by Tamara Whitmore
As people who work in the environmental field, responding to situations of environmental crisis is our default. It's like breathing for us. It's our job, and often our life's purpose, to protect our natural resources from harm. If I'm being honest, it's actually kind of an adrenaline rush when you remove invasive plants from the lake or respond to a report of an injured loon. It's good to feel like you have made a difference by doing your work and it is easy to focus on your "issue bubble" and be less aware of other, also worthy, issues.
The past couple of months have popped my "bubble"; I am acutely aware of other issues that are overwhelmingly large and troubling. I am in awe of the medical first responders that have worked tirelessly to treat those that are sick, at great risk to their own health. I feel pain and frustration for those who have lost their jobs or businesses; I wish that I could contribute in developing alternative ways to achieve financial success while staying safe. I am saddened that we still have situations of social injustice but inspired by the young people that I have seen step up to change the future.
I've asked myself, "Is my work enough?" "Is protecting the waters of the Cobbossee Watershed making enough of an impact in this world?" And then I spent time by one of our lakes. The beauty is tremendous and it calms the soul. I see all of the photos people are taking of sunrises and sunsets, of wildlife and their loved ones on the water. I see our lakes busier with boat traffic earlier in the summer than I have ever observed before, because there is not much else to do.
During this time of uncertainty and unrest, we NEED our lakes. Spending time in nature is good for our mental and physical health. Local residents and visitors alike supporting local businesses as a byproduct of spending time on our lakes is necessary for our economy. Employing over 35 people during a time of record unemployment is helping our economy and our community. Providing an affordable way for families to participate in being out on the lake is helping our local communities.
The summer of 2020 will be different, there is no way around it. We have suspended our Youth Conservation Corps work for this summer, to protect our team and their families. Our educational programs will be different, to reduce chances of transmission of the COVID-19 virus. Our fundraising events that usually contribute over $30,000 to our work will have a different look, but will still be nonetheless important. BUT, this time of change is also a time of opportunity. How can we protect our lakes, keep our staff and constituents safe and still build important relationships and connections? How can we deepen our level of impact through the HOW of the work we do to protect our waters? We are excited to figure that out!
Welcome to summer, and welcome back to the lake. We are glad that you are here!
Tamara Whitmore is Executive Director of the Friends of the Cobbossee Watershed.