PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Scientists, lawyers, politicians, and students gathered at USM Wednesday for what was not your typical science lecture.
Olafur Grimmsen, the former President of Iceland, was the keynote speaker.
The focus of the lecture was how Arctic exploration and the changing climate could bring economic possibilities for Maine.
“Five percent of the world’s population lives in North America,” said Senator Angus King. “That means 95% of the customers are somewhere else and Maine is in a wonderful natural position to take advantage of that.”
Could Maine become a global hub for Arctic trade?
Olafur Grimmsen, former president of Iceland, says yes. “It could be the Eastern gateway of the United States for the Arctic region of our planet.”
He believes in the potential of the state because of the success that Eimskip, an Icelandic Transportation Company, has experienced in its few years with a hub in Portland.
Scientists say climate change and melting ice caps are responsible for new transportation and trade routes in the arctic - for example, a cruise ship passed through the Northwest passage this summer from Alaska to Bar Harbor for the first time.
A point that scientists say is unquestionable. “There's a certain point with a debate needs to stop and we need to evolve as a community, as a nation, as human beings. And we are really at that point,” said Patrick Arnold with the New England Ocean Cluster.
The group also paid homage to one of their inspirations - UMaine professor, climate change advocate, and explorer Gordon Hamilton - who passed away in an accident in Antarctica on Saturday.
“He was a phenomenal teacher and a phenomenal mentor,” explained his friend and boss Paul Mayewski. “He was always a happy go lucky guy and I think he would be very happy to be able to just remember the good things and not think about the sad part.”
The lecture was meant to encourage lawmakers and scientists to work for exploration and innovation in Maine - but it inspired students as well.
“I never thought that Maine could really play a role in the global setting, but there is so much that we can do from here that I didn't think was possible,” explained USM freshman Lexi Bartlett. “So I guess I took away to never short sell that we can make a change to even if we are just from little old Maine.”