Coming Together on Climate Action
Courtney Crossgrove, Climate Resilience Finance Fellow, reflects on attending Communities Leading on Climate, a climate conference for community leaders.
At about 6:00 AM on Friday, June 17th I hopped out of bed, got ready for the day, and got in my car to go pick up my fellow, fellow Mia Ambroiggio in Portland. Together, we headed off to Augusta for a day full of community, networking, education, and inspiration; we were off to a conference. Communities Leading on Climate, hosted by the Maine Climate Council, was a day-long climate conference for community leaders. Over the past two plus years we have all avoided gatherings, but early on this Friday in June people across Maine were going to do what climate change requires us all to do and come together.
As someone who spent a good portion of their first week as a fellow reading Maine Won’t Wait, Maine’s climate action plan, I was excited to be in a conference center with the people who wrote, informed, or are enacting the plan. Published in December 2020, this ambitious four-year plan was one and a half years old at the time of the conference. There were copies of the plan and the one-year report available for attendees and I decided to take home the physical version of Maine Won’t Wait as I find it beautiful, digestible, and of course actionable. It now sits on my desk as I work, a reminder of the greater effort I am working within.
The conference started out with muffins, coffee, and introductions from the Maine Climate Council co-chairs, Hannah Pingree and Melanie Loyzim, followed by remarks from representatives of Senator Susan Collins and Representative Jared Golden, Senator Angus King, U.S. Representative Chellie Pingree (who gave a very touching comment about how proud she is of her daughter Hannah Pingree), and Governor Janet Mills. Governor Mills started off the conference with a bang by announcing a new funding program to help schools, municipalities, and other public buildings improve energy efficiency.
Mia and I attended an afternoon workshop session entitled “Turning Community Advocacy into Local Climate Action” where A Climate to Thrive in Mount Desert Island and the Center for an Ecology-Based Economy in Norway discussed how their communities inspire climate action. Both organizations had an impressive list of community-driven climate solutions but noted that it has not always been easy or come naturally to the communities they work with. Nevertheless, they were doing the work and doing it in a way that had us buzzing about their various initiatives as we left the room. These organizations have developed something wonderful in their communities and were sharing their experiences at this conference as a way to extend their impact.
A highlight of the day was the newly launched statewide Community Resilience Partnership. My host site, the New England Environmental Finance Center, participated in the pilot program that helped inform the Community Resilience Partnership and is now serving as a service provider assisting communities with enrollment in the program. Once enrolled, communities are eligible for community action grants. A few Resilience Corps Fellows have been engaging in Community Resilience Partnership work.
At the conference, the dialogue around the Partnership was positive and excited. Community leaders are thrilled to have this money to work on adaptation and mitigation efforts while climate professionals are excited about the added leverage. The last session of the day I attended was on the Community Resilience Partnership with a panel of service providers. In the Q&A session, one of the audience members raised their hand and introduced themselves by identifying the community action grant project their community is working on. The panels’ faces lit up and the monitor responded, “We love your project!”. The audience member proceeded to express their gratitude for the funding opportunity and the ability to complete a project that otherwise might not have gotten done anytime soon.
That exchange, to me, is what this conference was all about: providing communities with the tools to act and then celebrating progress. Maine Won’t Wait set the stage and gave a plan, political leaders are helping to access financial resources and facilitate necessary programs, but the climate professionals and communities throughout Maine are getting it done. While that audience member was expressing gratitude for the program and the professionals working on the program, the panel, and the rest of the audience, including me, were thrilled that this community-level project was happening. Maine Won’t Wait, funding, programs, and this conference mean nothing without enthusiastic people on the ground taking advantage of them.
I think many attendees shared the sentiment that this was a special day. There was a palpable energy that comes down to the revitalization of hope and the tenacity of the individuals and groups that work on climate action. Climate change, limiting it and adapting to it, is a massive undertaking of a global problem that can feel very overwhelming, but it comes down to individuals and communities working towards a shared goal. Nothing is a better reminder that others are with you in this fight than a conference center full of people eager to learn and share their successes.
Each community is different, with different people, cultures, industries, resources, and natural environment -- so who better to work in these communities than the people living there. Even so, we can all learn from each other and even collaborate in a beneficial way across communities to increase impact. While community-level action is essential, the entire state, country, and world are facing the complexity of climate change necessitating collective action. I am thankful to the Maine Climate Council for providing me and all the other attendees with the space to learn from each other and leave invigorated to do community level work as part of the greater Maine collective action.
Courtney Crossgrove is originally from Moravia, New York but also lived in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Washington DC, and now Maine. Courtney has a bachelor’s degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of New Haven and a master’s degree in Sustainability Science focused on food systems and agriculture from UMass Amherst. Courtney has experience working in campus dining, nutrition education, university programming, state hunger elimination research and planning, and humanitarian assistance. Courtney’s personal interests include making ice cream, cooking, baking, staying active, kayaking, being outdoors, her dog Simmons, trying new restaurants, and reading. Courtney is excited to learn about and integrate into the greater Portland community through Resilience Corps. She is also interested in learning about the various ways that the region is approaching adaptation and mitigation as well as positively contributing to these efforts.