On Tuesday, July 2nd, we took a trip around South Portland with Rob Selin, a member of the Concerned Citizens of South Portland, and David Massen of the Citizens Climate Lobby, visiting from Washington, DC. The first site Rob took us to was Bug Light Park. Bug Light Park is famous for its Portland Breakwater Light, a lighthouse constructed in 1875 and originally used to guide ships in Casco Harbor. While it is no longer used, it provides extraordinary scenery to its visitors. After we were thoroughly soaked by the mist, we huddled into Cushing’s Point Museum. The museum featured the history of the Liberty Shipyards in World War II along with the local lighthouses and their keepers.
While the visit to Bug Light Park was quite beautiful, there was still ugliness to the scenery. The Portland Pipeline Company lies adjacent to the park, a constant reminder of society’s deep-rooted addiction to coal, oil, and natural gas. The pipeline starts on the shore, jets out on a pier approximately 100 meters, then descends right into the ground. In our surroundings, we could see dozens of giant oil tankers scattered across the beautiful South Portland landscape. In many ways, I find the view of the pipeline contrasting against the beautiful Casco Bay a fitting reflection of the situation Maine is in. We’ve been blessed with abundant fisheries, plentiful forests, immaculate air, and healthy drinking water. However, we threaten all that we hold dear with long-term environmental desecration in exchange for short-term economic success. Seeing the Portland Pipeline Company in person made everything our team was working towards more tangible.
We went exploring on the Southern Maine Community College campus. The campus originally served as Fort Preble for over 150 years, until it was converted into a community college in 1950. We saw Spring Point Ledge Light, a lighthouse designed to warn boats of the obstruction on the west side of the main shipping channel into Portland Harbor, Fort Gorges, a military fort in the middle of Casco Bay, and Williard Beach. While we were exploring the Southern Maine Community College campus, we were able to visit the Friends of Casco Bay office, a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the environmental health of Casco Bay. A research assistant gave us a short lecture on how climate change has affected the acidity of mud (and therefore the health of marine life) in Casco Bay, and explained the methodology used to conduct their research.
We finished out our tour by visiting Scratch, a local bakery in the neighborhood. Rob kindly brought us coffee and pastries (a rare treat when you’re living off of six dollars a day)! We went back to his house to meet his wife, Natalie, and to hear a presentation from David Massen about the Climate Citizens Lobby. David talked about a carbon fee and dividend system (which you can learn more about here!). Seeing the work we are doing, building a climate justice movement, helping public policy makers gain support for initiatives to reduce the country’s environmental footprint, was encouraging and exciting.
If you know anywhere else we should visit in South Portland before leaving for Windham, let us know!