Photo by Antyna Gould and Olivia Schanck.

On April 8, the McGillicuddy Humanities Center hosted a climate change talk which aimed to highlight the environmental activist work of two Mount Desert Island (MDI) High School students in the local Maine community. The “Local Solutions to Climate Crises” talk is a part of the McGillicuddy Humanities Center (MHC) 2020-2021 Symposium on “The Story of Climate Change” and featured Ayano Ishimura and Ruby Mahoney, who both play an essential part in Maine’s environmental activism scene. 

Katherine Glover, employee at the Climate Change Institute, and the Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies organized the “Local Solutions to Climate Crisis” talk. 

Currently, Ishimura is a senior at MDI High School and holds the co-president position on her school’s Environmental Concerns (ECO) Team. Additionally, she has worked on other advocacy projects such as declaring a climate emergency in her town and working to expand the use of solar energy throughout the state. Ishimura asks that Mainers “take inspiration from nature and fellow youth members” in order for the state “to find creative and collaborative solutions to the climate crisis.” 

Mahoney is a junior at MDI High School and is a distinguished member of the ECO Team. According to her, she is “eager to make the world a better place.” In an attempt to reach her personal and environmental goals, she has worked with a variety of local and national political and environmental justice organizations. She has advocated and volunteered during the re-election campaign of junior senator and co-writer of the Green New Deal, Ed Markey of Massachusetts. She has also been active in the Sunrise Movement and A Climate To Thrive (ACTT). 

Consisting of 30 members, the two have worked with their ECO team to discuss the installation and implication of solar energy on MDI and throughout the state. The ECO Team also works on composting, and has an Endangered Species Fundraising Project. Ishimura also works on Project Legacy through the ECO Team. Project Legacy brings information and project ideas in relation to climate advocacy to the school board at MDI High School. 

The COVID-19 pandemic put a halt on their efforts last spring, but in the following summer and this year, they’ve been able to accomplish a lot during weekly Zoom meetings. 

Thanks to the ECO Team and ACTT efforts, their school is primarily powered using solar, saving  the school around 1.5 billion dollars. ACTT is a grassroot local nonprofit organization striving for MDI energy independence by 2030. ACTT is currently working to better support youth activists in a productive and genuine way. The fact that “adults are actually willing to listen, and are committed to being responsible” leaves Ishimura and Mahoney hopeful for the future of climate action. 

As one part of Mahoney’s journey, University of Maine students can participate in climate action through The Sunrise Movement. The Sunrise Movement was founded in 2017 and is a 501 political action organization that advocates for political action on climate change. UMaine has a Sunrise Movement Chapter as of the beginning of this year as initiated and run by Izi Topper. Meetings are on Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. Due to COVID-19, all meetings are held over Zoom. The UMaine chapter is a growing organization and is currently looking for students to join to take part in climate action in the State of Maine.