Maine Public’s yearlong ‘Climate Driven’ series looks at each county’s response to a warming planet
This month marks a critical moment for the planet. Delegates from around the world are meeting in Glasgow to try and prevent the most catastrophic effects of climate change. The United Nations' climate summit, called COP 26, is considered the last, best chance to slash carbon emissions and rapidly transition to clean energy.
At Maine Public, we're using the moment to launch a deep dive series on climate change that will involve the entire news team for the next year and beyond.
All Things Considered Host Jennifer Mitchell spoke with Maine Public's news director, Mark Simpson, and deputy news director, Susan Sharon, about the series.
This conversation has been lightly edited for clarity.
Mitchell: So the newsroom has been reporting on climate change for a couple of decades now. What's different about this project and the approach?
Simpson: We know that the audience loves when we cover things that are happening here locally in Maine. And there's no more pressing issue at the moment than covering how climate is affecting us here. So we wanted to bring it down to the local level to understand what's happening where people live, and what Mainers are trying to do to prepare for this necessary transformation. And to try to understand, are they ready? We thought we would take this county by county approach, working across the entire state of Maine, one county at a time, and see what's happening there on the ground. And our news team is already spread out gathering information and stories about this. And we're looking forward to launching it on all of our platforms. We're going to have stories on the radio, stories for video, online, TV, and I think there could be a podcast in the works there as well. So it's a big project.
Mitchell: Can you give us a bit of a sneak peek? What kind of issues are we talking about here?
Sharon: We're talking about all kinds of issues. Part of the reason we're doing this is because Maine is such a large state. It's so geographically diverse: usually we look at it and go, 'Oh my gosh, it's daunting to cover the news here.' But in the case of climate change, there's so many things that we can take a look at. This is the most heavily forested state in the country. We've got 3,000 miles and more of coastline, which has implications for sea level rise. We have 6,000 lakes, ponds and streams. We have the Gulf of Maine, which is one of the fastest warming bodies of water in the world. So there are all those things to talk about, the implications for the natural resource-based industries that depend on these things. And then, of course, the policy decisions, as Mark said. Huge transformation to become fossil fuel-free or to decrease our carbon emissions. And that means that we've got to look at things like vulnerable communities and biodiversity and starting, you know, at the very local level.
Simpson: And I think what's exciting about this, first Jen, is that this is such a long time frame that we're covering this, over the course of a year. So we get a great opportunity to go deep into all the different nooks and crannies of Maine. But also it gives us time to really talk to the communities, to solicit ideas as our coverage is ongoing, and pivot and adapt as we learn new things about this. And it also lays the groundwork for this newsroom to make a strong commitment editorially to covering climate change. And I think this series is really going to start the launching pad for us to have a permanent climate desk, here at the Maine Public newsroom.
Mitchell: You mentioned all the counties. So where are we going to be starting and what's in the pipeline?
Sharon: We're going to be starting in York County, very bottom of the state, followed by Oxford and Franklin. And really what we should mention, is we've planned this as sort of a road trip, you know, we want to go around the state, as we look into these counties, We want to take advantage of the seasons to look at what the tourism industry in western Maine is during ski season and how that's affected. And that's one of the reasons we've planned to use an electric car for many of our assignments, as we do that. But the first stories will be in York County, and we've got stories about sea level rise, we've got stories about the role of marshes, about planned controlled burns, as the potential for wildfire increases. And about kids and climate change. Those are just a few.
Mitchell: Road trip sounds like a great idea. How can people come along with us, and what are the basics, like when does it start and how can people follow?
Simpson: We're starting next week, Jen, in Morning Edition. That's Monday, Nov. 8. And of course, you can follow us on our social media, on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and the website, mainepublic.org/climatedriven, and we're building that out right now. I think there's gonna be a tracker to see where the electric car is going. And all kinds of other little tidbits there.