Keynote Speaker

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Judith EastKeynote Speaker: Judith C. East

Director, Bureau of Resource Information and Land Use Planning
Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry

Getting from us/them polarization to partnership with, sometimes, strange bedfellows

The current polarization in our politics and our culture is clear in every poll and newscast we hear and in many a local school board meeting we attend. While especially acute today, the labels we use to divide “us” from “them” have existed and persisted throughout the history of this vast continent on which we live. Yet many communities spring up, thrive, recover from disaster, and find common ground. How have we, and how do we, move beyond xenophobia of the “others” among “us” and find a common place that we can all call home? This talk will explore the mindset, some processes, and some stories to reinforce a shift from real or perceived exploitation and superiority to reciprocity and mutual benefit, that is, from win/lose to win/win. While always a work in progress, East will describe her professional experience with strategies that help to find common ground among “strange bedfellows” in our civic life. By no means will this talk address all past and current pain rooted in the synonyms of xenophobia (racism, prejudice, chauvinism), yet it will ask of the audience to understand and appreciate the need to build bridges if we are to thrive in community. Collectively, these bridges may be more common than the media noise suggests with its persistent focus on conflict rather than on partnership.

Judith C. East is Director of the Bureau of Resource Information and Land Use Planning at the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. She has 34 years of professional experience at the local, regional and state levels in Maine, New York and Vermont. Over her career she has led a regional land trust and a regional planning agency in deeply rural areas of New England helping small communities with infrastructure, emergency management, working waterfront, public access, conservation, climate resilience, and land use planning. Judy serves on the Maine Climate Council and as Co-Chair of the working group on Community Resilience Planning, Emergency Management and Public Health. With a B.Sc. in biology and economics and a M.Sc. in Planning, she has ability and interest in working with rural communities as they balance land and resource conservation with economic development.