmental organizations like the Island Institute and Blue Hill Heritage Trust shared the mic with seaweed harvester Micah Woodcook, owner of Atlantic Holdfast, as well as entrepreneur Billi Giordano with his Tilth Arts and Agriculture project, and students from the local university, College of the Atlantic, representing Earth in Brackets (a youth-led environmental organization).
Here are some of the highlights from the discussion:
Maine has many underused resources! There are brilliant young people with many visions lacking resources to bring them into reality. That’s where entrepreneurship accelerator incubators come into play to cover that need and support those creative minds to sprout their ideas into a reality without having to wait for many years and get in debt before finding out if their idea will be successful or not.
Communities are still feeling the impacts of COVID in terms of precarity, scarcity, social and emotional burn outs.
Housing is a dire need for our local coastal communities. A lot of the challenges that young local people living in Maine are facing today is how unaffordable housing is. Maybe young people who are trying to stay and contribute to their communities locally are finding a lot of difficulties to do so when there is no shelter for them.
Power awareness is very important when thinking of strategies for change. Knowing the power of collective awareness and the influence that we can have as engaged civic individuals into the decision making of our local government is fundamental to encourage action that is aligned with the needs of the people and looks after the collective well-being.
Some non-profits cover the needs of communities that are often overlooked by local governments. So it’s important to have that in mind and find the pathways in which we can uplift these connections and resources to make them available for people.
“Water as a force that connects us:” water is essential for life, and therefore we must reevaluate our relationship and responsibility with it. Trusting that our local governments will take care of it for the good of the community has been proven wrong (example of Fryeburg, ME with the case of Polar Spring).
Often the connection of the work that local nonprofit organizations are doing regarding climate justice may not be too apparent to the public. For example, in Maine there is not a lot of public work done to protect land and natural resources for the public – unlike other areas of the country. Land trusts like Blue Hill Heritage Trust are doing private work with private money for public good. They are protecting farmland to protect the opportunity to grow their own food in the future, they are protecting their opportunity to protect the ground above the water to keep it here for them. They also ensure the opportunity to give everybody access to very valuable resources that we have here like the shoreline whilst making sure everybody doesn’t only have access to these spaces but feel welcomed to the table.
More youth organizations can benefit from using imagination as a tool that helps you to survive, to build resilience.
To learn more about Community Resilience Envisioning events stay tuned for the Community Resilience Envisioning Toolkit and reach out to JustME for JustUS if you would like to host one in your community.