In regard to picking at the transfer station

“We need to start thinking and behaving like we live on an island.” This is a quote I remember from a documentary I watched years ago, and it has stuck with me. The person who made the statement was making the point that if we (a community, town, city, state) lived isolated, on an island, we would have to make do with the resources available to us, and just as important, we would have to keep them sustainable for survival. If you knew you had just enough resources to sustain your population, but no more, you would be very careful what you considered “waste.” And since you have a limited amount of space, you would also have to be very careful about how much waste you produced and where you put it.

I happen to be able to confirm this with someone I worked with a few years ago. He was from the island country of Jamaica. One day I asked him, “What happens to all the garbage in Jamaica? Does it get shipped somewhere?” He told me no. “Whatever you don't want or need anymore goes to another family member or friend and they use it. There is very little waste in Jamaica, it is too expensive to ship it away, and it is too expensive to buy new items and get them shipped to the island, so we use and reuse what we have.”

This is how we need to start thinking. Midcoast Solid Waste Corp. needs to become the Midcoast Resource and Recovery Corp., and the first step in doing that is to allow people to peruse and remove items from the transfer station in order to reuse them. The concern about citizens getting hurt by picking something up that is either broken or sharp is apparently our biggest barrier to this. Liability. Not logistics, not laws, not even politics are barriers to this idea.

Liability. The fear of what could happen. Liability. The fear of possible harm. Liability. The fear that someone might get hurt.

And in some sense, our towns' selectmen are right to be concerned. As selectmen, they are responsible for their community, and the community trusts them to do the right thing, especially when it comes to liability, exposure and finances. But this is where we must be bold and have the courage to do just that, “the right thing.”

It will not be easy, and that's OK. Doing the right thing usually isn't. Could someone get hurt? Yes. Will someone get hurt? Who knows? But the good that could come from reusing items and helping our neighbors, and ourselves, should outweigh the potential risks. What we need to do is design a system at the transfer station that minimizes risk as much as possible, minimizes it to a point that makes the idea of recycling and reusing a reality — and soon.

What I am asking is that the MCSW Board of Directors not make a hasty decision with regard to this subject. Why? Why is this so important? Glad you asked.

First, I mentioned the needs of the citizens from our four towns. It could provide a nice financial break for those who could use such discarded items. There would also be a financial benefit to the four towns, in that we could stave off filling the landfill if we could divert reusable items from it.

Second, the environmental impact would be calculable. Not only by keeping items from the landfill, but also in the carbon and pollution offset from citizens not purchasing items made with nonrenewable energy.

Third, and most importantly, the ripple effect. Right now most transfer stations in Maine do not allow picking. If Midcoast Solid Waste and the four towns were able to design a system in which reusable items were allowed to be removed at a minimum risk, then we might just start a ripple effect and other stations might follow our example. If this were to happen, the positive financial and environmental effects to the state of Maine could create a legacy felt by our children and grandchildren.

Again, I ask the MCSW Board to not take this matter lightly. The people have entrusted you to not only do what is right by our communities for today, but to also do what is right for the future. Be courageous. Do the right thing.

David Edwards


Thanks to Zoot Coffee for helping Guatemalans

Sondra fit me in for photo show at Zoot for November, but that was just the start of it.

The photos were of families living in a garbage dump community in Guatemala City, and the nonprofit, Safe Passage, that helps them.

Sondra packed her counter area with material from Safe Passage, both to inform and sell; donated a portion of the sale of Guatemalan coffee beans; and hosted a fun after-hours reception. She, and her lovely kids, who both work there, plus baristas Kat and Sarah, talked up the cause. Customers filled the donation jar with more than $1,000, all going to help a group of high school students led by Karen Hansen through the Midcoast Interact Club take a volunteering trip there in April.

How lucky we all are to have Sondra, and Zoot, in Camden.

Patrisha McLean


Teaching children stress resilience

I’m a bit of a groupie about attending the Tuesday-Thursday Camden Library evening programs.  But I was surprised, when I came to a program called "Resilience," not to see the usual grey-haired crowd, but rather a large, younger audience. I later learned that this audience contained many teachers and social workers who worked with children. The evening — involving a movie and a lengthy discussion of it — was one of those events which leave aftershocks in your mind and heart.

A large study, the ACEs Study, was done 20 years ago. It asked people in a questionnaire how many types of “acute childhood experiences” they had had, resulting in a number between one and 10. (You could take this yourself by googling "ACEs questionaire") It turned out that the more acute experiences the study participants had, the more likely they would face later social challenges and common physical health issues. Examples include: acting out in school, violent behavior, obesity, smoking, diabetes, heart disease, addictions, imprisonment, etc. It was especially striking that physical illnesses were included.

And yet  virtually all our corrective responses focus on the secondary behavior, and rarely spend real time and depth on the primary cause: the unhealed childhood wound. They all ask the question, “What’s wrong with you?” instead of asking, “What happened to you?” This simple "barking up the wrong tree" seems to bring a tectonic shift to my thinking, and a sorrowful response to our ongoing social blindness and callousness.

Let me share a moment in the middle of the movie: 5-year-olds are animatedly –even raucously — listening to a special teacher, brought into class from the ALIVE program, tell the legend of “Miss Kendra.” Kendra lost her infant child and, in her grieving process,  decided to greet children at her local elementary school as they got off the school bus in the morning. If she saw sadness or lostness on their faces, she often took them aside and gently explored what might be happening.  She became known as someone you could always talk to, and a letter-box was established in the school where children could  write secret letters to Miss Kendra.  In the movie, we see the 5-year-olds reciting from memory ‘Kendra’s list’: a list of the things which shouldn’t happen to a child:

No child should be punched or kicked.

No child should be left alone for a long time.

No child should be hungry for a long time.

No child should be bullied or told they are no good.

No child should be touched on their private parts.

No child should be scared by gun violence at home or in school.

No child should have to see other people hurt each other.

The list then goes on to tell what might result, such as not caring about school, feeling sad, scared or lonely, feeling angry and wanting to fight, feeling like giving up, or feeling worried about one’s family.

Well, I don’t know what this explicit, out-loud, adult-avowed, child-memorized list might mean for you; but for me this is absolutely new ground. I like to think that the children will remember it all their lives. As a result they could share such experiences more easily with others. The experiences were not their fault, but happened because of outside forces.  This literacy, this out-in-the-openness, would strengthen their resilience, their ability to heal.

After watching the movie, we all relaxed into a long period of sharing. This was especially welcome because watching the movie invited each of us to reexamine, at least slightly, our own early history. In sum, I think many of us were changed by the evening. Just imagine what would it be like if everyone in the world answered that questionnaire about childhood. Perhaps we would find that virtually no one had a zero score.

Perhaps every single person has childhood wounds. The "perfect childhood" we all desperately cling to, or resent not having, almost never exists. Where would this leave us? Wouldn’t we be more likely to roll up our sleeves and get started on healing our own and others' early wounds? Wouldn’t we see less of a division between "us" and "them"? And wouldn’t we be more interested in healing than in punishment?

Jory Squibb