Belfast residents have a new way to share experiences with climate change

·3 min read

Oct. 14—MONROE, Maine — From severe summer droughts to rainfall so intense it has washed away entire crops, Noami Brautigam, who farms at Dickey Hill Farm in Monroe, has heard about and experienced a lot of the effects of climate change.

Among farmers she knows, high winds have taken down farm infrastructure. There's been heat so great it killed poultry. And so many other stories. Climate change is always on Brautigam's mind — and she'd like more people to talk about it.

That's why she's glad to be part of a new Belfast Free Library project called "All of Belfast Climate Dialogues." The project's goal is to facilitate conversations about climate change impacts, and collect Belfast-area residents' observations and concerns about what they see and experience.

"I just feel as though the climate crisis is a really big deal that we all ought to be talking about a lot more," Brautigam said. "As a farmer, because our work is impacted so much by the weather and weather patterns, maybe we're forced to think about it more than your average person in some ways. I feel this is an opportunity to bring it into community dialogue more."

The grant-funded library project is just getting off the ground, according to Brenda Harrington, the adult programming librarian at the Belfast Free Library.

Right now, it includes programs about climate change and a website where people can share their own stories, photos, videos and more. She would like to see the website as a resource for people who are concerned about extreme heat days, worried about sea level rise, afraid of ticks and brown tail moths, and wondering about the impacts on farmers, fishermen and others.

"The main thing is to get people to talk about climate change as a way to get people to change," Harrington said. "I want to get stories that say, 'Hey, this is really happening.' We had a drought. We had torrential rains. Just by talking about it, it's making people aware."

She knows that on a national level, it has been hard to make policy changes or have constructive conversations about climate change that don't get mired in political in-fighting. But she hopes that doesn't have to happen on a local level.

"I'm not trying to change people's minds," Harrington said. "I really think that the climate crisis that we're in right now, it needs to rise above politics, honestly."

In addition to documenting the experiences of folks around Belfast and fostering discussions, the information will be used to inform local decision-making and planning, according to the application submitted by the library for the grant.

Upcoming library programs connected to the project include "Maine Won't Wait: How Maine is Taking Action on Climate Change," a Zoom talk by Cassaundra Rose, a senior science analyst and the Maine Climate Council coordinator in the Governor's Office of Policy Innovation and the Future. That will be held at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 21.

Another online event is an introduction to "The Warming Sea," a symphony about climate change by Lucas Richman of the Bangor Symphony Orchestra. That will be held at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 4, via Zoom.

People interested in sharing their stories or seeing what their neighbors have experienced can do so on the "All of Belfast Climate Dialogues" website.

Harrington would like the dialogues to be enlightening — and also, perhaps, to lead to ideas for solutions.

"We can't get stuck in despair," she said. "We have to find hope."

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