Stuff about me
My name is Keith Michaud and this is “Letters From Away,” a blog written by a Mainer living outside the comfortable and sane confines of New England. The blog is intended for Mainers, whether they live in the Pine Tree State or beyond, and for anyone who has loved ’em, been baffled by ’em or both. Ayuh, I am “from away.” Worse still, I live on the Left Coast – in California. Enjoy! Or not. Your choice.
Search for stuff
Stuff on TwitterMy Tweets
Stuff by date
June 2019 S M T W T F S « Mar 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30
Stuff by tagAcadia National Park Afghanistan aid Aroostook County Augusta Bangor Bangor Daily News Bar Harbor barista Baxter State Park brew caffeinated caffeine California coffee coffeehouse coffeehouse observation coffeehouse observations Coffeehouse Observer cup o’ joe donations DownEast.com DownEast Magazine earthquake Economy empresso Energy Environment espresso exotic java fishing Fort Kent Gov. John Baldacci Gov. Paul LePage Gulf of Mexico Haiti Haitian Haitians Iraq java jobless joblessness jobs joe L.L. Bean lobster Maine Maine Department of Environmental Protection Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Mainer Mainers Maine State Police medical marijuana moose Mount Katahdin National Weather Service New England oil spill pastries Port-au-Prince Portland Portland Press Herald Presque Isle relief Rockland snow Stockton tea turbines unemployment University of Maine University of Southern Maine wind energy wind farms wind power
Stuff I’ve posted
- March 2018
- February 2018
- January 2018
- November 2017
- October 2017
- September 2017
- August 2017
- July 2017
- June 2017
- July 2015
- June 2015
- November 2014
- October 2014
- September 2014
- July 2014
- June 2014
- May 2014
- November 2013
- February 2013
- August 2012
- July 2012
- June 2012
- April 2012
- February 2012
- January 2012
- December 2011
- November 2011
- October 2011
- September 2011
- August 2011
- July 2011
- June 2011
- May 2011
- April 2011
- March 2011
- February 2011
- January 2011
- December 2010
- November 2010
- October 2010
- September 2010
- August 2010
- July 2010
- June 2010
- May 2010
- April 2010
- March 2010
- February 2010
- January 2010
- December 2009
- November 2009
- October 2009
Stuff people write
- How Maine Became a Laboratory for the Future of Public Higher Ed | The Chronicle of Higher Education
- Angus King Urges Interior Department To Reconsider Offshore Drilling Proposal | Mainepublic.org
- Maine Voices: Higher education, employers must work together for bright future | Portland Press Herald
- Stunning reversal: McDaniels turns down Colts’ job to stay with Patriots | The Associated Press via the Portland Press Herald
- Kennebec River water levels could stay high into next week | Bangor Daily News
Tag Archives: Environment
Environmental coalition praises, criticizes lawmakers | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram
[I like small coffeehouses over the chain places, but this story about Starbucks on GreenBiz.com is worth spreading around. Below are the first couple of paragraphs and a link to the rest of the story. – KM]
OAKLAND, CA — Starbucks is using New York City as a testing ground for recycling its ubiquitous coffee cups. If successful, it could mean the 3 billion cups it uses each year could go to recycling bins instead of landfills.
During a nine-week test, which started in mid-September and runs through November, 86 Starbucks locations in New York City will provide in-store recycling bins for cups and send them off to be recycled.
“We are testing the capability of the infrastructure to handle and accept our cups in the system,” said Jim Hanna, Starbucks’ director of environmental impact. Starbucks (NASDAQ: SBUX) has a self-imposed goal to only provide reusable or recyclable cups by 2015.
Click to read the rest of the story by Jonathan Bardelline on GreenBiz.com
Here are links to a three-part series by the Maine Center For Public Interest Reporting published in the Bangor Daily News looking at wind energy in Maine and the laws surrounding it.
State point man on offshore wind clearly energized | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram
The long-awaited climate change bill is due to be unveiled in the U.S. Senate today. But a summary of the bill circulated in the media yesterday.
The Associated Press reported that under the new bill, coastal states could veto offshore drilling plans of nearby states, if they can prove negative impacts from an accident.
This clause is undoubtedly part of last-minute changes made in response to the ongoing oil spill in the Gulf.
Click on the lick for the rest of this story on SustainableBusiness.com.
[This is the eighth of eight or so blog entries on the cars and other vehicles I have driven. So far. It may or may not be of interest. Enjoy. Or not. It’s your choice. – KM]
Isn’t it always the way. You start a project and something gets in the way – job search, reading, laundry, and just plain distraction and procrastination.
I’ve been trying to finish off this series of blogs on the vehicles that I’ve driven over the years and there seems to be something in the way each time I sit down to write. I do want to finish off the series, especially since I’m so close to the end. So far, anyway.
But, frankly, I’m not sure it was worth the wait.
Despite that, here it is in all its glory.
* * *
I was disappointed when I lost the Rodeo in the crash. I liked it well enough, it was dependable, it provided some presence and power on the road compared to my previous rides, and I hadn’t been forced to spend that much time and money on maintenance and repair.
Granted, the gas mileage was not great with the Rodeo and over the years I had become more concerned with what the Rodeo and vehicles like it were doing to the environment. I was feeling guilty and a bit embarrassed that I was contributing to a problem that we can no longer ignore. Every little bit done to reduce those emissions will help.
Despite that guilt and embarrassment, I had planned to drive the Rodeo for at least another year before looking for a new ride. I had been trying to pay down some credit card bills and I wanted to direct my money toward that and not toward a new vehicle just yet.
But, alas, it was not meant to be.
Stockton’s mass transit system got me around for a couple of weeks after I lost the Rodeo, but that got old pretty quickly.
* * *
A friend in Vacaville who works with several auto dealerships there tracked down a deal for me on a lease of a 2008 Honda CRV. She had been driving an older version of the model and loved it.
I had always liked the looks of the Honda CRV and the Toyota RAV4, but I could never afford the popular vehicles. They are fairly compact, yet the driver and passengers sit fairly high for better visibility. They were both stylish and dependable, notwithstanding Toyota’s most recent cataclysmic problems.
Honda always seems to hold one of the stop spots in customer satisfaction surveys so I figured I would not be disappointed. And to this point I have not been.
Picking up the CRV was a bit bothersome, I suppose, because the dealership had limited color selection in the model I could afford. Remember, this was before the ugly economy came crashing down around all our heads. People were buying cars, especially brands like Honda, so I knew that getting the color I wanted was going to be hit-and-miss.
I waited at the dealership three hours or so after signing the paperwork, because a dealership employee had to drive to Sacramento to trade a CRV with one at a dealership there for one that was the proper color, sort of a metallic blue. The wait was worth it to get my first ever “new” vehicle. Each of my previous rides had been used vehicles.
On the good side, the dealership took care of returning my rental car, which was nice of them. And the deal was and is pretty good.
After finally getting the CRV, I drove it to my friend’s home in central Vacaville so she and her husband could give it a lookover. They liked it enough to offer me dinner. Well, they probably would have offered me dinner even if they hadn’t liked it.
I believe it was the following day that I first drove it to work and parked under the Crosstown Freeway parking structure across the street from The Record building. I was a touch nervous leaving it out there since The Record is not in the best neighborhood, but it was going to be daylight soon enough and the guard shack for The Record was just across the street.
Later that day or within in a few days – the memory fades soo quickly – we heard scanner traffic in the newsroom that the van belonging to an accused child molester had been spotted on a levy road pullout west of north Stockton, a place where local police are called often because of dumped stolen vehicles. I drove the CRV out to check out the report. It was nice to be driving my own vehicle again after having been forced to drive The Record’s fleet vehicles.
It was a nice day for a ride – sunny, but not too hot, which are rare days in California’s Central Valley in the spring, summer and fall months. Typically, the sun bakes the valley floor and those who dare to tread on it.
The reason for the ride was not so great – chasing down an accused child molester.
Every law enforcement officer and half the reporters in the county were looking for the guy. I seem to recall that someone at a nearby restaurant or a passing boater had reported the van, thinking it had been abandoned. So, it wasn’t a surprise that when I arrived there were at least a San Joaquin County Sheriff’s deputy or two and an equal number of California Highway Patrol officers.
It didn’t take long to learn that the accused child molester had killed himself in his van parked in a turnout at the end of the levy road. Of course, we couldn’t see that from where the police kept the media, but that is just as well. I’m never in the hurry to see brain matter splattered all over the inside of a van.
* * *
There have been far, far more trips in the CRV that were positive and pleasant, trust me. It must have been a few weeks later that trip to the levy road that I took my first real roadtrip in the CRV. Friends and I have been going to this same campground in the Sierra Nevada for the past 20 years or so for long Memorial Day weekends. Actually, the friend who helped me get the deal on the CRV has family living in the area so she’s been going up there all her life.
For some reason, one lost from my porous memory, I was unable to make the extended part of the trip. But I figured I could drive up for at least part of a day.
I took off from Stockton much later than I had planned, which was a bit of a miscalculation since I decided to use a loop that I had mostly not driven before.
I headed out of Stockton on Highway 4, a mostly two-lane ribbon of asphalt – sorry for the cliché description of a plain, old road – and into the Sierra Nevada. Up in to the mountains and through towns such as Cooperopolis, Murphys, Arnold and the Calaveras Big Trees State Park, Dorrington, Lake Alpine, and over Ebbets Pass. It is a truly beautiful winding road through some very scenic trees, mountains and valleys.
After going along the East Fork of the Carson River for a while, I turned onto state Highway 89 and up and over Monitor Pass. It is another beautiful and scenic stretch of road that goes up and over Monitor Pass into a valley where the West Walker River flows. I then took U.S. Highway 395 south – through or near places such as Coleville, Walker, Topaz Lake – to Bridgeport, a lovely and historic ranching community.
I turned onto Twin Lakes Road and to Annette’s Mono Village. The place is set back on the eastern short of the upper of two lakes. In many ways, it fits what I imagine a ’50s-style camping resort looked like, with a log cabin for a restaurant and bar, regular barbecues for guests and other family friendly events, and a place to buy bait and beer. There are areas for tent campers and various areas for campers with travel trailers and RVs, and there are lodges and motel-style rooms.
From the campsite you can hike into the Hoover Wilderness located in the Inyo and Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forests. Trailheads located in Virginia Creek, Green Creek, Robinson Creek, Buckeye Creek, and the Little Walker River provide access to trails within the Hoover Wilderness.
This is the U.S. Forest Service’s rather conserve description of the Hoover Wilderness:
“Bordering Yosemite National Park along the Pacific Crest and falling away to the Great Basin to the east, the Hoover Wilderness is a spectacular piece of the Sierras. Soaring peaks, glistening lakes and lush meadows are just some of its awesome spectacles. The headwaters of the East Walker River can also be found in the creeks of the Hoover Wilderness.”
It is much, much more beautiful than that.
Bodie State Historical Park, Mono Lake, and Mammoth Lakes are within easy driving from Bridgeport, as are other scenic areas.
But this roadtrip did not include hiking, visiting ghost towns, or visiting lakes, briny or otherwise. I was here for a very quick visit, but it was the trip itself that was the goal.
With a touch of envy, I hiked from the parking lot of Annette’s Mono Village to the “usual spot.” For years, we had selected the same spot to camp, one slightly uphill from restrooms and shower facilities – yeah, I know it isn’t exactly roughin’ it – in the shadows of jagged mountains and a huge dead sugar pine. That’s where I found the usual suspects and I hung out for a while visiting with friends that I usually see only on this annual trip.
But I didn’t stay too long, despite every effort by my friends to persuade me to stay overnight. I wanted to complete the loop and get back to my own bed. I had taken off from Stockton much later than I had wanted and the trip up into the Sierra had taken quite a bit longer than I had anticipated, so I needed to get back on the road.
For the return portion of the trip I turned off just shy of an old California Department of Transportation yard onto state Highway 108, also known as the Sonora Pass Highway, which took me near the U.S. Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center. I have a feeling the men and women assigned to the facility were getting a much needed and much appreciated holiday weekend barbecue – I could see the smoke and smell what had to be delicious burgers and dogs. And long lines of marines lining up for chow.
Soon after passing the base, I began the steep, winding incline. It is an incredibly beautiful, scenic and dangerous road, made more hazardous when drivers of oncoming vehicles attempt to take their half of the road from the middle, which happened several times.
But the trip through the Sierra was well worth it. There are few places quite like the Sierra Nevada for raw scenic beauty.
This leg of the trip took me through the Sonora Pass and down into or near the Sierra and Mother Lode communities of Dardanell, Wagner, Cow Creek, Bumblebee, Strawberry, Cold Springs, Long Barn, Sylvan Lodge, Mi-Wuk Village, Confidence, Twain Harte, and Sonora. Then it was onto state Highway 49 – yep, Highway 49, as in 49ers, in Mother Lode gold country – to Angels Camp and then state Highway 4 through Cooperopolis and back into Stockton. It was a long day.
* * *
I took several shorter roadtrips after that, usually involving meeting a friend for golf or simply to stretch my legs, as it were.
Those trips ended about a year ago, unfortunately. I could no longer justify the cost of such trips after I was laid off. I do so very much look forward to more trips in the future once I find a new job and get back on my feet financially.
OK, the bottom line is that the Honda CRV is not a particularly sexy ride. But it is practical, gets great gas mileage, is an ultra-low fuel emissions vehicle, and is, well, a Honda. I am happy with the CRV, at least for now.
See you on the road.
Rides of My Life … so far
Part 8: Honda CRV
AUGUSTA — We asked experts to helps us compare how Maine was doing environmentally compared to the nation.
Not surprisingly, Maine is doing better in air quality, water quality and the amount we recycle.
It started 40 years ago when Maine U.S. Sen. Edmund Muskie sponsored what became the Clean Air and Clean Water acts. (More bragging rights, Muskie was a native of Rumford.) Because of those laws and all the work that followed, “Maine has air and waters statewide that are much cleaner than they were, and much cleaner than other states east of the Mississippi River,” said David Littell, Department of Environmental Protection commissioner.
Maine has many of the most intact ecosystems among eastern states, such as strong cold-water fisheries, which have 75 percent of the eastern habitat in Maine, Littell said. “We need to continue to protect high-quality air, water, and habitats, while permitting development in lower quality areas.”
The next environmental battle, he said, is climate change.
Click on the link for the rest of today’s story and guide by Bonnie Washuk in the Lewiston Sun Journal.
[Thinking too much about the magnitude of the environment and what we’ve done to this planet can be extremely daunting.
“What can I do? What can one person do?” can be rattling around nearly everyone’s head.
The thing, it isn’t about what one person can do or what one group of people can do. It is about we all can do. What can we do? We start small and build on small victories until we make a dent. And then we push forward some more.
Attached with the story are three lists of what we all can do to help in the long run. Try one or two from each list. Then another and another. – KM]
5 things to do to improve air quality:
- Conserve electricity, buy efficient appliances and products such as compact fluorescents or even better, LEDs.
- Drive a vehicle that gets good gas mileage; keep it tuned.
- Make sure your home is insulated.
- Use an EPA certified wood or pellet stove.
- Drive less, carpool if you can, and support public policy and legislation that moves us toward clean and healthy energy and transportation.
Source: Department of Environmental Protection, American Lung Association of Maine
5 things to improve recycling rates:
- Find out what your local recycling program accepts for materials, adjust your home’s system to match.
- Build a backyard compost pile, keeps organics out of the trash. It will reduce odor, and you get a soil-enriching product at no cost.
- Use smaller trash cans; they fill up faster and make you think twice before tossing something.
- Make recycling more convenient in your home; keep the recycling bin near the trash can.
- Think about the waste generated as you buy something. Make a pledge to recycle more and throw away less, and keep that pledge
—From George MacDonald, Maine State Planning Office
5 things to improve water quality
- Prevent erosion. Soil erosion is the single greatest threat to water quality. Seed and mulch bare ground.
- Use trees and shrubs to filter runoff. Every time it rains, pollutants are washed from driveways, roofs, yards, parking lots and roads into ditches. From there the runoff goes to streams, rivers, lakes or groundwater. A ribbon of bushes, trees and ground cover (buffers) can act as a sponge and filter out contaminants.
- Use less fertilizer and pesticides. Fertilizing your lawn and garden can result in phosphorus and nitrogen that can run off and get into streams, lakes and the ocean. If you leave the grass clippings, you don’t need to fertilize; grass clippings are free fertilizer. Pesticides, which are toxic, can create health problems for people and animals. Compared to 15 years ago, three times as much yard care pesticides are brought into Maine. Pesticides can wash off into into water bodies. If you have pests, spot treat. Learn to like dandelions.
- Maintain septic systems. About 50 percent of Mainers use septic systems. Inadequate septic systems account for 5 to 10 percent of all phosphorus that reaches lakes. Toxins, nitrates, nutrients, bacteria and viruses from inadequate septic systems can seep into wells. That pollution also flows into streams, harms lakes, and on the coast, causes clam flats and beaches to be closed.
- If you have a septic system, don’t use septic additives, don’t pour grease or food down your sink, pump your system every two to three years. If your septic system was installed before 1974, consider replacing it.
Source: Department of Environmental Protection
I just finished reading Alan Weisman’s “The World Without Us” and even if a fraction of a fraction of what he writes is a fraction correct, then we have really screwed up things on this earthly orb.
The book – you can read a bit about it on a website for the book at http://www.worldwithoutus.com/index2.html – came out a couple of years ago and speculates on what would happen if man – and woman, of course – failed to exist any longer. What would happen to the cities – homes, businesses, subways, channels, etc. – we have built if we were no longer here to maintain them or to build more of them or properly dispose of them, as if we do that now.
What would happen to the species we have endangered. What would return. What would not.
What would happen to trees, forests, streams, rivers, river deltas, the ocean if we were no longer here to cut them, redirect them, dam them, pollute them.
What would happen if we – you, me and the billions upon billions of other people on Earth suddenly were no longer here. What would happen.
It is stunning – and I don’t mean in a good way – what we have done to this planet. Simply stunning.
Frankly, I don’t know if Weisman’s science adds up. I’m not a scientist, I’m not a researcher. Heck, the other day I used the word “sciencey” on one of my other blogs. I don’t get science and science doesn’t get me.
But Weisman presents a startling picture of where we’ve been, what we’ve done and what would happen if we were no longer here.
I want this to be a better place and I am personally doing what little I can to do more by recycling bottles, cans, newspaper, cardboard. I purchased a set of no-rip nylon bags to use grocery shopping. I limit the trips in my car – an ultra-low emissions car, I might add.
But it is not nearly enough, not by a very, very long shot.
We very probably – not possibly, but probably – screwed things up so very badly that most things will not come back to even nearly where they were before.
In the book’s prelude, Weisman writes:
“Our world, some respected voices warn, could one day degenerate into something resembling a vacant lot, where crows and rats scuttle among weeds, preying on each other. If it comes to that, at what point would things have gone so far that, for all our vaunted superior intelligence, we’re not among the hardy survivors?
“The truth is, we don’t know. Any conjecture gets muddled by our obstinate reluctance to accept that they worst might actually occur. We may be undermined by our survival instincts, honed over eons to help us deny, defy, or ignore catastrophic portents lest they paralyze us with fright.”
That is not cause to lie down, curl into the fetal position and die. Quite the opposite. I think it is a hopeful piece that urges each of us have to try just a little to make a big impact, if not immediately, then in the future.
This is from the book’s jacket or the website. I cannot recall at the moment:
In “The World Without Us,” Alan Weisman offers an utterly original approach to questions of humanity’s impact on the planet: he asks us to envision our Earth, without us.
In this far-reaching narrative, Weisman explains how our massive infrastructure would collapse and finally vanish without human presence; what of our everyday stuff may become immortalized as fossils; how copper pipes and wiring would be crushed into mere seams of reddish rock; why some of our earliest buildings might be the last architecture left; and how plastic, bronze sculpture, radio waves, and some man-made molecules may be our most lasting gifts to the universe.
“The World Without Us” reveals how, just days after humans disappear, floods in New York’s subways would start eroding the city’s foundations, and how, as the world’s cities crumble, asphalt jungles give way to real ones. It describes the distinct ways that organic and chemically-treated farms would revert to wild, how billions more birds would flourish, and how cockroaches in unheated cities would perish without us. Drawing on the expertise of engineers, atmospheric scientists, art conservators, zoologists, oil refiners, marine biologists, astrophysicists, religious leaders from rabbis to the Dalai Lama, and paleontologists – who describe a pre-human world inhabited by megafauna like giant sloths that stood taller than mammoths – Weisman illustrates what the planet might be like today, if not for us.
From places already devoid of humans (a last fragment of primeval European forest; the Korean DMZ; Chernobyl), Weisman reveals Earth’s tremendous capacity for self-healing. As he shows which human devastations are indelible, and which examples of our highest art and culture would endure longest, Weisman’s narrative ultimately drives toward a radical but persuasive solution that doesn’t depend on our demise. It is narrative nonfiction at its finest, and in posing an irresistible concept with both gravity and a highly-readable touch, it looks deeply at our effects on the planet in a way that no other book has.
And here is what critics say about the book:
“I plucked this book from the stack of Advanced Readers Copies that flood the store, read the first page, and then read the book straight through exclaiming to anyone who would tolerate me – listen to this, and this, and this!!!!! This book is a thought experiment (what would the world be like if humans disappeared today, raptured up perhaps). A very simple premise that leads this marvelously straightforward, thoughtful, thorough author into parts of the world I hadn’t known existed. As well, he deals with exactly what would go first and last in your house. How long it would take for Manhattan to collapse. On and on. It makes for obsessive reading. This is perhaps my favorite book this year. At once the most harrowing and, oddly, comforting book on the environment that I’ve read in many years.” — Louise Erdrich, author of “Love Medicine” and of National Book Award finalist “The Birchbark House”
[No] “end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it story … is more audacious or interesting than Alan Weisman’s ‘The World Without Us.’” — Boston Globe
“I don’t think I’ve read a better non-fiction book this year.” — Lev Grossman, TIME Book Critic
“This is one of the grandest thought experiments of our time, a tremendous feat of imaginative reporting!” — Bill McKibben, author of “The End of Nature” and “Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and The Durable Future”
“The imaginative power of ‘The World Without Us’ is compulsive and nearly hypnotic – make sure you have time to be kidnapped into Alan Weisman’s alternative world before you sit down with the book, because you won’t soon return. This is a text that has a chance to change people, and so make a real difference for the planet.” — Charles Wohlforth, author of L.A. Times Book Prize-winning The Whale and the Supercomputer
“A refreshing, and oddly hopeful, look at the fate of the environment.” — BusinessWeek
“Alan Weisman offers us a sketch of where we stand as a species that is both illuminating and terrifying. His tone is conversational and his affection for both Earth and humanity transparent.” — Barry Lopez, author of Arctic Dreams
“Brilliantly creative. An audacious intellectual adventure. His thought experiment is so intellectually fascinating, so oddly playful, that it escapes categorizing and clichés. It sucks us in with a vision of what is, what has been and what is yet to come. The book is addictive … by appealing not just to our fear and guilt but to our love for our planetary home, ‘The World Without Us’ makes saving the world as intimate an act as helping a child. It’s a trumpet call that sounds from the other end of the universe and from inside us all.” — Salon
“Extraordinarily farsighted. A beautiful and passionate jeremiad against deforestation, climate change, and pollution.” — Boston Globe
“An exacting account of the processes by which things fall apart. The scope is breathtaking … the clarity and lyricism of the writing itself left me with repeated gasps of recognition about the human condition. I believe it will be a classic.” — Dennis Covington, author of National Book Award finalist “Salvation on Sand Mountain”
“… [I]n his provocative new book, ‘The World Without Us,’ Alan Weisman adds a dash of fiction to his science to address a despairing problem: the planet’s health.” — U.S. News & World Report
“Grandly entertaining.” — TIME
“Alan Weisman has produced, if not a bible, at least a Book of Revelation.” — Newsweek
“One of the most ambitious ‘thought experiments’ ever.” — The Cincinnati Enquirer
“The book boasts an amazingly imaginative conceit that manages to tap into underlying fears and subtly inspire us to consider our interaction with the planet.” — The Washington Post
“As fascinating as it is surprising.” — BusinessWeek
“Fascinating, mordant, deeply intelligent, and beautifully written, ‘The World Without Us’ depicts the spectacle of humanity’s impact on the planet Earth in tragically poignant terms that go far beyond the dry dictates of science. This is a very important book for a species playing games with its own destiny.” — James Howard Kunstler, author of The Long Emergency
“An astonishing mass of reportage that envisions a world suddenly bereft of humans.” — The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Mainers for all time have been closely tied to the environment. Wilderness survival skills were essential for explorers and early settlers if they were to make it in the harsh environment. They trusted in themselves and their skills – and little else.
Later, those skills were used for profit as woodsmen utilized their knowledge to find timber for sawmills and ship masts or guided hunters and fishermen to the bounty of the wilderness.
And later still recreational outdoorsmen and women went into the woods for the sheer enjoyment of being in the outdoors with little or no desire to take from it anything other than the experience and perhaps a few trout.
This closeness continues today in the stewardship of what remains wild in Maine.
But much damage was done in the past to the planet’s environment. It does not take a Bowdoin graduate to know things are not going to add up in the long run if we do not work to fix some of the past damage to ease current and future concerns for the planet’s survival.
It is encouraging, then, that Maine seems to be stepping forward in overall efforts to reduce carbon emissions and to increase the use of alternative energy sources to replace power generated from the burning of petroleum products. Wind farms are beginning to dot the Maine landscape and harnessing ocean waves is likely to be a large component in Maine’s future energy picture, as will be the increased use of solar power.
These three energy sources will be especially important as oil companies turn away from producing home heating oil in order to produce other fuels. [I recall as a child when the delivery truck from the local oil distributor would pull over to the side of the road near our home on the hill overlooking Portage Lake, Maine, and drag a nozzle and hose to the side of the house to pump oil into a pipe that led to a holding tank in our cellar. There were times during the winter that the driver would be forced to climb over towering snow banks and through thigh-high snow while towing behind him the heavy nozzle and hose. Home heating oil fueled the heater and warmed the home in winter, but it did not smell particularly good – which may have been a clue as to just how unhealthy it was to be around the stuff.]
A fossil fuel expert earlier this week said that Maine’s midcoast may be at the center of harnessing wave energy. Matthew Simmons is the co-founder of the Ocean Energy Institute, which plans to open an office in Rockland, Maine, in the next few months, and was one of the keynote speakers at the 2009 Sustainable Island Living Conference there last weekend, according to a Herald Gazette story.
He said that oil, natural gas and coal all had passed their peak production and that there were no plans for what would fill the energy void. Ocean Energy Institute is working with the state, the University of Maine and the U.S. Department of Energy on floating windmill pilot projects off Maine’s coast.
We must move away from fossil fuels and continue the development of sustainable sources such as solar, wind and wave. In the meantime, it is important to do what can be done now to help, including visiting the Efficiency Maine website for tips and other information.
Maine is moving in the right direction.
Clean air, clean water, clean everything is what I recall about living in Maine.
After all, I grew up in a small town in northern Aroostook County where traffic congestion pretty much happened only at the local general store where locals gathered for ice, milk and gossip. Or across the street at the local motel and restaurant that catered to people from away and locals alike.
A traffic “tie-up” happened when two friends driving in opposite directions stopped their vehicles in the middle of a town street to have a conversation about work, the weather, hunting or the cost of heating fuel. Or @#%* taxes. Local motorists coming upon such a scene tended to wait patiently or toot their vehicle’s horn in hello before driving onto the gravel shoulder to get around so as not to interrupt the conversation.
In Aroostook County, there are no smog warnings or “Spare the Air” days, and usually little need to run water through a treatment plant.
But things change over time. Population increases. More people means more vehicles means more gasoline used. More people means more energy needs means more petroleum products burned to make electricity. And those things mean more harmful emissions.
So, it is reassuring – but not particularly surprising given the type of people Mainers are – that a report released today shows that Maine is a leader when it comes to reducing its carbon footprint. That – and the state’s efforts in obtaining energy from alternatives such as wind and wave power – provides hope for sustainability in the long run in meeting energy needs through clean energy sources. And it means reducing greenhouse gases that help cause global warming.
The study – an analysis of U.S. Department of Energy data – shows that Maine’s carbon footprint was reduced by a larger proportion than any other state from 2004 to 2007, according to a Portland Press Herald story by staff writer John Richardson. Maine is leading the national trend for that period by dropping by 15 percent the carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of coal, oil and gas, according to the report by the Environment America Research and Policy Center.
That is a good start. But there is so much left to do.
Environmental advocates and state officials say those emissions still have to drop a lot lower in Maine and elsewhere in the United States to avoid such climate changes as rising seas and warmer, wetter weather.
“While that’s great, it’s also not enough. We need to keep going,” Katie Kokkinos, an advocate with Environment Maine, is quoted in the story. “The overall picture is, yes, we’re taking initiative and moving forward, but it’s still too slowly.”
Granted, there are other influences at work her, including the economic influences of higher oil prices.
But every effort toward the overall goal of global survival is well worth it and one part of that is reducing carbon dioxide emissions.