Coastal Resilience in Southern Maine
Updated: Mar 15
Steve Genovese, Sustainability Outreach Fellow, describes his journey into the environmental profession and the importance of Resilience Corps projects in promoting a sustainable future.
I have been passionate about the outdoors for as long as I can remember. As a kid, I followed my dad around the Connecticut woods as he hunted, fished, and hiked, and spent as much time outdoors as I was allowed. When I moved to Maine after college in 2011, I immediately sought out southern Maine’s outdoor spaces by volunteering on trail maintenance groups and in community gardens. My journey into the environmental profession didn’t take shape until a 2016 decision to expand my horizons and experience climate change firsthand, when I realized I could make a life working to create the sustainable future I envisioned for everyone on our planet.
Fast forward to today, three years removed from service in the Peace Corps as an Environmental Extension and Economic Development Agent in Tanzania, I am enrolled in graduate school focusing my study on energy and environmental planning and serving as a Resilience Corps Fellow back ‘home’ in Portland.
The Resilience Corps is an AmeriCorps program at the Greater Portland Council of Governments (GPCOG) which places members at several municipalities and organizations engaged in climate resilience, transportation, and environmental planning. I am serving as the Communications and Outreach Fellow in the City of South Portland Sustainability Office for the year. My role focuses on creating meaningful and engaging outreach and communications on behalf of the Sustainability Office, which means that I get to be involved with every project the City is working on. This work has allowed me to tie together my graduate education and courses like the one I am currently enrolled in (Sustainable Ocean Resource Planning) with access to Maine’s experts in the climate change field whose research and programming I get to publicize. While I don’t want to underscore the impact of climate change, it is an incredible opportunity to live in a place so focused on developing solutions to climate change impacts.
Steve and Susan Parmalee, City of South Portland Sustainability Program Manager at the Ribbon Cutting for the City's solar array at Landfill West. Photo Credit: Mia Ambroiggio.
Steve shooting a promo video introducing the Sustainability Office and their initiatives. Photo Credit: Mia Ambroiggio.
As a coastal region, the social and economic well-being of Greater Portland is tied to the coastal resilience and well-being of Casco Bay and the greater north Atlantic Ocean. Coastal resilience is the capacity of our natural shoreline environments to withstand the effects of weather events and man-made disturbances. As climate change creates more challenges to our coastline resilience in the form of rising sea levels and increased storm strength and frequency, it is imperative that the work of each of our Resilience Corps host sites addresses how each community within the region can best address this resilience.
In December, I had the opportunity to sit down with my cohort mate, Abigail Long and Gayle Bowness, the Municipal Climate Action Program Manager at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI) in Portland. GMRI conducts research and marine science programming, designed to solve the most pressing environmental challenges of today, like coastal resilience and flooding. In my conversation with Abby and Gayle, we discussed how GMRI’s programming like Climate Ready Casco Bay - a two-year project encouraging collaboration amongst 11 Casco Bay communities to develop nature-based solutions for coastal resilience - and the Coastal Flooding Community Science project depend on data, observations, and input directly from communities and how my work as an outreach fellow in a coastal city can be so impactful in this realm.
My experience thus far with the Resilience Corps has been eye-opening. A complete departure from past employment in higher education and a shift in focus from the grassroots work of my volunteer experiences, city-focused Sustainability work helps align communities with progressive, environmentally conscious thought and creates a path forward towards a sustainable future. To me, the most important piece is that I can have this involvement in my home community and creating that sustainable future with a group of like-minded fellows has made the experience all the better.
Steve Genovese is a GPCOG Resilience Corps Fellow serving in the South Portland Sustainability Office on an 11-month term. Steve can be reached at email@example.com . Follow the Sustainability Office on Instagram @soposustainability.
Steve was born in North Haven, CT, but calls Portland, ME home. He graduated from Western New England College in 2011 with a Bachelor's of Science in Business Administration with a focus in Accounting and is currently enrolled in MEEM - the Master of Energy and Environmental Management program at the University of Connecticut. He completed a post-bachelor certificate in Sustainable Environmental Planning and Management in 2022 and is excited to translate this education into actionable change through his Resilience Corps role. Steve served in the United States Peace Corps from 2018-2020 as a sustainable agriculture and economic development volunteer in rural southwest Tanzania and developed a passion for driving renewable energy programming and creating and maintaining thriving sustainable food systems as a result. In his free time, he loves to hike, travel, and try as many new foods as possible! Steve is excited about the Resilience Corps Fellowship with GPCOG because it combines so many of his passions in a place that he loves; the beautiful southern coast of Maine. He is looking forward to working with the city of South Portland to meet and exceed all of their goals in environmental communications, benchmarking, and planning.