More than 500 climate change protesters and environmental advocates gathered in Portland Saturday as part of a rally and “funeral” for various environmental and political causes.
Groups including 350 Maine, Sierra Club Maine and the Poor People’s Campaign Maine marched from Lincoln Park to City Hall as part of a national movement to raise awareness for next week’s Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco.
Espahbad Dodd, one of the organizers of the event, says there are two goals behind the event, “to bring attention to the climate summit that’s beginning next week — and this is part of a national demonstration, to what’s going to be happening in San Francisco — and here in Maine we’re talking about climate change as it affects the Gulf of Maine, particularly our livelihoods in the Gulf of Maine.”
Studies show that the Gulf of Maine is warming faster than almost anywhere else in the global ocean.
The event included a funeral procession for a large codfish puppet pulled on a wagon, which organizers said represented “the way of life that has been disappearing with its demise.” Once the marchers arrived at City Hall, speaker Lee Chisholm of 350 Maine delivered a eulogy for “our near neighbor...a victim of the climate crisis in and around the Gulf of Maine.”
While organizers say the funeral, colorful costumes and signs- like “‘For Cod’s Sake, Cut the Carbon!” – were designed to inject humor and energy into the event, they say the goals of the rally were serious.
“This march, as you can see, is kind of a memorial to the dangers of what’s happening in the Gulf of Maine and to our food supplies,” said Dodd. “We’re having, literally, a funeral.”
Beverly Roxby, who describes herself as a “veteran climate walker” cited a handful of major environmental issues that prompted her to turn out for the event.
“The clean power plan is one. Auto emissions, relaxing them on future vehicles is one... plans to destroy the Endangered Species Act....anything President Obama did is being attacked,” she said.
In a written release, organizers said the primary focus of Saturday’s event was to highlight “positive actions we can take, including voter registration, switching to renewable energy, and holding local leaders accountable.”
And, next to the City Hall rally, the League of Women Voters had set up a table inviting potential Maine voters to register.
“The biggest thing we can do is get people to the ballot box and get them doing something meaningful, because things have got to change and they’ve got to change quickly,” said Dodd.
The event included speeches by several young speakers, including Raina Sparks, a high school junior from Cape Elizabeth, who talked about the importance of young people in grassroots movements, citing the court case Juliana v. United States.
“What I love about democracy and grass roots organizing, though, is that they have the same foundational message, and that is ‘people power,’” she said.
The young speakers also touched on environmental causes close to home, including the potential for job creation in fields linked to renewable energy.
Hunter Lachance, a sophomore at Kennebunk High School who testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee Friday in confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who he believes will weaken environmental law.
At the rally, Lachance spoke about how climate change is affecting people like him, who have asthma.
“Pollution and climate change both have effects on asthma,” said Lachance. “Climate change more focuses on natural occurences that will affect asthma...pollution itself is a trigger, a very dangerous one — one that’s powerful enough to swell airways completely.”
Lachance said he hoped his participation at the rally can help other asthmatics and that the event would “raise the immediate concern that is climate change, although it has gotten increasing attention, it hasn’t been addressed nearly as much as it should have.”
Originally published Sept. 8, 2018 at 6:40 p.m. ET.