A glimpse of fishing life in Damariscotta


IMG_1558.JPGI’m in a fairly upscale pub in Damariscotta, Maine. It’s a renovated old inn with modern touches, clearly intended to draw a certain crowd. The Olympics are playing silently on a screen in a corner. I observe a couple drinking out of what seem to be the “local’s mug.” There’s about 300 of these mugs hanging from the ceiling with handwritten numbers  on their bottoms.

I ask them,”So you’re from here?” Yes they are.  “What are these mugs about?” I ask. “20 oz for 16 oz. And they never seem to end,” comments the woman. I’m trying to decide what to order so I ask, “What’s you’re favorite dish?” Caesar salad with blackened haddock. I order it.

They introduce themselves as Jim and Kathy, locals. A political ad appears on the television screen. Offhandedly, Jim comments that our government is spending money with no accountability. He’s frustrated that politicians talk reform, but never seem to make change. I agree with him, and suggest that another big issue seems be the disappearing working middle class, how so many are struggling to maintain or create a decent life for themselves and family. Kathy agrees, and mentions how people in this area have second and third jobs just to keep going.

“Where are you from?” Jim asks. I tell him I live in the Worcester area, and work in the Boston area. “Ah Worcester!” He beams. “We go down to the north end in Boston. We love it. We also go to Gloucester.”

His face darkens a bit. He asks “Have you seen The Perfect Storm?” I nod, yes I had seen the movie and read the book. “Such a story.” Then he tears up. “Those women. They waited for their men. And they helped each other.” I mention the large bronze statue in Gloucester of the mother with her two sons, looking out at the ocean. Waiting. It had moved me.

Jim nods. “It’s not like that around here. We don’t have that. People, they don’t really know each other. Or help each other.” Kathy adds, “Fishermen just go out and come back and the families do their own thing.”

So finally I ask, are you a fisherman? Jim nods again, “Yup. I used to be.” I ask him what he fished. “Lobsters in the Summer. Shrimp in the winter.”And then after more banter, he says,”Then my boat sunk. In December.”

There’s noise in the bar, and I could only hear bits of what he was saying. The story came in pieces. “I was in the water for 35 minutes.” Then,”The waves would wash over my hands, melting the ice and then refreezing.” Seconds later, “In the ambulance, I was shaking so hard I was jumping off the bed.” Finally,”I only had 2-3 more minutes before…” He looks down.

“So you never went back out after that?” I ask. “No. No, I didn’t.” Then we talk about the crazy driving in Boston, laughing about how much it scared us.

We pay our bills, and wish each other well. On my way back to my B&B, I reflect on his story, and his observations about his community. I had grown up in a town near Gloucester. I had a feel for that bonded culture of the fishing community,  in an outsider kind of way. I had thought it was common.

Bioregional Urbanism and Youth


This week we took a big step. We expanded our work to include youth. This is important to us because youth are our future leaders. They will be dealing with increased climate issues, environmental degradation, unequal wealth, and growing populations. We believe they can generate profound solutions, in large part because they have the capacity to think differently about how we work with our planet.

What we did:
We experimented by discussing basic Bioregional Urbanism ideas with a group of teen youth in Cambridge. For each idea, we asked gave a simple explanation and then did a fun hands-on activity to illustrate the concept.
The bioregional ideas include: 1) Bioregion-your life place or life region 2) Urbanism-how we create our world, our places, our homes, our cities 3) Stewardship -understanding and caring for our 7 core resources (water, energy, food, people, biodiversity, land, waste as resource) 4) One Planet living – we have one planet, and we have to share the resources of the planet. Certain people over consume while others don’t get their fair share. How can this change together? 5) Scaled thinking-every action affects all scales from the cell, to the person, to the family, to the neighborhood, to the city, to the bioregion, to the nation, to the planet. 6) Living beings– how do we make our places, our homes, our cities with living beings at the center? 7) Co-create -we have to work together to make our life places better 8) Shared vision and goals-to work together we need shared vision, which includes all of us and is more than any of us.
What we learned: The teens quickly understood these basic principles. They actually guessed many of these ideas, including shared goals. And they remembered them the next day and used them to understand soil science. This illustrated to our team that bioregional ideas may be inherent in us, but this thinking is not supported in our contemporary education. As we work to transform our bioregions, we’re wondering how our education and professional training needs change.

Local urban farming. Is it the solution?

Yes, in part.

Many agree that urban farming can do a lot. It can help generate needed jobs in areas that are struggling economically. It can increase the availability of affordable, healthy produce to urban residents, contributing to food security and justice. It can reconnect people with the food they eat, reducing reliance on processed foods. It can even contribute to ecological sustainability, depending on the farming practices (Organic Agriculture, Environment and Food Security FOA Report 2002).

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So what is bioregional urbanism, exactly? Bioregional Urbanism Explained.

Bioregional urbanism is the idea that regional communities need to live within the limits of ecosystems. Just like an individual or a business has to learn to live on a budget, our communities need to learn to live on available resource budgets.

Why regions? According to many ecologists are the scale at which sustainability can be achieved. As individual regions become more self sustaining, we will collectively come closer to living within the production capacity of the planet.

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