Stepping Up in the Face of Crisis

In the course of 5 minutes on Friday afternoon: My sister asked me if I could watch her kids next Thursday – she’s a nurse so is still working full-time, but now her 7 year-old daughter and 4 year-old son are also home full-time. Normally (having started my new job as Maine Conservation Voters’ Outreach Manager only two days earlier) I would not have asked for time off. But during this time, I did. And the team at MCV immediately and warmly said yes, thanking me for supporting my sister, and expressing gratitude to my sister who is caring for Mainers’ health during this time.

The whole experience felt good – warming and invigorating. It felt good to be able to help my sister who is fiercely independent and capable – always caring for others, never the other way around. It felt good to have my new employer support me. It felt good to address it all so quickly.

Certainly none of us wants the coronavirus pandemic to be happening. But one beautiful outcome is seeing people, communities, organizations, and even some government and business leaders, stepping up to care for people. Our modern society often feels longingly devoid of real community, but this crisis has made the invisible webs between us visible. Many people and groups’ responses have been swift and effective – demonstrating not only our under-exercised capacity for compassion, but also our abilities to perform under pressure.

This response has made me hunger for a similar response to the climate crisis. I have been working to instigate such a response for most of my short career because it’s what we need to do to stop the worst effects of climate change. But now, I also want swift, society-wide climate action for our collective mental and emotional health. In our personal lives, we have all put off daunting tasks and repressed difficult emotions – we know that they don’t go away. They just eat at us for longer. Just as with COVID-19, none of us wants climate change to be happening. It is big. It is scary. It feels insurmountable. But what if instead of letting that eat at us, we face it collectively? What if we respond to the climate crisis with the same maturity, compassion, and all-hands-on-deck mentality with which we are responding to the coronavirus? Given my experiences over the last week, I am feeling energized, connected, and hopeful.

Many of us are over-capacity dealing with friends, family, jobs, health, and financial concerns at this time. I hope you will ask for and accept help and give yourself care. Here is a list of helpful resources from our allies:

  • Maine Equal Justice COVID-19 Resources includes information on health care, food and financial security, evictions and court proceedings, and other resources, especially for those of you who are struggling to make ends meet or do not have access to health care.
  • University of Maine Cooperative Extension: Resources specifically designed for Maine farmers.
  • Good Shepherd Food Bank: Should you need help securing food, visit the “Find Food” section of their website to find a local resource. You can also use the website to check the continually updated list of food pantry needs and closures.
  • Coastal Enterprises Inc has assembled a list of COVID-19 Business Resources to navigate the financial, legal, and human resource challenges that local businesses are facing.
  • The Island Institute’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resource Page includes information and tools that may be useful in addressing some of the challenges related to distance learning, internet connectivity, online tools, and more.

For those of you who are fortunate enough to have your time opened up right now, let’s organize – both to help those struggling and to make longer-term change. If you are also hungering for real climate action, I’d love to hear from you. There will be opportunities for action in the weeks and months ahead as the work of Maine’s Climate Council continues, and it would be great to know who on this list is interested in getting involved. I’d also like to invite you to stay connected with MCV on Facebook or Twitter to get our latest updates and actions. And stay tuned – I’m still getting up to speed in my new role, but I will be putting together some virtual events and actions soon.