This Earth Day, Let’s All Do Our Part

This is Governor Janet Mills. And thank you for listening.

You know, in the fall of 1970, 11-year-old Suzanne Clune wrote a letter to her United States Senator. She lived on the banks of the Little Androscoggin River, once a pristine tributary, where deer could see their reflection drinking from the water and where spring pine and choke berry blossoms "filled the air with the sweetest smell on earth," as she said.

That was before toxic chemicals polluted the waters, and before waste formed swells of thick, discolored foam that ran downstream and coated the riverbanks. "Now, in any season," Suzanne wrote to Senator Edmund Muskie, “You can smell, the most sickening smell on earth, a stench that left frogs gasping for air. I'm sick of the river like this," she said. "Please do something about it.” She signed her letter, "One who loves Maine."

Suzanne's letter sparked Senator Muskie's career-long fight for clean air and clean water. And today, as a result of his actions, the Little Androscoggin River is restored as a pristine waterway like the Androscoggin, the Kennebec, and the Penobscot. Places we now can fish and sail and swim. Places we love. I'm grateful that Suzanne did not wait to act.

Before us now is another threat, one that jeopardizes not only Maine's natural resources, but our state's economy and our social wellbeing, too.

It's the threat of climate change.

Rising ocean and land temperatures threaten our heritage industries – fishing, farming, and forestry. Higher sea levels endanger our coastal communities. More frequent and more powerful storms damage our infrastructure. The devastating consequences of burning expensive fossil fuels to power our economy, despite the harm to our environment, is catching up to us.

When I think about the current crisis, I think about Suzanne. I think about Senator Muskie and Senator George Mitchell, Senator William Cohen, former legislators, Republican and Democrat. Republicans like Harry Richardson and Hoddy Hildreth and Sherri Huber. Environmental champions, bound not by ideology or political party, but by a shared commitment to preserve and protect our cherished home, the state of Maine.

I think about how on April 22nd, 1970, just a few months before Suzanne wrote her letter to Senator Muskie, Senator Muskie addressed a gathering in Fairmount Park in Philadelphia on the first Earth Day. He called for an environmental revolution, and he told the 30,000 people there, “We are not powerless to accomplish this change, but we are powerless as a people if we wait for someone else to do it for us.”

Well, 54 years later, Maine is not waiting to act.

My administration has made significant strides towards building a greener, more sustainable future for this place we cherish as our home.

But we need your help too.

This Earth Day, I encourage all of you to honor Senator Muskie's legacy and the legacy of Maine's environmental stewards by doing all you can to reduce pollution, preserve our environment, protect our natural resources.

There are many events across the state to celebrate Earth Day for families, including nature-themed storytelling, science projects and seed planting, beach cleanups, and trail cleanups.

And like Suzanne and like all of you, I love the state of Maine with its secret waterfalls, its forests and hills and table lands, its fields its shores, its mighty rivers – this unique and beautiful place we call home that offers so many wonders for so many people.

This Earth Day, let's do everything we can to protect it. This is Governor Janet Mills. And thank you for listening.