Warmer days and longer summers may not seem like a crisis to many in our community – in fact, it may seem like our early September wish of ‘just a little bit longer’ has come true. But how much longer do we have before this becomes a serious issue? Or is it already? What will happen to the natural beauty of our lands as a result of this warming? How will we fare one day without a stable winter economy? Our part of Western Maine is one of the fastest warming areas in the state, country, and globe – warming  2º C over the last century – making Norway and our entire region most at risk to the negative effects of climate change.

My name is Karlë Woods. I am 23 years old. And I represent the future generations of this community. I have lived in the Western Foothills of Maine for most of my life, graduated from the Oxford Hills school system, and recently earned a Bachelor of Arts in Human Ecology from College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor. I currently live in Norway and work at the Center for an Ecology-Based Economy. I chose to come back to the Western Foothills so I could invest in the community that I love, care for, and truly believe in.

There’s no denying that Norway is a growing center of this community, with its welcoming and walkable downtown area, vibrant small business community, bike lanes, electric vehicle charging stations, conversion to LED street lights, beautiful land preserves, and popular community garden. All these things and more make Norway a desirable destination for tourists as well as summer and year-round residents.

We have a start on building climate resilience in our community – and for that we should be proud – but we’re running out of time. As the most recent report by the International Panel on Climate Change states, we have around a decade to act decisively to limit climate change catastrophe. It is urgent that we stop the emission of greenhouse gases. It is urgent that we work together as one community. It is urgent that we act now, because this transition will take time. This may seem like a bigger issue than some small town in Maine is responsible for. In truth, yes, we are just one small pocket of the world. I believe however, this gives us the advantage of being on a scale small enough to actually accomplish net zero, to start a chain reaction, and make a larger impact. We have the unique ability to build on top of what we already have, not only for ourselves, but with the potential to lead this climate movement, to be a model for other small towns across the state of Maine and New England, and the country. We can put Norway on the map as Maine’s first net zero town.

One focus of the global climate movement is environmental justice: investing in the communities affected most by poverty and pollution. Even with its recent growth and positive change, Norway, like most of rural Maine, suffers from economic hardships. With a shortage of well paying jobs and an astronomical dependency on fossil fuels for both transportation and heating, we’re most at risk to the effects of this potential catastrophe. If fossil fuel prices spike dramatically, if the cost of electricity increases drastically at the whims of one corporately controlled grid, and extreme weather becomes more frequent, what chance do we have as a community to survive?

 We need practical solutions that protect our land and the prosperity and longevity of this amazing community. We need to move towards 100% renewable energy before it’s too late. Working towards tax incentives for local growers and farmers will improve our local economy and lower our carbon footprint. Ensuring idle free zones in congested pedestrian areas like Downtown Norway will improve air quality and reduce fossil fuel consumption. Signing onto statewide recycling reform will reduce the tax burden on Norway and South Paris residents and improve our recycling system. Providing support to education and outreach programs that inform and encourage ecological practices will make this transition accessible to all people. Finally, pushing for more renewable energy will give our town agency and independence in a nation built on dependence.

I came back to this community seeking a future for myself, for the career I am building, for the land I will one day own, for the children I will one day raise, and for the quality of life I have always known. I’m worried though, that this future might not exist. That the life I’ve always hoped to create will someday be impossible to even fathom. So, on behalf of the youth of this community, I urge you as people, who like us, call this place home, to help us craft a plan for our future, to not only build community resilience to the climate crisis that is upon us, but also lead the way towards a just and equitable economy built on clean renewable energy.

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