The scene at Belfast's Troy Howard Middle School cafeteria on the afternoon of Oct. 10 was upbeat as community members, activists and politicians gained momentum in the "go local" environmental movement. Groups as diverse as Electric Vehicles in Maine and the Belfast Bay Watershed Coalition engaged in a show-and-tell of ideas for the future. The group was organized by the newly formed Belfast Area Transition Initiative in conjunction with the global 350.com-organized 10.10.10 work day.
The day's activities began at 10:10 a.m. at the Hungry Heron Farm in Waldo with what organizer Chuck Piper called a symbolic seeding of new ideas for the future. The group had gathered to plant annual rye in a new field and Piper urged them to contact their representatives in Washington, D.C., at the end of the work day. "Tell them, ‘We rolled our sleeves up today, and now we'd like to know what you're going to do to address climate change.'"
At that point, the group descended on the recently cleared field with rakes and reused plastic yogurt containers filled with annual rye. Some among the group cast seeds and others followed behind, raking the seeds into the new ground. The morning was cold, and the mood of participants was high. Farm owner Marshall Rolerson was encouraged by the experience. "I was worried that seed would be wasted, but they did a great job, down to the smallest youngster. Seeing people work together like that gave me a sense of hopefulness that the issue of global warming can be taken care of through local action. It is really the only way it can take place."
A few hours later, the group reassembled at the middle school, where the keynote speaker, Belfast City Counselor Marina Delune, launched the second phase of the event by challenging the community to get out of their vehicles and walk more, or ride a bicycle to transport themselves around town. "I want Belfast to become the kind of bicycle-oriented place that San Francisco or Amsterdam has become," she said to the receptive audience. "We need a critical mass of people riding bikes and walking through town, so that it becomes the norm rather than the exception. Then others will want to join in."
Belfast City Counselor Roger Lee, representing the Belfast Energy and Climate Committee, sold compact fluorescent light bulbs at the event for the reduced cost of 50 cents each. A CFL is purported to save more than $40 in electricity costs over its lifetime, use 75 percent less energy than a standard bulb, and last up to 10 times longer. Lee reported that he had hundreds of the 60- and 75-watt-equivalent bulbs and said was willing to attend other local events to sell them. He can be reached at email@example.com.
EVmaine.org Executive Director Bill Drinkwater led a talk outlining a plan for designing and constructing an electric community truck. He claimed the project would be relatively inexpensive and could run on energy produced locally from the sun or wind, thereby offering a remedy for highly polluting and expensive gas-powered transportation.
Local food production and ideas for new ways of eating were popular topics. The Belfast Co-op, Belfast Area Vegetarians, Belfast Community Gardens, Honeybees, Newforest Institute and Waldo County Permaculture distributed information about growing, selling and eating fresh food from Waldo County.
The Hungry Heron Farm of Waldo staffed the "Off-the-Gridders" table, distributing free whole-grain baked goods and chronicling the history of the farm with a slide show. The second fall planting of the day occurred at the site of the Belfast Community Gardens as folks gathered to plant garlic bulbs.
Event organizer Bindy Pendleton kicked off a free raffle to determine which downtown Belfast homeowner would receive a free lawn makeover — from green grass into permaculture gardens. Event organizer and founder of Waldo County Permaculture Andrew Watkins defined permaculture as, "a design process to create landscapes harmonious with natural ecologies, supportive of human needs and restorative of earth assets." The drawing to pick a winner will take place Tuesday, Nov. 30, in conjunction with the 5 p.m. Local Food Celebration at the UU Church, 37 Miller St., Belfast. Entry information and forms are available at the Belfast Co-op.
Toward the close of the event, Democratic candidate for state representative from Belfast Erin Herbig took the stage to emphasize the importance of job growth. "The high cost of oil is driving industry out of Maine," she said. "We need to diversify our energy portfolio to retain the businesses we have and to attract new and innovative companies to Maine. Adding new sources of energy is the key to making Maine a more business-friendly state which will, in turn, create needed jobs."
Completing the day's events, Belfast Bay Watershed Coalition representative Skip Pendleton led a hike to Walsh Field, via the new trail they are making, which will connect Walsh Field to the Hutchinson Center, the YMCA and the Troy Howard Middle School.