The Saturday morning sun shines on people gathered outside for one of dozens of workshops during the three-day 2030 Vision Climate Convergence at Cottage Street Recreation Area in Norway. Lokotah Sanborn, back middle in red chair, spoke Friday night about colonialism being at the heart of the climate change. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

NORWAY — Over 100 people from across the state gathered at Cottage Street Recreation Area on Saturday to draw inspiration and exchange ideas about addressing climate change in Maine.

Organized by the Center for an Ecology-Based Economy, the 2030 Vision Climate Convergence has featured guest speakers, workshops and other activities aimed at inspiring urgent climate action on the local and state level.

The three-day event began Friday evening and will run until early afternoon Sunday.

During the convergence Saturday, four Maine-based youth climate activists shared their perspective during a panel discussion.

“In 2030, I’m going to be 25,” Lincoln Academy sophomore Audrey Hufnagel of Damariscotta said. “I’m going to just be starting my adult life and the climate crisis is at that point, if we don’t do anything, it’s going to be extremely serious. The impact that it’s gonna have on on our futures is extremely severe, and that has definitely caused me a lot of anxiety.”

She believes most students her age don’t understand the severity of climate change and that schools need to teach the topic more thoroughly.

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Luke Sekera-Flanders of Fryeburg also criticized his education, which he said often focused on how humans can exploit natural resources for gain.

“We would go into forests, not to study the beautiful diversity of it, but to study the calculated board feet of lumber that could be cut from a tree, and as seventh graders … we were indoctrinated with the idea that nature was to be extracted from,” he said.

Four Mainers shared their experience as youth climate activists during a panel discussion Saturday at the 2030 Vision Climate Convergence organized by the Center for an Ecology-Based Economy in Norway. From left, are panel moderator Deb Paredes, Audrey Hufnagel, Kosi Ifeji, Madison Sheppard and Luke Sekera-Flanders. Vanessa Paolella/Sun Journal

They urged older people to listen more when young people speak.

“We are a lot more knowledgeable than people actually perceive us to be,” high school senior Kosi Ifeji of Bangor said. “I’ve been on this planet for almost 18 years now. But in that time, I have gained a wealth of knowledge from experiences (and) the people around me.”

“There’s a lot of negative things around the climate crisis, but we do need to have at least some sense of optimism, and I think that’s what (young people) bring to the table,” they added.

Renee Igo, communications and project coordinator for The Center for an Ecology-Based Economy, said there’s a need for more local events to build in-person connections among people interested in driving climate action.

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The climate crisis “is super stressful, like overwhelming issue, if you think about it,” she said. Working to address problems in “your own little dark corner” can be difficult, she added.

“People don’t think of like Norway and western Maine, Oxford County, as being like a hotbed of climate action, and so it’s important to highlight it and to let people who live around here” see the gathering, she said.

Katherine Bessey leads a workshop Saturday morning on Solar projects at the three-day 2030 Vision Climate Convergence at Cottage Street Recreation Area in Norway. The workshop was one of many throughout the day, with more planned for Sunday. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Ellen Gibson of West Paris said she came out to catch up with people she hasn’t seen in a long time and get inspired to push for meaningful climate action.

“I guess what I would like to do is come away (from the event) with one idea that I will be working with this community to move forward in terms of climate action,” Gibson said. “How do I want to spend my time and what can I do specifically?”

Lucas Brown of Norway attended the convergence Friday and Saturday. He was especially interested to hear from Lokotah Sanborn, a Penobscot community organizer and food sovereignty advocate.

“It was really challenging (to listen to),” he said. “It put a lot of ideas and kind of like urgency into my mood last night.”

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Saturday afternoon, Maine author and environmental activist Sue Inches described the importance of vocalizing support for climate action in public and with legislators.

“If we don’t have citizens speaking up, the balance of power is completely off,” Inches said. “It’s completely skewed toward these anti-environmental groups. So we’ve got to have all of us speaking up for what we care about, because the majority of Americans do care about the environment.”

She said it can take just five phone calls from constituents to sway a legislator’s vote.

Another speaker, economist Richard Silkman, outlined a plan to replace fossil fuels with electricity and become carbon neutral by 2050. To generate enough electric energy for processes currently driven by fossil fuels — such as transportation and heating — he calculated that Maine will need to create three and a half times more electricity than it does currently.

“It’s not a question of is there energy, there’s plenty of energy that we are awash in energy,” Silkman said. “The question is, can we harness it, and can we deliver it when we need it?”

Maine will need to invest tens of billions into renewable electricity generation, he said, including solar arrays, offshore wind turbines, and hydroelectric power.

“A lot of people care about the climate that are here,” Brown said. “I’m feeling like a lot of people also care about each other, which is what keeps me participating and engaging with events that (the Center for an Ecology-Based Economy) hosts specifically.”

The 2030 Vision Climate Convergence was first organized by the CEBE in 2020, moving to a virtual format in 2021 due to the pandemic.

Sunday features discussions about water justice in Maine, including workshops on political organizing in rural Maine, revolutionizing transportation, and the impact of climate change on agriculture. The event is scheduled from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m.

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