In Washington County three high school students - Edge Venuti, Roy Duffy, and Joey McGlaughlin - created the Sunrise County Climate Coalition (SCCC). “We needed a climate group in Downeast Maine. Throughout the state of Maine there are a lot of youth climate groups, but not in Washington county. There are a lot of youth who care, but there are not a lot of resources for the people who care and want to take action.” It was important to have a place for people to assemble to make the biggest impact. “Hopefully SCCC can give people a sense of community because, in such a rural area where people are so spread out, it can feel like you are more alone when you don’t see others who are also in the fight with you” (Edge).
Organizing a coalition in Washington County has distinct challenges since it is one of the most rural counties in the state.. Because the county is so rural, there are transportation barriers to folks coming together including travel and rideshare coordination and transportation costs like gas prices. Despite these challenges, SCCC organized a teach-in in the spring as their first major event. “[The process of] getting things started [makes us] hopeful, and the excitement of doing something bigger in the future [is a highlight]. They have plans to amplify their efforts in the fall, including another teach-in with more outreach. In the spring, SCCC also helped to organize against the proposed Pembroke Silver Mine. They created and distributed informational pamphlets and met with the Pembroke Safe Water Committee and other local organizations about their efforts. After the town’s vote they got the news - the mine was blocked! It was a great victory for the residents of the surrounding towns and for the health of the environment and water.
The JMJU Micro Grant that helped to support the students’ work gave “a boost in morale.” “In this world, getting paid for the work you do makes you feel like what you did is worth something. When you do get compensation for work that you put your time and effort into you do feel good about it.” For young people, money is harder to come by, and supporting the youth that are trying to make a difference is a crucial support. It is important for young folks to be heard, especially in the climate movement, because they are “the ones who have to deal with the problems as [they] grow up. [They] want to make change that’s worth it for everybody. So many young people have amazing ideas and brilliant minds, and they should be given a platform to speak and be heard to be able to actually make a difference because they can.”
Climate justice means “making sure that people and the earth are treated fairly and getting the respect they deserve. In my (Edge’s) community there are people who are directly impacted by climate change,” like lobsterfolk, who are being forced out of their livelihoods by warming waters and changing patterns. Hopefully in the future “we can keep organizing to protect our home, to prevent the bad things and promote the good things.” The students hope to advocate for better transportation and carpooling services, and to disseminate resources to teach the community about climate justice. Their hope is that SCCC will be a self-sustaining coalition that will continue to strengthen and support youth voices for the climate and community.