Climate Education Bill: Advocacy in Action
In 2022, a groundbreaking $2.1 million Climate Education Bill was passed in the Maine legislature. This huge policy win, resulting in funding for climate education professional development for public school teachers, emerged from a youth- and educator-led, grassroots effort to make change in Maine public schools, and increase access to climate education for all Maine students. It is a bill that was dreamed up by Maine youth and teachers, supported by community organizations across the state, and supported by strong legislative champions. Members of NBEC’s Climate Education Advocacy and Stories for Change working groups have collaborated on bringing forward stories of people involved in the LD 1902, Climate Education Bill campaign.
Representative Lydia Blume
Here is the story of former Representative Lydia Blume, who was the primary sponsor of LD 1902 the Climate Education Bill.
Discussing climate education policy with Rep. Blume
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
How were you involved in LD 1902?
I decided to support the bill because I was approached by a teacher, Diana Allen, and she had been working with other teachers, and other educators. They had discussed the need for this type of funding to help her and her students, so they can make sure they are adhering to the standards that had already been in place as science requirements for the state.
So, it wasn't like we were mandating anything new, but just trying to supply the resources so teachers can be successful anywhere in the state. That made me feel that this is a very important bill.
What led to the bill's success?
Because of the grassroots work, the planning and the impetus for this bill was also put in the four year Climate Action Plan Maine Won't Wait. Climate education was part of what we already decided we had wanted to do. It took the grassroots effort, from the people who had been working on it, spending time discussing it, investigating it, understanding what they would need, and how to best frame it into a bill. In this way, LD 1902 was another implementing legislation related to what we had put together two years prior in Maine's Climate Action Plan.... Education was a specific goal, but you can't just state a goal—you need to implement it and the legislation helped that to happen. The fact that we have funding for it was even better.
Why is climate education important?
In this state which relies so heavily on the natural resources, we need to be in every county and make sure everyone knows what is happening to our ecosystems, and how things are changing due to climate change. In general, the idea is that ‘ignorance isn't bliss.'
Ignorance is dangerous in this case. We all need to face the fears, but with knowledge and with action. And, that's one of the things that we're doing. This precious generation is going to be dealing with this in many, many ways. We need to help them be prepared and hopeful. I'm certainly hopeful, with the Maine Won't Wait plan. It's made me very hopeful that we can do things.
What is exciting to you about the future of climate education?
Through education, there are opportunities for future jobs and careers that are going to be available because of all of the initiatives and challenges being produced by climate change. There is a whole response to that and a bunch of opportunities for jobs. I would hope that the community colleges, and the technical schools would use this type of information to help the students realize that they can go to trade school and be promised a job in this state. I see it not just about climate literacy, but also it's about jobs for the future.
If you're an artist, or good with your hands, or a musician, a poet, a writer, an engineer....there is so much that can be done to help with this. We need all those parts to show us the human aspect of the challenges we will be facing. No matter what your strength is, you can help with this climate crisis. And, that should encourage all students. It's not just a science based thing. It's something you can help with no matter what talent you have. Again, if you can work with your hands, you can open off lucrative trades: Offshore winds or solar just to name two.
Other thoughts about the future?
We need to keep electing the right people who know we need to continue this work. The day will be ruined if we just decide we don't want to do anything about it any more. We are showing that we care, and we care about our youth, and we're trying to mitigate the climate crisis.
Interview with Carey Hotaling, May 2023.
Learn more about the Climate Education Bill, how teachers can apply for funds from LD 1902, and other stories of Advocacy in Action.