I know I live at (or very near) the center of the Universe. Especially when it comes to people who “get it”. So in celebration of Earthday I’m going to brag a bit about what folks in my area (the center of the revolutionary Universe) are doing to get ready for the times ahead. This blurb was written by some college students who biked through the area last summer:
Belfast is a small town with a strong commitment to local sustainability and sourcing. Most Belfast residents, from the local Unitarian Universalist church to the locals that congregate in the Belfast Cooperative’s café, are aware and actively discuss localization and environmental initiatives. Belfast has a strong local food movement, of which the Co-operative (Co-op), located a few streets above the water in downtown Belfast, is a cornerstone. The Co-op sells produce and groceries from farmers across Maine.
The Newforest Institute, a non-profit permaculture education center, is based in nearby Brooks. The institute is dedicated to teaching students and adults alike about sustainable living and food production methods that restore balance in local ecosystems, hosting workshops and occasionally hosting visitors for a work weekends in the Institute’s farmhouse. Belfast also has a solid core group heading up the Belfast Area Transition Initiative, which meets weekly at the Co-op to discuss local initiatives, forums, and events to promote Belfast’s continued evolution as a sustainable community. The group holds one or more Permablitzes each year, in which a Belfast resident’s yard is completely transformed into a plot of native and perennial plants, flowers, and food crops. These gardens are designed to work with the local environment to provide a modest amount of food, and a more ecologically sound yard landscape.
There is a strong sense of community within Belfast that drives sustainable development. This ambition is exhibited in the actions of individuals and the efforts of local groups, from the creation of a community garden near the YMCA, in which locals have the opportunity to grow and harvest their own plants, to the Belfast Bay Watershed Coalition, which works to support conservation and stewardship of local land, walking trails, and water resources.
With its open-minded, grassroots-based initiatives, strong community base, and focus on local, innovative farming techniques, Belfast is an exciting example of the power of true community-led efforts. Even further, it is an example of how localized, integrative food production and land management can play a part in fossil fuel reduction.
These students are with the “Better Future Project” who, to remind us that sustainability is not an annual event, today released “The State of the Movement: New England’s Transition Beyond Fossil Fuels,” a new report that catalogues sustainability efforts throughout the region. The report details dozens of local projects that are not simply about recycling or solar panels; rather, people investing time and energy to transform their community one garden, one street, or one building at a time. It demonstrates that the movement beyond fossil fuels is diverse and thriving.
Things can get better. We can have a bright future. We are NOT going to end up being either a bunch of rich, selfish a-holes or starving peasants. A middle way is possible. Happy Earthday!