Spire Issue #5 Cover Image

A Letter From the Editor 

Rebecca Champagne

Welcome! I am so thrilled to present Spire’s fifth issue, the journal’s largest issue yet. It contains a variety of submissions, including art, poetry, photography, research, and personal stories. This collection of diverse content reflects Spire’s vision and mission to unite communities and to galvanize action for conservation and sustainability. Inside you will find original work such as a collection of paintings representing the fragile cycle of life, poetry that examines the threat climate change poses on icebreaking on the Penobscot River, and a reflection on what one individual learned while serving as a sustainability coordinator at a local university. Another author discusses how the Baby Boomer generation perceives climate change, and a team discusses the role of big data in sustainability science. I feel very blessed to have connected with so many people all across the state and the northeast and I’m proud to witness Spire’s continued growth…

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A New Model for Environmental Discourse

Elyse DeFranco

Artwork by Elyse DeFranco

In an era filled with challenges for effective environmental communication and outreach, Spire: The Maine Journal of Conservation and Sustainability, offers an opportunity for solutions. An environmental journal that seeks to cross disciplinary boundaries and bridge the gap between academic researchers and the public community, it has successfully fostered a new type of platform for environmental discourse in the state of Maine. Since its founding in 2017, Spire has published a wide variety of works from researchers, writers, and artists on the themes of conservation and sustainability…

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It’s Not Working Now

Andrew Miller

Artwork by Carly Rahl

According to a recent study by Gallup, Inc., 56% of those 55 and older were concerned about global warming, compared to 70% of 18- to 34-year-olds. Only 55% of the older generation considered global warming to be human-induced, whereas 75% of young people did. Finally, 31% of those over 55 believed the news media understated the problem, compared to 48% of younger Americans…

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Ancestral Memory/Breath

Paloma Henriques

Artwork by Amanda Moline

sitting on the seashore 

of my mind’s edge

wondering at paranoia, fear, joy, sadness, contentment

and all the myriad waves 

lapping against the coarse sand of my synapses

thoughts, like seals, wriggle 

their blubbery shapes into my consciousness

marking a trail through my memory

the space between stimulus and response

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A Collection of Poems: Isleboro by Ice, Last Ride of the Icebreakers

Matt Bernier

Artwork by Jill Pelto

He opens the barn door on another

cold morning and discovers they’re

both restless, his horse’s eyelashes

fluttering at the sunrise across frozen

Belfast Bay, James worrying that

the ice’s thickness portends another

1816, another year without a summer,

when the crops failed…

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The Need for Unspoiled Places

Kevin Daley

Artwork by Kevin Daley

By the time I was in my twenties, the town I grew up in had changed a lot; the creation of Route 495 drastically increased the area’s accessibility, and the population soared. The small pond where I saw my first Scarlet Tanager simply disappeared, and the woods surrounding it (with their massive white pines and maple trees) were replaced with houses and driveways and lawns.  What I called “the high meadow,” an elevated spot with abandoned fruit trees, small deer herds, and huge hills created by fire ants, became the site of an exclusive condominium complex…

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What I Learned as a University Sustainability Coordinator

Lucas Kellett

Artwork by Colby Fogg

My journey into university sustainability was in many ways haphazard if not fortuitous, yet it is one of the most interesting professional and personal experiences I have ever had. 

When I was hired, I had no formal training in how to be a sustainability coordinator.  As I would soon find out, the first generation of coordinators often lacked formal training and upon entering their new university jobs, had to take quick stock and strategize for each unique institution of higher education. As a child of the 1980s, I was raised in the northern suburbs of Chicago on canned and frozen food and had almost no direct experience with gardening, composting, wood heat, or food insecurity – the very things that dominated my tenure in sustainability at UMF…

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A Collection of Poems: Ode to the Cold-Stunned Sea Turtle, Paradise

Vivian Eyre

Come closer, the sea said,

in this kingdom of slate-gray waves.

I had slipped far down into myself. 

As I look down at the cobbles of feldspar

and quartz, my fears rise. If only I 

had paws or leaning staff to walk across

what doesn’t give. A rush of wind

through my coat, awakens that old urge 

to turn away…

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A Collection of Poems: Creeper, Brown; Outside; Guilt Trip

Lucia Owen

Artwork by Rachel E. Church

In her basement this Saturday 

the countrywoman, retired, starts to collect stuff 

to take to the dump. Somehow she has never

bought ‘transfer station’ and wonders  

where it’s all transferred to and has a few ideas

but won’t ask for fear they’ll tell her and

she’ll turn inside-out with guilt…

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Uncovering Big Data Bias in Sustainability Science

Nick Record and Lourdes Vera

Artwork by Elyse DeFranco

As is often the case, rapid deployment of technology is justified for the potential advances without due consideration of the potential pitfalls. This is why Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) should be required reading for science degrees. Big data and learning algorithms are already deeply embedded into our everyday lives, and much like with Dr. Frankenstein’s creation, we are now seeing the unintended consequences unfold before our eyes…

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Burdening Food Banks with the Charity of Waste

Jocelyn Meyer

Unity, ME photo
Artwork by Carly Rahl

This paper examines the structural issues represented by the Farmers to Families Food Box (FFFB) initiative rolled out by the U.S. government in response to rising levels of food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic. It addresses some of the concerns brought about in a letter written by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture’s Subcommittee on Nutrition, Oversight, and Departmental Operations revealing the inefficacy and problems associated with the government and agribusiness’ overdependence on food charity to address the structural issue of hunger. I argue that the normalized outlook and treatment of food charity as “win-win-win” scenarios by these actors are ultimately ineffective, perpetuating existing food system injustices that disproportionately burden low-income communities of color…

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Observations at Boot Head Preserve in January

Emily Guirl

The surf is audible from the trail head, also the erratic hooting of an offshore buoy. I stumble over raised roots, turn right at the fork. 

The trees part at the first lookout. The water below is high and white, moving in all directions as it fills the tight cove at the base of the cliff. Clouds in tones of gray are broad and dark over Grand Manan across the channel, light and breaking overhead. Sun glows on the bridge of my nose…

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A Collection of Poems: Mother Maine, Resilience, Between Disciplines

Michelle de Leon

Artwork by Xiaoxue Mo

Maine is a place

where I’m leaning into a state of tension.

Clouds flood me as I navigate

where is home…

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Comparing Climate Change Communications Across Maine Wild Blueberry, Apple, and Potato Growing Communities

Sarah Marcotte

Artwork by Xiaoxue Mo

In the face of changing climate, adaptations to agricultural systems are necessary to ensure the resilience of our food systems. Despite the increasing urgency for these measures, multiple barriers exist which prevent growers from adopting adaptive practices. Political tensions and attitudes of skepticism amongst growers have created challenges in communicating climate information, which has prompted research into methods of communication that more effectively promote understanding between growers and educational organizations. The focus of this study was to determine whether differences in communication methods by University of Maine Cooperative Extension to Maine growers could, in part, account for an increased level of concern about climate change amongst Maine wild blueberry and apple growers as compared to potato growers…

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Honoring Our History: Restoration on the Megunticook River

Hallie Arno

The deluge of water cascading under stores and over walls in Camden is archetypical coastal Maine—this iconic river is in postcards, pictures, and magazines. The existence of the dam that creates the river as we know it, and the history of the mills it emblemizes, insinuates the history of prosperity in the picturesque little tourist town. The sentiment of “Honor our History” billows on bright vinyl banners and falls from local lips. Upon closer inspection, only the history of the last couple of hundred years is being honored. Pollution, development, and fish barriers relegate the natural history to small, preserved parcels on the outskirts of town, and any trace that humans had lived in the area before the dams is virtually nonexistent save for the river’s name itself. Still, the Megunticook is universally adored—It’s hard for anyone to avoid feeling protective over the beauty, man-made or natural, of the places you, your parents, and your grandparents grew up in…

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