The future isn't what it used to be: A look back and a look forward

By Jennifer Hill | Jan 02, 2020

Think back: What was happening in your life in 2010? Do you remember when the Belfast Area Transition Times 2020 appeared as a supplement to the Republican Journal in December 2010? The idea was to peek into the future and imagine what life would be like if we were successful in building local resilience to fight climate change. And now 2020 is here.

My, how Belfast has changed in the last 10 years! (For a view of the news from 2020, go to The genial, optimistic articles seem quaintly Mayberry-like, given the rancor over the proposed Nordic Aquafarms salmon factory that has fractured our community these past few years.

Groups like Local Citizens for SMART Growth, Extinction Rebellion, Friends of Harriet L. Hartley Conservation Area, a Climate To Thrive, and Upstream Watch didn’t exist here in 2010. The Belfast Area Transition Initiative, tapping into and feeding a local movement to encourage a personal response to climate change, was on the move, though, inviting authors to speak, presenting documentaries, taking bus trips, telling stories, partying, and educating ourselves about the big picture.

So, what did Belfast visionaries think it would be like in 2020 if everything went right with the movement to look into our own backyards, working locally to solve the biggest, knottiest problem ever?

Well, Joel Krueger, today still the minister of the First Church in Belfast, imagined solar panels on the roof of the iconic church with the clock in its steeple, and while the church has not yet made a move to solar, the city’s fire station did. And, a 5-acre solar field will help bring all city buildings to run on 100% renewal energy. In addition, city councilors are drafting a solar ordinance in preparation for commercial solar farms in Belfast.

Another visionary, John Piotti, CEO of Maine Farmland Trust in 2010, predicted that people would be eating more seasonal foods and buying more of their food from local farms in 2020. Carisa Carney of the Belfast Co-op reports that local sales were 36% in 2019, up from 30% in 2011. The Co-op didn’t quite hit its goal, though: an article by Fran Clemetson and Chris Grisby predicted 50% of its products would be sourced locally by 2020.

Paintings in the newspaper by now-deceased visionary artist Anne Atkinson in the 2020 edition depicted bicyclists and green spaces. The Mobile Monroe Car Collective didn’t materialize, but a charging station was added to the Beaver Street lot for recharging electric cars.

Local author and now retired physician David Loxtercamp laid out his dreams for Seaport Health Center as a teaching site for Tufts-Maine Medical Center by 2020, with degree programs in nursing, dentistry, pharmacy, physical therapy and more. While many of his ideas may take longer to fall into place, Waldo County General Hospital has received recognition as one of the top rural hospitals in the country, the only one from Maine. Watch out, Tufts.

Belfast Bay Watershed Coalition activist Chloe Chunn had a letter to the editor published in the 2020 edition celebrating the extensive walking trails throughout the county. She envisioned people connecting to towns and schools, significantly lowering greenhouse emissions as well as cases of heart disease, diabetes, obesity and stress-related illnesses. Chloe, with her compadre Skip Pendleton, now deceased, and many others have been working hard to make this vision a reality, clearing and grooming the Hills to Sea trail.

Caitlin Hunter and Anne Saggese predicted the Belfast Farmers’ Market would move into the former Mathews Brothers Spring Street facility and, sure enough, a new year-round United Farmers’ Market has emerged in the building they imagined using as a new home for their Belfast Farmers' Market.

So, as 2020 begins, let us take stock of our green spaces in the Belfast area, our farms, our food sources, and walking paths. Let the visions of our community leaders work on us as we end 2019 with a fresh perspective on what is possible in Belfast. As we follow the beacon of our young activists, such as Greta Thunberg, we can tend the great turning and learn new ways for living in community that work to cooperate with nature rather than to dominate her.

Then, in December of this coming year, let’s do it again for 2030; we can leapfrog into the future by decades, reaching back into our roots to notice the forward movement. What a way to go, making the difficult changes we so need right now.

Jennifer Hill is former host of a weekly interview program, "Finding Common Ground,” on WBFY Belfast Community Radio, 100.9 FM, and was a contributor to the Transition Times insert in 2010. She is a resident of Waldo.

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