Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Grow Smart Maine

The first Lapping Lecture Series speaker was Beth Nagusky. Beth has worked with many organizations focused on aspects of sustainability. She now works with Grow Smart Maine (, a"statewide non-profit citizens' organization working to promote sustainable prosperity and to protect the state's distinctive character and quality places."

During her talk, Beth highlighted the organization's recent report, "Charting Maine's Future (" Many aspects of the broad-based report are related to state-level planning for sustainability. She spoke specifically about dealing with growth, and how regulations should change to promote more sustainable development.

For example, the total annual mileage driven on Maine roads has grown by 90% since 1980, despite population growth of just 14% over the period. Beth argued that technological improvements (e.g. more fuel efficient vehicles) alone cannot achieve sustainability. We also need to make lifestyle changes such as driving less. The Grow Smart Maine report recommends changing tax, zoning, and building codes to promote revitalized population centers and walkable/bikeable communities.

During questions after the talk, we had an interesting discussion about why no front-running presidential candidate is making climate change a top issue in his/her campaign. President Tomashow argued that leadership on the presidential level is crucial, while Beth emphasized 'bottom up' change beginning at grass roots levels. It seems like an element of the 'chicken and egg' problem exists here, but from the above example, I believe that both government leadership and uncoerced personal/community action are necessary to move toward meaningful sustainability. Food for thought...

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