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Climate ambassadors program sees growth in Maine

One climate ambassador talks about her experience on Mount Desert Island.

MOUNT DESERT, Maine — Tackling a big issue like climate change is no small task, but one group on Mount Desert Island is rising to the challenge by getting the community involved.

"I've been worried about what I've been seeing from biodiversity loss and just wanted to take some action, and I thought they could help me take some action," climate ambassador Molly Mulhern said.

Mulhern heard about a program called A Climate to Thrive through word of mouth in Down East, Maine. She has been going to climate meetings with the group for several weeks and said it’s having a positive impact on her life. The climate ambassadors program helps residents use their unique talents to inspire others. Mulhern said her career as an author of nautical books makes it easy for her to connect with other Mainers about climate.

"Meeting the people in the same place that I'm at has made me feel like I'm not alone. Also, I've heard what people have been up to in various communities," Mulhern said. 

By creating climate action plans with community members and training themselves to help other people, Molly said it’s been one of the biggest benefits of joining.

"Just sort of seeing the power of each of us but knowing that other people are also working on it somehow makes me feel like I'm not so alone at it," Mulhern said. 

Maine’s changing climate is on the minds of many people trying to make a difference. 

A Climate to Thrive started a pilot program last fall on MDI. The program supports people and gives them tools to engage in solutions locally by educating them on basic climate science and big emissions producers.

“Transportation is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. Buildings are also a major source of emissions. We have significant heating needs," Naomi Albert said. 

Albert is the project manager for A Climate to Thrive. It’s a nonprofit organizing sessions in the fall and spring to help Mainers solve the climate problems they are facing. This isn’t just a local issue, though.

“I think that we see Mount Desert Island as a model for where the rest of the state can go, and we would really like to build that model and then share what we’ve learned statewide," Albert said. 

They started off with 200 participants at launch, and plenty of feedback has helped the program expand statewide. Mulhern said the meetings have helped a lot and can help other Mainers, too.

One thing most can agree on is that climate change is not a local problem. It's global. And that can be overwhelming to some people. Mulhern said it starts with one person making a difference.

"But I've really seen the power of each one of us. If we think about it [in terms] of each one of us here in Maine working door to door, that's a huge bunch of people we can begin to affect and along the way acknowledge how hard it is," Mulhern said.

If enough people get involved on MDI, a lot could change. Albert’s goal is a big one, but she said it could be a game-changer for Maine.

“We envision an island that is powered through renewable energy where there is equitable ownership over climate solutions," Albert said. 

Mulhern said climate change is such a big, global issue that it can be overwhelming. But by creating climate action plans and getting the word out in communities, Mainers can all make a difference one step at a time.

"I think we will be making a difference. And we are making a difference little bit by [a] little bit. And I think it all adds up," Mulhern said.

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