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'Righting the ship' on Maine's islands

Tip O'Neill famously said, "All politics is local," and recent events and responses have forced that concept to the forefront of my attention. I have been concentrating so hard on the global issues that dominate the headlines and broadcasts that I have not paid sufficient attention to our local issues.
I live on a small island in Casco Bay about five miles from Congress Street as the gull flies. I have lived most of my life enjoying the great treasures offered by the Gulf of Maine. For several years I have been personally aware of changes to my immediate environment: warmer winters, changed wind currents, more intense wind and rain storms, and changes to the ecology of the sea that surrounds our home.
During the presidential election of 2012 I realized that the most critical concern of the entire world is preservation of the Earth's special environment. When the enormous catastrophe of Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast and caused devastation to tens of thousands, I realized that the coastal plain of Maine could easily have been equally devastated. In the intervening months I have been distracted by other issues of violence, justice, fairness and purpose. While political discourse has swirled around issues of how to legislate and the real purpose of government, thanks to the Internet, I have been studying the long term effects of environmental disaster on Long Beach, New York posted by a former student who lives there and cares for her island as I care for mine. I have studied the environmental issues, written and read hundreds of thousands of words about what is happening and what can be done to reduce the probability of further degradation. The most dire warnings and predictions are accelerating as we pretend that we can ignore the evidence around us.
I must applaud the consistent investigative journalism on this issue in the Maine Sunday Telegram and the Forecaster of coastal communities. A little over a week ago I read North Cairn's front page article on effects of global warming in the Gulf of Maine and two days ago I read Colin Woodard's front page article on the willful lack of planning for future extreme weather events by our state government. Since the 2010 election put a unified legislature and administration in Augusta, efforts to plan for environmental emergency have been curtailed. At the same time the environmental risk has been expanding. Fishermen and clammers are watching the destruction of their livelihood and begging the state government to help preserve a way of life that has been celebrated in the Gulf of Maine for hundreds of years.
There are plans to be made and procedures that can be implemented to rebalance our lives. We can "right the ship" but it demands that our government agencies do their job of protecting our environment. Being told that it is not a priority of the current administration is not acceptable. Imagining that it is not a real problem has been demonstrated to be poor stewardship. Department of Environmental Protection is a clear title of responsibility; it is beyond the moment of passing the buck, stopping the process of planning for future emergencies, and looking for someone else to solve the problem. Saying "I told you so," is the most bitter retort.

(One Man's Island columnist Robert Libby of Chebeague Island is a teacher, writer, organic gardener, executive director of the Maine Center for Civic Education.)

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