Francis Flisiuk

Francis Flisiuk

Clean Energy: Too Expensive? Or Our Only Choice?

In order to spare future generations the devastating environmental and health effects of climate change, many scientists say we must stop using virtually all fossil fuels by 2050.

If you think that’s a tall order, it is, but several cities across the U.S. — like San Diego, Burlington, and Aspen (as well as big corporations like Apple, Google, and Coca Cola) have stepped up to the plate and pledged to cut fossil fuels from their energy diet.

That includes our city of Portland, Maine, where the mayor and several city councilors presented a resolution to get the city running on 100 percent clean energy by 2040.

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Jack Doherty of ReVision Energy installs a solar panel onto the roof of Maine Historical Society's offsite collections management facility in Portland Wednesday, Apr. 18. Photo By Dan D’Ippolito / Maine Historical Society

You're going to see some significant changes in Portland over the next 10 years,” said Spencer Thibodeau, the chair of the sustainability and transportation committee who drafted the resolution — essentially a revamp of the council’s 2007 Climate Action Plan. “We need to do this.”

I’ve previewed what those changes will be in this feature, as well as some of the challenges in implementing them, but first, an important question:

What is clean energy?

One of the tricky parts in drafting clean energy policy is that people often hold different understandings of what it is, sometimes regarding renewable energy as synonymous with green or sustainable energy.

While the terms do have some overlapping meanings, there are some key differences, mostly involving the source of the energy.

For example, wood is a renewable resource, but does that mean pellet stoves produce clean energy? Not a chance.

Green energy is an umbrella term that’s mostly used for marketing purposes. A supermarket can “go green” by recycling its waste and minimizing electricity usage, but technically so can a big oil company by installing a couple wind turbines. Those in the thick of alternative energy conversations, like Frank Heller at Katahdin Energy Works, don’t have much faith in the term, as it simply means that some steps were taken to minimize a carbon footprint.

“Even energy is confused by people who don’t separate ‘fuels’ from the energy they produce and the processes they use to transform fuel into either heat or electricity,” said Hellar. “There's a lot of wiggle room as far as what clean energy is and what another person thinks it is.”

'Sustainable' is more of an economic term while 'renewable' refers to the energy source itself. Burning wood for heat is technically renewable, seeing as wood’s both natural and plentiful, but it’s not sustainable because the process of planting more trees and harvesting more wood wouldn’t last indefinitely on a grand scale.

Clean energy is derived from renewable natural sources and doesn’t produce any harmful byproducts. It comes in three basic flavors: wind, solar, and water (or hydroelectric) and Portland dreams of utilizing all three. But is that possible?

Switching out the lights

The city’s sustainability coordinator, Troy Moon, told me that the first step in any initiative is to become more efficient.

And getting Portland on track to 100 percent clean energy starts with replacing the 6,800 high-pressure sodium city lights with LEDs.

Mood said that this will drastically reduce energy consumption by potentially as much as two-thirds.

“They're going to significantly change how the city is lit,” said Moon. “We're working with a consultant contractor called 10 Collected Solutions. They'll help us do the switch out by hopefully later this summer.”

According to Stouch Lighting, a lighting efficiency blog (yes, such things exist), LEDs have several advantages over their 1970s era sodium counterparts. For starters, they have virtually no warm-up time, which is perfect considering how often public lights need to be dimmed or turned on and off. LEDs are also cheaper to maintain, easier to dispose of safely (the sodium ones tend to burn), and waste much less on energy through excess heat. They last longer too, up to 100,000 hours longer.

On top of all that, sodium lights have the worst color spectrum on the market (think that hazy, yellow glow) while LEDs open up all the colors on the spectrum with their bright, white waves. Should Moon's plan come to pass, Portland’s literally going to look more vibrant at night, while reducing the energy needed to light up the city.

The only downside to this bright future is that the start-up costs for installing 6,800 LEDs is quite expensive; replacing one bulb costs anywhere from $800 to $1,000. “We’re negotiating with CMP right now,” said Moon. “Hopefully the city will buy out all the old lights.”

Lights outside are a good start, but what about inside?

Cleaning up the electrical grid

According to ISO New England, the non-profit corporation responsible for keeping electricity flowing through six states, natural gas makes up about 50 percent of the New England power grid, nuclear about 31 percent, and renewables around 10 percent.

The organization released their annual “regional electricity outlook report” earlier this year, in which executives noted that fuel security is at risk in New England because there are concerns about the ability of natural-gas-fired generators to dependably access adequate fuel during winter cold snaps.

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Graphic from ISO New England's "Regional Electricity Outlook Report." This chart shows how the source of energy for New England's power grid has changed over time.

This puts reliability at risk and drives up costs, but according to the report, so does the push toward natural gas and renewables.

“At the heart of the problem are factors that the ISO has been warning about for some time now but does not have the authority to directly address,” said board chair of ISO New England, Philip Shapiro. “Natural gas-fired power plants can’t always access adequate gas because natural gas transportation and storage infrastructure haven't kept pace with demand from the electricity sector.”

“Actions being taken or considered by the states to reach those goals, meanwhile, may inadvertently undercut the ability of the wholesale marketplace to continue delivering on its promise of securing reliable, competitively priced electricity for New England today and into the future.”

While ISO New England has been actively refining systems and market rules to integrate renewable resources, the CEO and President Gordon Van Welie said in the report that the “region is decades away from installing enough renewable resources.”

“For the foreseeable future, the region will require resources such as natural-gas-fired units that can do what wind and solar resources cannot: make large contributions to meeting regional electricity demand; run in any type of weather and at any time of day; quickly change output levels; and provide essential grid stability services.”

The experts over at ISO New England have been grappling with the same dilemma that environmental sustainability advocates here in Portland (and beyond) have been for decades: how do you balance a competitive market that relies on fuel security with meeting state carbon-reduction goals?

Solar power in Portland and beyond

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Sunrise on Casco Bay. Photo By: Teresa Flisiuk.

Many think that solar has both the potential to meet society’s voracious energy demands and help lower our carbon footprint.

But while folks like Troy Moon would love to see more solar panels and wind turbines powering and heating homes in Portland, they say that it won’t overtake natural gas anytime soon.

Although building and installing solar panels is getting cheaper every year (GTM research reports that back in 2008 it cost about $8 a watt; now it’s down to half that, and still falling), solar power generates just .4 percent of America’s electricity.

“We certainly have a lot of rooftops that would be suitable for solar panels,” said Moon. “But we don't have that much open space. We don't have enough footprint in Portland to give enough solar capacity.”

And although solar technology is getting cheaper, and saves up to $18,000 in energy costs over 20 years, the upfront installation costs around $12,000, much more than the average person is willing to pay, which is why we won’t see much solar powering residential areas.


Organizations like Efficiency Maine and the Natural Resources Council of Maine work relentlessly to push policies that incentivize solar technology in spite of the LePage-appointed members of the Public Utilities Commission who would rather roll back progress. Despite the opposition, these organizations have helped over a dozen municipalities in Maine build solar arrays.

Members of the NRCM gathered at the State House in Augusta last week to rally behind LD 1373, An Act to Protect and Expand Access to Solar Power in Maine, a bill that would protect net metering and re-establishing Maine’s solar energy rebate program for small businesses and low-middle-income Mainers. According to them, more solar power in Maine wouldn’t just be a big step toward a clean energy future, but it would stimulate job growth—indeed, according to a recent Vox article, there are now twice as many solar jobs in the U.S. than coal jobs.

“Maine is at a critical crossroads on solar power,” said Dylan Voorhees, Climate and Clean Energy Project Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “Solar power presents an opportunity to expand our economy, protect our environment, create jobs, and lower energy costs. But the PUC (Public Utilities Commission) net-metering rollback is so extreme that it includes a new tax on solar. (It's) akin to utilities charging people who use less electricity an extra fee because they dry their clothes on a clothesline. Inaction by the Legislature, combined with the anti-solar action by the Public Utilities Commission, threatens to move Maine further backward.”

Here in Portland, two big solar initiatives are nearing their final stages.

Last month, after fundraising $400,000, the city worked with Revision Maine to install over 300 solar panels to power the Portland Public Library and the Maine Historical Society. This is the first time that the National Endowment for the Humanities has funded a solar project ($300k of a $400k project) designed to support the long-term preservation of historical materials.

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Zach Good of ReVision Energy installs a solar panel onto the roof of Maine Historical Society's offsite collections management facility in Portland Wednesday, Apr. 18. Photo By: Dan D’Ippolito/Maine Historical Society

The same is planned for City Hall with another solar array (first proposed in 2015) propping up on the Ocean Avenue landfill sometime this summer. It’s estimated the operation will cost the city over $1.5 million and power 3.5 percent of municipal operations.

“We would need 120 acres of solar panels to power all of our municipal operations,” said councilor Thibodeau. “That’s why we need to diversify.”

(Check out all the other ways the Portland’s Sustainability and Transportation Committee plans to reach their clean energy goal in the sidebar.)

But what about wind power?

feature windfarms Peter KirkeskovRasmussenviaFlickr

Photo by Peter Kirkeskov Rasmussen via Flickr.

Not looking good, according to Moon. He said that Portland’s not in a good spot to truly harness the free and awesome power of the wind. He’s arrived at this point after analyzing data from a Peaks Island study that built a special tower and measured the wind over the course of a year.

“Unfortunately it wasn't suitable,” said Moon. “There's not enough wind. Maybe on some small applications but not on a grid scale.”

There could be opportunities further offshore, or elsewhere along the Maine coast for wind farms, but some think, with Gov. LePage put off by the big investment, progress on it has stalled.

Jon Voight from Maine Marine Composites told The Portland Press Herald that Maine “missed a great opportunity” back in 2012 when the Norwegian company Statoil proposed a $120, wind farm project off of Boothbay Harbor but left Maine after LePage forced them to revisit the deal.

“The Governor has blocked so much policy that six years in, Maine finds itself falling behind as clean energy technology advances and other states modernize their policies to fit the new reality,” said Judy Berk from the Natural Resources Council of Maine.

Challenges lie ahead

The biggest challenges to transitioning Portland (and Maine in general) into a low-carbon community is balancing costs and accessible technologies.

For example, according to Moon, the city is looking to electrify its fleet of city vehicles (only four are electric cars now), but the technology isn’t quite yet there for heavier vehicles like snowplows or construction equipment.  

“It's difficult to say if we're going to move to 100 percent electric vehicles in the short term,” said Moon. “We need to be able to have enough equipment and be strategic with where we put our money.”

“How are you going to power a plow truck with electricity?” asked Thibodeau. “That technology doesn’t exist today. It will develop over time.”

So, like with most big barriers in life, the issue is money. While huge investments toward renewable energy have paid off in the long run—take Norway, Las Vegas, and Rockport, Missouri, three examples of communities powering 95 percent of their operations with hydroelectric, wind, or solar power respectively—there are still plenty of Mainers who aren’t ready to foot the initial, admittedly massive bill toward these technologies.

“We need to focus on getting the grid that runs our society to be based on clean energy,” said Moon. “But we can't do it all ourselves. There needs to be state and federal policy and action at the utility level.”

And there might be yet another big speed bump on the road to a completely green future.

Addressing the culture of consumption

Frank Heller, the owner of Katahdin Energy Works, is very much a clean energy advocate. He’s outfitted 75 homes and businesses with solar and hydropower in Maine. Heller said that there are downsides to consider when it comes to alternative energy.

According to Heller, you can’t balance cost and energy generation without factoring in consumption. How much energy are people actually using?

“This fuels policy,” he said. “Unfortunately, our energy consumption has gone up.”

Heller gave me an example of this increase with a story of a Bowdoin dorm. In 2015, it was outfitted with LED fixtures to become more energy efficient, but because the electricity usage inside was so high (the damn college kids kept all their tech plugged in), the building ending up being less efficient.

Heller said that he knows plenty of people who “live off the grid” — some in boats year-round docked in marinas — they're highly conscious and conservative of their consumption habits paying careful attention to when something’s plugged in, and for how long it’s plugged in. This lifestyle, he says, would run contrary to many people’s ideas of modern comforts, and the very nature of our culture of consumption.

“It's that kind of ethos that permeates a lot of these discussions,” said Heller. “And that's the conundrum.”

Before signing off our telephone discussion, Heller offered two more bits of cautionary advice to those gungho about clean energy: don’t rush into it without doing the economics, and figure out if your initiatives will have an actual measurable impact on climate change. Citing the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which did lower CO2 emissions measurably, Heller asks, But did it mitigate any global warming?

“Nobody knows,” he said. “I've watched these fads come and go.”

Although he doesn’t believe there’s a scientific consensus linking CO2 emissions and temperature change, and keeps a little chunk of coal on his desk (true story), Heller does believe climate change is happening. He just thinks humans will be able to adapt to it without much trouble.

“There are people who sell fears and crises, and then the causality is lost in the hysteria,” said Heller. “They exaggerate these worst case scenarios.”

The issue of adapting to climate change is of course complex. While Heller's optimism may prove prescient regarding Maine's ability to adapt, we've already seen multiple reports this year of third world countries ravaged by stronger storms and higher tides. Some island nations in the Pacific, like the Maldives or the Republic of Kiribati, could literally be swallowed whole by the ocean. According to a report from the University of East Anglia, climate change puts over 1.3 billion people at risk, many of whom live in poor countries with an economy dependent on agriculture. 

That’s not to say that Heller thinks we should do nothing. He does support Portland’s clean energy plan, but stressed that our society also needs to work on addressing the root cause of the issues raised in this article, primarily our culture of excess consumption.

“It would be very interesting to see how much gasoline people in Portland use,” Heller joked.

Heller shared some pretty ambitious alterations to our culture and its relationship with consumption and energy. These included installing floating housing units on Back Bay (he called it seascaping), harvesting more food from the ocean, building more hydroelectric plants on surrounding rivers, looking into tidal power, and encouraging residents to live on boats.

“A blend of constant hydroelectric/tidal power with some micro solar grids is definitely a possibility for Portland,” he said.

Whether you take the activist view, like Moon or Thibodeau, that climate change is a serious urgent threat or the cautiously optimistic adaptive approach like Heller, one aspect of the clean energy debate is settled and even bolstered by current market forces: in a planet of finite resources, utilizing renewable energy sources is the only future.

“If we don’t do what we’re doing, we’d see more floods and we’d be losing money,” said Thibodeau.

Want to write angry words at me for not even mentioning the contentious nuclear power issue? My email is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">

Portland’s Progress Toward 100 Percent Clean Energy:

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Spencer Thibodeau the chair of the Sustainability and Transportation Committee.

It’s important to note that these goals only go toward making the city’s municipal operations (government, schools, parking enforcement) reliant on clean energy, not the residential and private sectors. But damn, wouldn’t it be utopian if every resident lived sustainably?

Create a Green Team - Ongoing

Sustainable Behavior Campaign for Employees: Not Started Yet

Foster Student Support - Ongoing

Environmental Preferable Purchasing - Not Started Yet

Educational and Informational Partnerships - Ongoing

Update Emissions Inventory - Ongoing

Conduct Public Outreach - Ongoing

Comprehensive Energy Audits - Complete

Explore an Energy Service Company -  Complete

Upgrade lighting, HVAC, and water - Complete

Adopt Comprehensive Energy Policy - Not Started

Adopt Green Building Standards for City Buildings - Complete

Purchase Renewable Energy Credits - Ongoing

Explore Small Scale Solar Energy Generation (Ocean Ave. Landfill) - Complete

Reduce Fuel Consumption From City Fleet - Ongoing

Route Optimization Software - Not Started

Enforce Anti-Idling Policy - Ongoing

Transportation Demand Mgmt for Employees - Ongoing

Retrofit Streetlights to LED - Ongoing

Upgrade Pumps and Pump Stations - Ongoing


8 Days A Week: Sexy Geeks, Strange Storytellers, and the Return Of At Least Three Local Legends



WATER WORLD | Do you care about the health of our oceans but know precious little about them? A film, titled Ocean Frontiers III, is screening this week and will illuminate the most pressing threats and challenges to marine conservation. As residents of a coastal city, it’s imperative that we discuss these issues and empower those fighting for a sustainable ocean future. A panel of regional experts will lead an interactive discuss after the credits roll, so stick around.

| FREE | 6:30 pm | University of Southern Maine, Hannaford Hall, 88 Bedford St., Portland |


THEY’RE BACK | The four-piece acoustic bluegrass band Northwood return to Blue this week for their monthly residency. If you’re looking for a chill, free (leave a donation if you’re a nice person), and casual live performance paired with a burger or beer, this is the ticket.

| DONATION BASED | 7 pm | Blue, 650A Congress St., Portland |


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Caroline Spence and Connor Garvey, two folk musicians that easily double as poets.

GET PENSIVE | The award-winning troubadour and simply lovely singer/songwriter Caroline Spence is showcasing her latest folk/Americana album Spades and Roses today. Her wispy vocals float above her rich arrangements and heavy narratives of love, loss, and existential moments. Real country music comes from the heart, and Spence seems to be keenly aware of that. She’s joined by Portland’s own poetic folk storyteller, Connor Garvey.

| $15 | 8 pm | One Longfellow Square, 181 State St., Portland | |


FRESH, YET RETRO | New York City’s a veritable melting pot of artists trying to carve out a name for themselves. It seems that Tash and Chris from the hard-hitting rock band The London Souls are halfway there. They’ve been unloading their classic Zeppelin-like riffs, Beatles-esque melodies, and decisively funky grooves since 2008, garnering praise from serious music critics and rock zombies alike. But they still do their thang relatively under the radar. Their intoxicating blend of both old and new approaches to rock-n-roll works; go see them when they play on the same bill as When Particles Collide and Midwestern Medicine.

| $18 | 9 pm | Portland House of Music and Events, 25 Temple St., Portland |




PEDALING ART | Bike your ass over to the Portland Museum of Art this week. Why? Because apart from the fact that gazing at fine art is a dependable way to slow the tides of existential dread, there are some bicycle-related goodies outside! The Bicycle Coalition of Maine and CycleMania will be right outside the museum offering free tune-ups, a chance to win a brand new L.L.Bean bike, and a "make-a-take" art project that will make your two-wheel ride even spiffier.

| FREE(ISH) | 5 pm | Portland Museum of Art, 7 Congress Sq., Portland |



Jay Bragg, a former Portlander, is coming home to debut two new singles ahead of his first solo record in the fall. 

MUSICAL JOURNEY | Jay Bragg, formerly of the “outlaw country” duo North of Nashville is coming home. He left Maine last year to set up shop in Nashville, Tennessee, evolve as a country artist, and satisfy his musical curiosity with the question: “what would it sound like if Merle Haggard wrote music with Ed Sheeran?” He’s bringing back what he’s learned from the humid heartland during this homecoming show at Empire, the same venue where Bragg released his first album 10 years ago. Welcome back! The Welterweights join him.

| $10 | 8 pm | Empire, 575 Congress St., Portland |


KOMBUCHA ROCK | Portland’s reliable. You can expect a low-key but enjoyable brewery show somewhere in the city almost once a week. This time, the fuzzy Americana band Milk, and South Portland’s lo-fi indie rockers Million Dollar Lounge, are set to perform at the Urban Farm Fermentory.

| $8 | 8 pm | Urban Farm Fermentory, 200 Anderson St., Portland |


FRISKY FANDOMS | Would you ever describe the dragons from Game of Thrones as sexy? How about the Stormtroopers from Star Wars, or Caesar from Planet of the Apes? Drop dead gorgeous right? Probably not. You might think that sexy’s not often synonymous with fantasy universes (or the people obsessed with them) but the performers of the Suicide Girls Blackheart Burlesque show are here to challenge your narrow perceptions. They’re putting a geeky twist on classic burlesque with a show chock full of sultry women and pop culture references. Has this show been inspired by a teenage boy’s midnight fantasies? Regardless, we’re into it.

| $20 | 8 pm | State Theatre, 609 Congress St., Portland |


STAR IN THE MAKING | Quinn Sullivan used to be known simply as “the kid with a guitar.” That was back in 2006 when he enamored audiences on The Ellen Degeneres Show. After that, in 2007, the legendary blues guitarist Buddy Guy asked Sullivan to join him on stage during a live performance. Since that brief mentor moment, Sullivan’s amassed some impressive musical experience, from sharing the stage with the Roots and Eric Clapton to playing at storied venues like the Hollywood Bowl and the Madison Square Garden (and making even more late-night television runs). This dude’s success is inspiring; he’s been playing music over 10 years and he’s only 18! Cheer on this eager youngster from Massachusetts as he rocks the house at Aura and showcases what he’s learned from some of rock’s legends.

| $10 | 9 pm | Aura, 121 Center St., Portland | |




AUDREY’S ALIVE | David Worobec’s hosting one of his whimsical and musically rich miniature puppet shows this week (he’s a trained opera singer, ya know?), a production he calls the Tophat Theater, performed, essentially, in his house. This time he’s taking on the classic dark comedy The Little Shop of Horrors. Aren’t you curious to see what the bloodthirsty plant looks like in tiny puppet form?

| DONATION BASED | 7 pm | Tophat Productions, 44 Carleton St., Portland |


BEER ME UP | Finally a rally people from both sides of the aisle can get behind: a rally dedicated to beer! Shipyard and the American Home Brewers Association invites you to come party with them and get an exclusive tour of their brewery on Newbury Street. Gulp down your favorite pours, learn about the brewing process, and win some prizes. Who doesn't love swag and gift certificates? ACHBA members get in for free, but you can sign up to be a member at the event, and if you're crazy about beer, or ever wanted to start brewing your own, we highly recommend you consider joining the club. 

| VARIED | 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm | Shipyard Brewing, 86 Newbury St., Portland | | 


OH FUNK YES | Lyle Divinsky, who’s been doing amazing things around the country touring with his outfit The Motet, is returning to Portland to join the band that helped launch his deliciously groovy career, Model Airplane. Opening for them is the Jason Spooner Band. Don’t miss the “Sasquatch of Soul,” because he’s a free funky spirit, and who knows when he’ll return to Maine again!

| $18 | 8 pm | Portland House of Music and Events, 25 Temple St., Portland |


BLACK METAL ACTIVISM | Hey, maybe not all men are trash? The dudes at Last Mercy Emissions are hosting a hard rock/metal concert where a portion of the proceeds will go to support Planned Parenthood, a health organization that’s literally a lifesaver for thousands of women across the country. They need our support now more than ever. You can help PP (in an admittedly roundabout and totally removed kind of way) by thrashing around to the sonic nightmares of Apollyon, SIRE, Brazen Gate, and Imipolex.

| $8 | 9 pm | Geno’s Rock Club, 625 Congress St., Portland |




SCREW PHYSICS | Gravity’s a scientific law; its effects can be observed across the breadth of the universe, influencing the movement of planets, stars, black holes and even entire galaxies. It’s truly eternal. Yet, the Earthling artists at Circus Maine don’t seem to be bothered by this mysterious and ubiquitous force. With their high-flying acrobatics, juggling, tight-rope walking, and aerial stunts, they’re basically going to be saying “f*ck you” to gravity. And it’s a delight to watch.

| $15 | 4 pm | Circus Maine, 4 Thompson’s Pt., Portland |


BEND AND BREWS | Practicing yoga’s been in mainstream Western culture for so long, it’s kind of lost its edgy hipster coolness. But if a yoga class is held in one of Portland’s most popular breweries, and is paired with a delicious Bissell beer, then it wins back some relevance points with the millennials — get with the times, older readers. Kay Cynewski from The Northeast Yogi is leading a one-hour class on vinyasa flow yoga (heads up, it’s challenging) that ends with you gulping down your favorite pour.

| $30 | 5:30 pm | Bissell Brothers, 4 Thompson’s Pt., Portland |


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Local indie-rock band Weakened Friends (pictured above) join Old Etc. this week for a reunion show.

THE RETURN | Is it just a coincidence that some of our favorite local bands (that left us, or in this case, broke up) are returning home for special shows all in the same week? How fortuitous. This time, I’m referring to Biddeford’s cathartic indie-rock band Old Etc. They’re reuniting to play their well-reviewed, highly emotive, and majestic rock album Forever. Come sing, laugh, and cry with them one last time. Portland’s Weakened Friends, Bangor’s Wait, and Manchester’s Badfellows, are also scheduled to cause some mayhem.

| $10 | 8 pm | Portland House of Music and Events, 25 Temple St., Portland |




VERSES VS. VERSES | If you end up having a shitty Monday (which is quite typical), a good story might help you forget about it. Stories clear up the cobwebs in your head. It’s why you should check out this monthly reading series at Blue, hosted by the Portland songwriter Chris Robley. He’s invited a solid trio of local wordsmiths to share their work during a night of poetry, prose, and music. This month’s theme is “Time: Travel,” and will have songwriter Caroline Cotter, journalist Egan Millard, and teacher Marita O’Neil, grapple with putting elegant words to this eternal theme.

| FREE | 5:30 pm | Blue, 650 Congress St., Portland |


GOT MILK | Over the past 50 years, New England has lost over 10,000 dairy farms, leaving just 2,000 scattered across the northeast. What happened to the farmers? What’s the general state of the dairy industry nowadays anyway? Is there a declining demand for milk? Or are there some insidious class divisions happening at the policy level? Because farmers can work for generations building a farm, and lose it all within an hour. If you care about this sort of thing, then your questions might be answered during this screening of Forgotten Farms, which will be followed by a discussion with the filmmakers, Amanda Beal of Maine Farmland Trust and Dave Colson of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association.

| $5 | 6:30 pm | SPACE Gallery, 538 Congress St., Portland |




WORDPLAY | The Telling Room, a Portland non-profit dedicated to nurturing the powerful, yet sometimes fragile creative force that is youth storytelling, hosts their annual showcase. Each year, student writing is honored with the official release of the yearly anthology Sparks. Dubbed The Big Night 2017, this event is sure to reveal Portland’s budding, bright, literary talents.  

| FREE | 5:30 pm | University of Southern Maine, Hannaford Hall, 88 Bedford St., Portland |


PRACTICE FIRST | Portland’s most well-known (and often quite funny) drag-queen personality Cherry Lemonade (real name Conor Leigh Tubbs) is hosting a new weekly series called “Mouth Off.” Competitors will take to the stage for a lip-sync battle while trying not to embarrass themselves in the meantime. The most convincing lip syncers won’t just take home bragging rights, but also cold hard cash! For the rest of us watching, this just sounds like a night of absurd, and likely hilarious, entertainment.

| $5 | 9 pm | Portland House of Music and Events, 25 Temple St., Portland


SUNNY MELODIES | Brooklyn’s psych-pop four-piece Maybird team up with the grunge-soaked power pop band Sun Parade for a serendipitous night of clean, bubbly tunes. Ride the warm waves of sonic bliss these eight musicians will likely pump out with ease. Maybird will showcase their latest single, “Keep in Line,” which the DIYMag called a “contemporary, but timeless little number.” Recommended.

| $12 | 9 pm | Empire, 575 Congress St., Portland |




DANCE FOR LIFE | Summer means Congress Square park is going to be 100 percent more lively. The warm air brings with it the return of the Portland Swing Project. The group’s core includes Caroline Cotter on ukulele, guitar and vocals, Tyler Lienhardt on fiddle and vocals, and Jed Bresette on standup bass and vocals. This powerhouse musical group exhibits a clear passion for swing music (from the 20s until today) and have earned a reputation for getting the timidest amongst us dancing and wiggling to their infectious grooves.

| FREE | 6 pm | Congress Square Park, 599 Congress St., Portland |




EARTHLY DELIGHTS | With school ending sessions and the temperature finally reaching 80 degrees, I’m going to officially dub next week as the start of summer. And the change of season brings a whole slew of social opportunities and cultural experiences. Our next edition of 8 Days will undoubtedly preview Portland’s first “Death Cafe” (a roundtable of folks sharing experiences with mortality), a sexual health story slam, an urban foraging workshop, pop group the xx at Thompson’s Point, weird rockers Jesus Cactus at the SPACE Gallery, and the return of Irish punk group Flogging Molly at the State Theatre. And there’s so much more; so pick up these pages next week for the full scoop.

"Do You See Me Now?" Photographers reveal Portland's opiate crisis with "Grit, Grime, and Grace"

Shaun Buck, pictured alongside this article, was supposed to be the “posterboy” for a new photography exhibition titled “Grit, Grime, and Grace,” aimed at humanizing people who use opiates and their struggle to get clean. 


But four days before the exhibition’s opening, Buck was found dead inside a Porta Potty in Deering Oaks park. He had died of an opiate overdose.


Buck’s portrait, a photograph by Joanne Arnold, still hangs proudly at the exhibit, on view through May 29 at the Union of Maine Visual Artists Gallery on the first floor of the CTN building on Congress St., but with a makeshift memorial underneath it, asking others to share memories or condolences. A caption alongside his photo reads, “Do You See Me Now?”


Arnold, the photographer who captured Buck’s enigmatic expression back in November, said that his recent death ironically served to emphasize one of the exhibition’s core messages: the recovering addict community in Portland grapple with death and dying every day, but their suffering often goes unnoticed by the public.  


“I wanted to make a stand and say, see, this is what happens,” said Arnold, whose work, along with Nick Gervin and Colin Malakie, makes up the UMVA street photography exhibition. “He was a great guy that was sailing smooth, but had a fall he couldn’t recover from. It's a typical experience of the community of loss.”


On average, at least one person dies of an overdose a day here in Maine. According to the Portland Press Herald, which published a detailed 10-part special report about opioid addiction titled “Lost” last March, 376 Mainers died of overdoses last year, from different backgrounds and points of life: young and old, wealthy and poor, rural farmers, coastal fishermen, and affluent suburbanites.


Arnold and photographer David Wade (who curated "Grit, Grime, and Grace") say that despite the sweeping scope of addiction and its coverage in state newspapers, the misery of those caught in it goes largely unseen. Arnold and Wade hope to steer viewers away from the “postcard pretty” image of Portland to the grim reality of the streets, where many locals struggle to get warm, fed, and clean from potentially fatal drug use.


“Portland’s not your happy, inviting, bucolic, summer-y, and touristy little city by the sea,” said Wade. “Nobody wants to see the reality of the opiate epidemic; it gets swept under the rug.”

Wade aims to show another side of Portland, one with “Grit, Grime, and Grace,” as the exhibition’s title aptly suggests.

“I'm not ignoring it anymore,” said Wade. “We have a real opiate epidemic here in Maine; it's bigger than I thought.”


The pervasiveness of this reality confronts viewers as soon as they enter the exhibition space with a banner that reads “We See You: Have you lost anyone in your life to Maine’s opiate crisis?” Underneath, dozens of post-it notes smatter the space featuring the names of those that lost their life to drugs. It just took one night to fill the banner.


“You can't just ignore this crisis and hope it goes away,” said Wade. “Maine’s billed as The Way Life Should Be, but hey, this is not how life should be.”


The exhibit features the work of Nicholas Gervin, Colin Malakie, and Joanne Arnold, who all have vastly different approaches to photography, but wind up embracing the same theme: objective, street level reality. Gervin’s a nightcrawler who roams the streets of Portland in the wee hours and with a “gotcha” style of flash photography which captures intense scenes of police arrests, house fires, drug abuses, and drunken 2:00 am brawls. One might say he covers the “grime.” 

tji nicholasgervin

Taken on the streets of Portland by Nicholas Gervin.

Part of Gervin's artist statement reads: "Yes, life is good here in Portland, but not necessarily for everyone and certainly not all the time. Like many cities across America we have our fair share of issues that often go unresolved over the decades. Homelessness, drug addiction, poverty, unemployment, state budget cuts, an understaffed police force, overworked fire department and EMT’s, gentrification and global warming among many others. How will the greater community of Portland address these issues? The time for action is now."

Malakie’s black-and -white photographs reveal moments that don’t seem like they took place in Portland. His work embodies the “grit” of the city. 

And Arnold, with her intimate and arresting portraits of MaineWorks employees — an organization that connects recovering addicts, ex-felons, and Veterans with employment opportunities  — deftly embodies the “grace” portion of the exhibit.

As an Interfaith Chaplain and photographer who peers into personal, complex, and often times stigmatized experiences, Arnold says communication with her subjects is imperative. She understands the importance of conveying the difficult journey of recovery without tokenizing with experiences of addicts with her photographs.

“I get permission and build a relationship first,” said Arnold, who says she's often up at 5 am to meet with the MaineWorks group. “I don't want to take advantage of them.”

Arnold says she hopes viewers see her photographs and don’t jump to labeling her subjects as “junkies or idiots,” but instead as complex and tenacious humans who are burdened with a long and difficult journey.

“Some of these people have lost all their friends,” said Arnold. “The exhibition shows sadness and misery, but I hope it has a healthy effect.” 



It’s been 10 months, since Kaylee Michelle, a young mother born and raised in Portland, last used heroin.


As a person in recovery, Michelle said that she’s used to people judging her, but often times, when they do, they don’t know her full story. Sometimes an exchange between a recovering addict and a sober person can result in a complete disregard for the complex forces that chained them to chemical dependency in the first place.


Michelle encourages those that are “quick to judge” to go see the “Grit, Grime, and Grace” and is glad that such an exhibition exists. She said it lets other addicts “know that they are not alone.”


Last Sunday, on Mother’s Day, Michelle took to Facebook to write a status — which, with her permission, I’ve reprinted below — that neatly sums up the point of this photo project and is symbolic of a recovering addict’s life experience. One who might cry out, “do you really see me?”


“You see heroin, I see low self-esteem. You see cocaine, I see fear. You see alcohol, I see social anxiety. You see track marks, I see depression. You see a Junkie, I see someone's son. You see a prostitute, I see someone's daughter caught in addiction. You see self-centeredness, I see the disease. You see a pill head, I see overprescribing of opiates. You see someone unwilling to change, I see someone hasn't connected with them yet. You see denial, I see someone hurting. You see someone nodding out, I see God showing us they need help. You see the end, I see the beginning. You see a dope fiend, I see a future success story. You see them, I see me.” - Kaylee Michelle

Five surprising facts about video games and their impact on the real world

The perception of a gamer as a socially awkward outcast who barely experiences any light or human interaction apart from their television and their mother has long since eroded. With 2 billion gamers worldwide, and the global gaming market surging past 100 billion dollars last year, calling yourself a “gamer” in 2017 is almost like calling yourself a cell phone user. Indeed video games and their creators have long fantasized of overtaking Hollywood as the medium of the 21st century.

Because we're so used to them being a part of our lives, it's easy to dismiss the immense cultural value video games hold. Numerous studies have shown that they can provide the cognitive stimulation needed to aid in learning and memory. They can connect you with friends — a 2015 study from the Pew Research Center titled "Teens, Technology, and Friendship" found that 53% of gamers said their gaming habits formed friendships. The huge demand for blockbuster games encourages the tech industry to innovate constantly, developing exciting new gadgets with applications beyond just gaming, like virtual reality for example.

And most importantly, and perhaps most obviously, video games are just plain fun. They're a unique synthesis of multiple engaging art forms like animation, voice-acting, writing, illustration, music, storytelling, etc. These art forms combined with interactivity make video games so easy to escape into. That's why it's important to pay attention to the evolutions of video games and its industry, because like every monstrous, and highly immersive media market, they display innate yet powerful expressions of what we value as a culture.

Video games are ubiquitous to life in the digital age, but I bet there's plenty you don't know about them.For example, did you know that 1990 game Golden Axe on the SEGA was voiced entirely by prisoners on death row? There are a plethora of interesting factoids about gaming that illuminates higher truths about our consumption society. But here we present just five curious things you might not have known about video games and their impact on the real world. 



1. The most important games in the world are...

Did you know there's a World Video Game Hall of Fame? It's located at the Strong Museum of Play in Rochester N.Y., and among other things, it honors the individual games that have had the biggest impact on the industry and society.

The winners are — and they really shouldn't surprise you — Donkey Kong, Halo: Combat Evolved, Pokemon Red and Green, and Street Fighter II.

Other contenders included: Final Fantasy VII, Microsoft Windows Solitaire, Mortal Kombat, Myst, Portal, Resident Evil, Tomb Raider, and Wii Sports.

Without these games, who knows what the state of the gaming world would be like today (probably a lot duller).



2. Which video game went to space?

None other than the intergalactic strategic warfare game Starcraft. How fitting. In 1999, missions specialist Daniel T. Barry took a physical copy of the PC game Starcraft into space with him as he orbited the Earth 153 times, showing not just his love for the game, but its overall impact on our cosmic imagination.



3. Video games have profound effects on your brain

No no no, video games don't actually make you more violent. This has been debunked time and time again, most recently by a study from the Southwest University in China.

Instead, video games can actually positively impact your neurochemistry — just so long as you don't play for 100 hours straight and die from exhaustion like some overzealous gamers have. Everything in moderation folks, even good things.

Anyway, I'll link the sources to all these ridiculously wonderful claims below, but so far I've found that video games can: teach and enforce teamwork, improve your vision, enhance hand-eye coordination, teach you multitasking, chase away depression, act as a pain-reliever, and — especially with virtual reality games — can promote physical exercise.

CheckPoint is a fairly new organization that's devoted its resources to researching and understanding the link between mental health and video game habits; so far, according to their website, they've found positive relationships.

According to joint research done by the University of California and Akili Interactive Labs, games like EVO can help improve attention skills, and sensory processing, in children with ADHD.



4. The video game industry has a serious diversity problem

Like the multi-billion dollar tech industry in Silicon Valley, or the star-studded, culture defining clique of Hollywood, the video game industry is rife with discrimination and representation issues.

Despite huge AAA games coming like Watch Dogs 2, Uncharted 4, Mass Effect Andromeda, and Mirror's Edge 2 (to name a few) coming out last year with women or minorities as protagonists, representation is still a problem, both in and outside the digital world.

According to a report in the Guardian, just 14 percent of people working in the UK's gaming industry are women. For Black and Asian folks, the industry representation is just 4%.

Here in America, the stats are roughly the same; a survey from the International Game Developers Association found that from the 1,186 game developers surveyed, 75 percent were white males, and just 2 percent were made up of black and latino people. Only .3 percent of those surveyed identified as transgender.

What can be done to break up this old boys club?

The gaming and entertainment magazine Mic suggested a couple months ago that gaming companies release diversity reports on their staff, like most tech companies (Facebook, Uber, Pinterest) regularly do. These reports, Mic argues, could increase transparency and accountability, and drive the necessary change from inside to employ marginalized folks, and add nuanced and accurate depictions of minorities inside their video game universes.



5. Virtual Reality horror games might get even more terrifying

Strapping yourself into a fully immersive, 360 view insane asylum, or an eerie underwater research facility like in the first person VR game Soma, is already a pretty scary experience. But game developers at Soma are making the experience even more lifelike and terrifying by adding this innovative technical feature: eye tracking.

The grotesque creatures and strange humanoid robots in Soma will now know when you, the player, are looking at them and will attack accordingly. This game will turn your own eyesight against you, which is just freakishly cool.










  • Published in News

8 Days A Week: Secret Sites, Endorphin Rushes, and Music Legends



WATER IS LIFE | We take water for granted every damn day. We go most of our day without even thinking about water, but if we were deprived of it for just eight hours, getting our lips wet would leap to top priority. Although it’s one of our most important resources, like many aspects of a privileged existence, we just expect it to be there. But, as Jessica Yu will elucidate with her compelling documentary Last Call At The Oasis, water is still a luxury in many parts of the world. Over 70 percent of Earth’s surface is covered in water, but only 2.5 percent of it is fresh, and only one percent of that isn’t frozen or buried beneath the ground. And how much of that tiny fraction is even accessible to a person stuck in cycle of poverty? Yu’s documentary explores an uncomfortably prescient, and incredibly important question: what can we do to save our freshwater supplies before global calamity ensues? Necessary viewing for everyone that benefits from H2O.

| FREE | 6 pm | University of Southern Maine, Talbot Auditorium, 96 Falmouth St., Portland |


NOT SLOWING DOWN | If I ever get to be an old man, my only wish is to have half as much energy as 90-year-old Tony Bennett. The legendary vocalist of American pop standards and big band jazz shows has been painting, acting, writing, and letting loose those unmistakable pipes for over half a century now, and he’s still going strong! Take advantage of this iconic American singer’s rare appearance in Portland; it may be the last chance you ever get to see this integral part of music history alive and in-the-flesh.  

| $140 | 7:30 pm | Merrill Auditorium, 20 Myrtle St., Portland |


TAKE A CHANCE | Are you familiar with the Meat Puppets? They exhibit the telltale signs of a band that takes the art of performance very seriously. What’s in a name? For starters, experience; this trio of rockers have been writing, rehearsing, arranging, and evolving since the 80s. The brothers in this band played with Kurt Cobain on Nirvana's The Muddy Banks of the Wishkah live album. Also, Mike Watt is a straight-up legendary bassist with the band the Minutemen, who are one of the most influential bands in early 80s punk. They discard genre conventions, and like all solid acts, have an aversion to the term in general. It’s likely that Meat Puppet listeners have been on the fan train for a while, but if you’re new and curious to their blend of rock like me, you may want to swing into the station. They’re joined by Mike Watt and the Jom & Terry Show, and Grant Hart, formerly of Husker Du.

| $25 | 8 pm | Port City Music Hall, 504 Congress St., Portland |


CATHARTIC NOISE | Back from a hiatus and embracing a messy world of contradictions is Jimmy Eat World, a band set to bring sonic wisdom back from their red desert home of Arizona. After spending time reaffirming their musical mission of exploring life’s struggles in all their beautiful complexities, this seminal emo-rock is in nonstop tour mode. They’re joined by Beach Slang, a pop-punk band led by longtime scenester James Alex, that I’d describe — after listening to their latest mixtape — as fun yet serious, uplifting but moody. If you haven’t been to sparkly new club space at Aura, make this your first concert there.

| $30 | 9 pm | Aura, 121 Center St., Portland |




THINK DEEP | Like...what even is art anymore? I’m pretty sure I saw an old pink mattress hanging in the Portland Museum of Art, so I’m having trouble determining if there’s even a standard to the craft anymore. But who am I to begin to judge what is and isn’t art? I’m sure the young people who’ve spent a great deal of time (and money) studying and exploring the amorphous world of art at MECA can better illuminate the state of it today. Nine graduating artists’ work will be on display at the MFA Thesis Exhibition offering viewers unique approaches to the global cultural landscape, and perspectives on the ever-changing philosophy of aesthetics. The exhibition’s open now until June 9.

| FREE | 11 am to 5 pm | Maine College of Art, 522 Congress St., Portland |


8days ericbettencourt PhotoByRobbieKanner

Eric Bettencourt. Photo by Robyn Kanner

CONTROLLED INTENSITY | An oddly reliable sign that summer’s quickly approaching is when Portland native Eric Bettencourt swings back home from for a string of shows. Now based in Austin, Texas, this award-winning songwriter delivers a heartfelt performance with nothing but his 12-string guitar and his naturally raw vocal style. (Preview "Baby in the Bathtub" on YouTube for proof). Ben Balmer, an adept songwriter, and genre hopper, joins Bettencourt for this reunion night of compassionate tunes.

| $15 | 7 pm | One Longfellow Square, 181 State St., Portland |


SOCIALISTS UNITE | Local personality Harlan Baker wears many hats. He’s an activist, a teacher, and a former legislator. More recently he’s been organizing the “Say No To Racism” rallies in Monument Square during the art walk. But this week, he’s donning his actor hat for repeat of his original one-man performance he calls Jimmy Higgins: A Life in the Labor Movement. With wit and candor, he’ll explore a life in the labor movement and recall his experiences growing up during some of the most tumultuous times in American history. If you’re easily triggered by Marx references, this show isn’t for you.

| FREE | 7 pm | Urban Farm Fermentory, 200 Anderson St., Portland |


RECREATING MAGIC | Billed as "the best Beatles Tribute band on Earth" by Rolling Stone, 1964 meticulously recreates the live magic of the Beatles right down to their instruments, suits, and boots. Embrace the wonderful dichotomy of classic people’s pop tunes performed faithfully inside Portland’s swankiest, and arguably most modern, music venue.

| $20-40 | 8 pm | Aura, 121 Center St., Portland |


LAUNCH PARTY | PRIDE week is fast approaching, and it’s time for you to rise up and dance with Portland’s LGBTQ community. Despite the repeated political moves that undermine the very humanity of LGBTQ Americans, they can’t be in full-on resistance mode 100 percent of the time. Life is short! Pride Portland offers a carefree kick-off party that calls for the community to come together under the banner of unconditional love and unapologetic realness. I’m sure the perpetually bubbly Chris O’Connor can easily get you in the party mood with his down-to-earth friendliness and killer DJ skills.

| $15 | 8 pm | Port City Music Hall, 504 Congress St., Portland |




FALL WITH STYLE | When was the last time you had a true adrenaline rush? No, not the fluttery feeling from something fairly common like speeding through a red light. I’m talking about the uncontrollable torrent of organic chemicals that makes your heart beat fast, and your muscles go numb from a strange coalescence of anxiety and badassery. If you’re craving that euphoric jolt to your senses, and a test of your personal boundaries, might I offer a chance to rappel down Portland’s tallest building? Rippleffect, a youth development organization, is hosting an experience called Rappel for Ripple that will see nearly 100 people rappelling down One City Center. Crazy? Maybe. Totally rad? Definitely. You may not actually get a chance to go over the edge with them, but the sight itself will be something to behold.

| TBD | 9 am to 3 pm | 1 City Ctr., Portland |


HARD CIDER RUN | Runners of 5Ks must have “the good life” all figured out. I know this because their sneakers are always clean, and they seem to wear a perpetual grin. Hell, anyone that pays to run must be oozing in privilege. Or maybe they just get off from the endorphins released after running the 3.1 mile length of the Eastern Promenade. Maybe we can snag a piece of the good life too, and tap into this fuzzy feeling of accomplishment by joining the Hard Cider Run. There’s a cold, crisp glass of hard cider at the finish line (at Urban Farm Fermentory, producing this run). If you want in on this, you’ve got to sign up online first!

| $45 | 10 am | Urban Farm Fermentory, 200 Anderson St., Portland |


SECRET TOUR | Most of us walk the streets of Portland completely oblivious to its long and storied history. Many of the historic buildings from the twentieth and nineteenth centuries hide behind their bricks fascinating tales, leaving us with only the outside architecture to appreciate. But wouldn’t it be nice to step inside like Longfellow did, or some other old timey Portlander might have? Appreciators (and might I say preservers) of Portland’s history at the Maine Historical Society have curated a "Magical History Tour," where those secret sites will be unlocked to the public for one day only.

| $35 | 10 am to 4 pm | Maine Historical Society, 485 Congress St., Portland |


MAY MARKET | Don’t let the farmer’s market in Deering Oaks be the only spring market you frequent this season. The Fork Food Lab offers a chance to stock up on speciality foods, and sample the latest and greatest culinary creations from their members during this special event. This place has a very Portland feel and features a really nice outdoor space for parties and barbecues. Proxemics matters, people!

| FREE | 11 am to 3 pm | Fork Food Lab, 72 Parris St., Portland |



SCHOOL OF ROCK | Are the high schools in the area ready to unleash the next shining rock star onto the world? Or will our state stay quiet? Judge for yourself when the finalists of the 2017 MAMM SLAM take over Empire for a night of explosive competition. Competing artists include The Asthmatic, Mikayla Gallows, The Rubber Band, Liam Swift, and Yard Sail. Who’s going to take home the $1000, and get one step closer to making their music dreams a reality? Join this Maine Academy of Modern Music tonight.

| $12 | 1 pm to 6 pm | Empire, 575 Congress St., Portland |


8days ArcIris PhotoByJoChattman

Arc Iris. Photo by Jo Chattman

PINNACLE OF POP | Fans of Joni Mitchell’s seminal album Blue won’t want to miss this creative reimagining of the work by the art-pop power trio Arc Iris. The core of each iconic song is preserved by the Rhode Island band nestled between layers of boldly innovative synths, heavy drum beats, and generous sampling.

| $12 | 7 pm | One Longfellow Square, 181 State St., Portland |


GET LIT | Some of the prices on this week’s edition of 8 Days are a little steep, eh? Well, let me remind you that dance nights at Flask are usually free. Tonight, the Party Bear Squad, Ryssa, Tmber, Be See, and Nic Optimistic are DJing and unleashing some fire similar to the fire found on their Soundcloud pages. Heavy bass, a packed dance floor, and a dazzling new light display are your party favors during this sweaty celebration of life.

| FREE | 9 pm | Flask Lounge, 117 Spring St., Portland |




CHEST FEST | Etain Boutique and the community organizations Speak About It, and Portland Outright have joined forces to dedicate an evening to tales of the torso. A line-up of speakers will share stories about an important and treasured part of humanity: boobs. Could this be the strange and unexpected event you needed in your life? Don't forget to bring in any gently used bras for their collection drive!

| $5-10 | 5 pm | Etain Boutique, 646 Congress St., Portland |


8days LupeFIasco

Lupe Fiasco.

SHOW GOES ON | Aura, Portland’s newest music club, hosts its first truly big star (sorry Dwight Yoakam, not a fan) this week, testing the waters to see how the atmosphere jives with a mega-celebrity. The Grammy winning rapper Lupe Fiasco’s in town, and will bring his interesting flow, smart rhymes, and chart-topping singles to this spacious, yet still surprisingly intimate venue. (Attendees will be able to see the rapper from all angles, some might smell him). Fiasco’s been described by listeners as a “hip hop saviour,” for his truly unique style that hits hard with deep lyrical themes that don’t rest on the typical rap crutches of vulgarity, sex, drugs, and violence.

| $50 | 8 pm | Aura, 121 Center St., Portland |


EAR RETREAT | Tune out the bullshit in your life and let the Apohadian Theater’s curated lineup end your Sunday on a harmonious and folksy note. Grab a dark Oxbow beer and settle in for a easy night of winding down a river of eerie rhythms, vast soundscapes, and cool alt-country vibes thanks to the talents of Dimples (Colby Nathan), Maine songstress Caethua & the Cool Blue Shadows, and Fragile Harm (a new collaboration between Cal Clark and Brendan Evans of Video Nasties).

| $5-10 | 8 pm | Oxbow Blending and Bottling, 49 Washington Ave., Portland |




SEIZE THE MEANS | Wondering if the hard-to-define “Resistance” is running out of steam? Curious to see how Portland’s progressives are planning for the next wave of political battles? Need a mental break from capitalism? All this and more starts at the local level. Exchange ideas or simply kick back and listen during the Maine Democratic Socialists monthly meetup.  

| FREE | 7 pm | Portland City Hall, 389 Congress St., Portland |


DOOM BANGERS | Throw yourself into a cyclone of unrelenting noise rock at Portland’s oldest pub with these three summoners of chaos and catharsis: Earthworm Von Doom, Forget the Times, and Cop Funeral. Just by their band names, you can tell these cursed rockers aren’t screwing around, and are prepared to toss out mediocrity out the the window.

| $5 | 8 pm | Mathew's Pub, 133 Free St., Portland |




HIPSTER CHIC | Hear me out. Building your own succulent terrarium is a really interesting, fun, and unique way to express yourself. Think about it, you get to play designer with living things! They also make thoughtful gifts. The plants, stones, soil, and shells at your disposal will serve as your building blocks, and paired with a couple beers, will make you feel like the benevolent creator of mini mason jar worlds. Hosted by ArtSea Maine, an art therapy organization.

| $30 | pm | Oxbow Blending & Bottling, 49 Washington Ave., Portland | |


8Days JessicaDeutschOzerebyKaitlyn Raitz

Jessica Deutsch. Photo by Kaitlyn Raitz

FIDDLE HEADS | Gracefully balancing between styles you’d hear in a stuffy ballroom to ones you’d hear in a rural dive-bar is the chamber-folk outfit Ozere, led by Jessica Deutsch, a Canadian folk starlet. Her imaginative string music paves the way for an emotionally stirring, seamless, and wholesome live experience.

| $15 | 7 pm | One Longfellow Square, 181 State St., Portland |


8days theRecordCompany

The Record Company.

VINTAGE ROCK | The Los Angeles based trio The Record Company are set to transform Portland's Port City Music Hall into a smoky, backwoods Mississippi jukebox joint with their time-tested take on classic rock-n-roll. They’ll be singing the blues and stomping around alongside Smooth Hound Smith, a duo well versed in the same hazy, memorable, yet admittedly cliche American sounds.

| $20 | 8 pm | Port City Music Hall, 504 Congress St., Portland |




SONGWRITING LEGEND | This week, Portland’s graced with the presence of yet another old but highly treasured folk-rocker: Gordon Lightfoot. Yes of course this Canadian hall of famer is still around — you didn’t fall for his death hoax back in the early days of Twitter, did you? He’s going to be doing what most of the still-touring greats from the '60s and '70s do today: attempt to conjure the energy, enthusiasm, and artistic spark of concerts lost to time. Reviewers of his live show swear that this 78-year-old star’s still got it.

| $100 | 8:00 pm | Merrill Auditorium, 20 Myrtle St., Portland |




PUCKER UP | The warm air brings with it an onslaught of spring concerts that I’m excited to string words together and tell you about. From the London Souls tearing up the stage at P.H.O.M.E. and Todd Rundgren lighting up Aura, to the xx playing Thompson’s Point and the return of the All Roads Music Festival up in Brunswick, there are a lot of acts to highlight. However, you’ll have to pick up next week’s issue to get the full lowdown on these events, and more. I doubt Phoenix readers have the brain space is in this information-soaked world of ours to remember each show a full 8 Days in advance, so flip through these pages next week. But in the meantime, put down your phone, and go experience something.

What Makes a Sanctuary City?

In Trump’s first 100 days in office, we’ve witnessed ICE agents ramping up immigration enforcement by arresting at least 675 illegal immigrants across the country. Here in Maine, a new bill (LD 366) was introduced that would essentially empower local law enforcement to act as immigration officials. These aggressive policies bring with them a perception of animosity toward foreign-born Americans. Because of this, we thought it would be important to go over a concept rife with misconceptions: sanctuary cities.


How do sanctuary cities work? Are they the hotbeds of lawlessness that conservatives like our governor warn against, or do they encourage economic growth and promote safety for a community's most marginalized populations like most liberals believe? And should the cities in Maine that see the biggest influx in immigrants and asylum seekers — primarily Lewiston, Portland, and South Portland — consider adopting sanctuary status?


The debate is contentious, so let’s go over the basics.


Sanctuary cities are cities (and counties) that limit their cooperation with federal immigration enforcers. According to the Center for Immigration Studies, there are over 300 sanctuary cities and counties across the country, and most have different definitions of how exactly they provide “sanctuary.” But most of the policies typically try to work around the same question: how should local law enforcement respond after learning that a person they arrested for a crime is undocumented?


news tji mapofsanctuarycities fromCIS A map of cities and counties in the U.S. that are designated as "sanctuary cities." From Bryan Griffith and Jessica Vaughn at the Center for Immigration Studies.

Consider this scenario: a Portland police officer arrests a male born from a Muslim-majority country for an OUI and books him for a night in the Cumberland County Jail. During the booking process, the suspect’s fingerprints are taken and sent to the FBI and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement; according to the FBI's website, this is mandatory for every person arrested for a serious charge, whether or not they're convicted. If after the fingerprints are cross-referenced in the ICE database and they come up as belonging to an undocumented immigrant, ICE agents issue a “detainer request,” which asks the local law enforcement to hold him in jail for another 48 hours, giving time for ICE agents to arrive and start the deportation process. But it’s just that, a request. A local police officer can honor the request and essentially act as a deportation agent, or they can undermine federal authority and let the person go after processing.


According to multiple courts, it’s unconstitutional for police to extend a person’s detainment past the point where they should be released. Critics of this practice like Oamshri Amarasingham, the advocacy director of the ACLU of Maine say the decision can be a lose-lose situation for local law enforcement because it usually comes down to a choice between receiving federal and state funding or degrading public safety. Amarasingham said that forcing local law enforcement to support Trump's "deportation army" will likely result in lawsuits filed both from municipalities, and local law enforcement who will inevitably have to racially profile to adhere to federal immigration orders.


"That is not what state and local governments are supposed to do, they need to prioritize the needs of their communities," said Amarasingham. "How is local law enforcement going to decide who to ask for their immigration status? I don’t imagine they're going to ask every person they pull over on the highway speeding for their immigration status. They’re going to ask people who look like or sound like they might not be here legally."

According to Amarasingham, local police departments honoring ICE requests creates a heightened sense of mistrust and fear of law enforcement from the immigrant community who need to depend on them for security just like any other community member, while ignoring the ICE request threatens the financial security of the department by angering politicians in power who view undocumented citizens as defacto criminals who should be deported.


Although Portlanders like to think of Maine as a welcoming to refugees and immigrants, there aren’t any official sanctuary cities here. In fact, progressives in Portland and South Portland have tried to distance themselves from the politically charged term, fearing a POTUS and a Governor who would love to pull funding from cities that aren’t following aggressive federal immigration enforcement. Currently, according to a report from NBC, Seattle Washington, and Chelsea and Lawrence in Washington face dramatic cuts in Department of Justice Funding because of their sanctuary status. This threat comes by way of Attorney General Jeff Sessions who warned last month of a crackdown on sanctuary jurisdictions that would potentially see $4.1 billion cut from future federal grants.

The City Council of South Portland, where 7 percent of the population is foreign-born, recently considered becoming a sanctuary city, but switched to a separate protective policy that avoids sanctuary city designation, but calls for non-biased policing and support for the Muslim population.


Councilors Maxine Beecher and Linda Cohen were opposed to making South Portland a sanctuary city because they didn't want to interfere with federal laws.


“I oppose sanctuary city status for several reasons,” said Cohen. “I believe it violates the oath we take as councilors, and I do not want to tie our police department's hands when it comes to bringing down those who commit illegal activities such as human trafficking or fake marriages, to mention a couple.”


Councilor Eben Rose dropped the original bid.



Regardless of whether they officially claim the designation of “sanctuary cities,” Portland and South Portland are already considered so in LePage’s mind because of policies in the books from 2003 prohibts police officers and municipal employees from asking about a suspect’s immigration status unless required to by law. The city ordinance is called "Prohibition on Immigration Status Checks," and says that "unless otherwise required by law or by court order, no city police officer or employee shall inquire into the immigration status of any person, or engage in activities for the purpose of ascertaining the immigration status of any person.”


The truth is, there isn’t a legal definition for a sanctuary city, and although the 2003 ordinance grants some protections for locals who might fear deportation, in general, Portland’s law enforcement does cooperate with federal immigration officials. Last year, the Cumberland County Jail held 40 inmates for federal immigration officials. And last month, two crackdowns by ICE agents happened in Maine (one inside a Portland courthouse) with two undocumented immigrants now potentially facing deportation.


According to Patricia Washburn, a former Democratic City Committee member, and spokesperson for the local activist group Progressive Portland, immigrants in Maine and across the country could be scared to interact with local police officers, seek justice, or report crimes because police departments are financially incentivized to cooperate with President Trump’s deportation plans.


“And that weakens the justice system for all of us,” said Washburn.


Washburn views immigrants both documented and undocumented as important parts of the economic and social fabric of a state that’s demographically very old and white.


“We need new blood,” said Washburn. “It’s unconstitutional for local police officers to aid with federal immigration. They have enough to do without having to become agents of the federal government.”


Along with other members of Progressive Portland, Washburn’s been petitioning against what they perceive as a big problem: state governments that step in and cut funding streams to local jurisdictions that defy federal immigration laws. This happened earlier this year when the Governor of Texas Greg Abbott called sanctuary cities “dangerous” and signed a law prohibiting them from receiving state funds.


It’s happening here too. Larry Lockman (R-Amherst) has introduced a bill, LD 366, which calls for the exact same thing. In an interview with the Phoenix, Lockman said that he’s baffled why this legislation is even controversial and said that he’s not anti-immigrant, he just thinks that the undocumented ones should be deported. Because of this hardline stance on immigration, he doesn’t like the term sanctuary cities because of its positive connotation.


“The term is actually pretty slippery,” said Lockman. “I prefer the term 'harboring havens for illegal immigrants'.”


Lockman's viewpoint falls in line with conservatives that see undocumented immigrants as either criminals because of their immigration status, or criminals in the making because of their unwillingness to integrate into Western culture.


“My bill has nothing to do with legal immigrants,” said Lockman, citing that America has one of the most generous immigration policies in the world. “The criticism around it is just a false flag to label it as anti-immigrant, which is ridiculous.”


Lockman often uses the deaths of Freddy Akoa and Treyjon Arsenault (two Mainers who were murdered two years ago by undocumented immigrants) as an emotionally charged political scare tactic that, in his mind, justifies his anti-immigration bill, and the admonishment of Portland’s 2003 ordinance barring cops from asking about someone’s immigration status.


“In both cases, the murderers had lengthy criminal records," said Lockman. "If the Portland Police had not been handcuffed by the politicians in Portland, they would have been able to give ICE a heads up and picked them up. Those two guys would have been alive today if it wasn’t for that ordinance.”


Although these individual cases of violence are true, Lockman’s wrong in his generalizations of the undocumented immigrant community. For starters, according to the Pew Research Center, Maine has one of the lowest populations of unauthorized immigrants in the country, with estimates lower than 5,000. Secondly, not being able to provide the appropriate papers is not a crime, it’s a civil violation.

And lastly, according to research of FBI crime data at the University of California, sanctuary cities actually experience less crime (and stronger economies) than their counterparts, with 35.5 fewer crimes per 10,000 people. According to ICE data, from the 645 undocumented immigrants that were arrested by immigration authorities this year, over half either had no criminal record or minor traffic violations.

"The problem with Lockman's bill is that it assumes that undocumented immigrants are generally responsible for criminal problems in this country," said Amarasingham. "Data and studies show that non-citizens including undocumented people commit crimes at much lower rates than citizens, but are disproportionately targeted by laws like this."

Lockman mentioned that the FBI has active ISIS investigation in all 50 states and that terrorism and public safety are the main concerns he’s addressing with his new bill. But according to the research done around sanctuary cities and the fact that Maine has a consistently low average of violent crimes (about 1 case per 1,000 people, mostly involving white people in domestic situations), Lockman’s paranoia is unfounded.


Progressive Portland thinks he’s more than paranoid, they think he’s downright racist and xenophobic.


Washburn said that Lockman’s use of the murders of Akoa and Arsenault as a politically charged point is irresponsible.


“If murder is the standard that we evaluate whether or not a group of people should stay in this state, then we should deport all the white men,” said Washburn.


Amarasingham called the bill "shortsighted and useless."  

"This proposal is based in fear and hatred, and the will to demonize non-citizens," said Amarasingham. "It sends a strong message that non-citizens are not welcome here in Maine."

Make America Smart Again: How Science Literate Are You?


“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” - Aldous Huxley


Humanity today faces several ethical dilemmas that require, at the very least, a rudimentary reverence and understanding of science. Questions like when does a cluster of cells become a person, or how can we make cities more resilient to rising sea levels can only be tackled by someone who believes that early abortion isn’t murder and climate change is real and serious.  


One day, future generations may have to answer even more anxiety-inducing questions like: Should artificial intelligence be granted rights? Is it morally right to genetically modify our offspring?


But it’s hard for a community to confront big questions like these when some of its members still believe that fluoride is poisoning our tap water, planes leave chem-trails, and that the Devil scattered dinosaur bones everywhere to confuse people. It’s no surprise then that a 2015 study by the Pew Research Center found that there are widening gaps between what scientists report as fact and what the general public believes to be true.


If scientific literacy is the ability to draw from existing knowledge to solve problems rationally instead of just the raw memorization of facts, then it’s at an all-time low here in America.


For example, Dave Champlain told me that he frequently encounters people who don’t believe that we share a common ancestor with apes.


As a biology professor at the University of Southern Maine, who often reads surveys about modern Americans' growing skepticism about established science, Champlain is frustrated by those who disregard evolution. To him, being skeptical about science is an oxymoron.


“Skepticism on evolution is the ultimate source of this attitude that science is optional,” said Champlain. “It’s the starting point of widespread science denial.”

 news sciencemarch dave

According to Champlain, if a student of his shows skepticism towards evolution, they’re more apt to deny other objective realities like the importance of vaccinations, the seriousness of climate change, or the dangers of antibiotic resistance.


“With freedom of speech comes this enthusiastic attitude that we can agree to differ, but there are some facts that we simply can’t disagree on,” said Champlain. “When someone is pro-science, they’re not making a political statement.”


I spoke with Champlain on Saturday, April 22, during Portland’s March for Science, which two of his former students helped organize. Over a thousand scientists, educators, and enthusiasts marched down Congress Street, many with humorous signs, professing the importance of science in everyday life.


“We’re all benefiting from science,” said Champlain. “None of us would be alive without it.”


“It is because of scientific exploration that we have been able to eradicate Polio, land rovers on Mars, and create life-saving and life-enhancing devices like artificial hearts and mechanical limbs,” said UMaine graduate student Amber Hathaway. “Science has brought us computers, smartphones, and so many other devices that would have seemed inconceivable even 50 years ago. Imagine where we could be 10, 20, or 100 from now if we continue to invest in scientific research and support scientists.”


Last week’s march ran in solidarity with over 600 other events around the world, which aimed to be the first step in a movement to “defend the vital role science plays in our health, safety, economies, and governments,” according to the movement’s official website.


Despite Champlain and many other marchers' statements that science isn’t a partisan issue, the march stood firmly against President Trump and his administration, which has called for cuts to vital research organizations like the National Institutes for Health, the Environmental Protection Agency, and NASA. During the march, giant paper mache puppets of Trump, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Education Betsy Devos, and White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon reimagined as grotesque swamp creatures wound down Congress Street amidst signs like “no alternative facts,” “Science Trumps Propaganda,” and “fund the EPA, not the wall.”


Many marchers I spoke to said that it’s ridiculous that science — which is fact and data driven — has become so politicized and dismissed as a “liberal conspiracy.” But they reconciled this inconvenience with the fact that Trump’s administration may be the most “anti-science” administration this country has ever seen.


“I’m marching today because it’s reprehensible how U.S. policy has downplayed the role that science should play in shaping our thought,” said Ben Rosenbloom, a Portland-based high-school physical science teacher. “Progress towards climate change has stalled because we still have to waste time debating with others that it’s happening.”


Rosenbloom recognized that science should inform policy and does have a bit of a political agenda, but that the agenda is foundational to American politics and values. For example, Obama’s Clean Power Plan may have reeked of leftist ideals that call for more governmental regulations, but its intended goal, clean air, is something that every American should get behind.

 news sciencemarch ben

The problem, however, according to Rosenbloom, is that we live in a country where it’s common to distrust our scientific experts who make claims that run contrary to our political or religious beliefs. This sense of skepticism in America, fueled not by facts but emotions and ideology, was one of the main reasons Rosenbloom decided to become an educator.


“The degree that Americans trust or don’t trust science often doesn’t come from a place of true science literacy,” said Rosenbloom. “It’s okay for people to blindly trust the experts, but I wish people could interpret data themselves. If everyone here was able to do that, then we’d be able to push policies informed by science. Data combined with values.”


My short conversation with Rosenbloom, who was dressed in a white lab coat while he marched down Congress Street, got me thinking about the overall state of science literacy in America. It’s one thing when fossil fuel lobbyists and politicians deny the science behind climate change to protect their financial interests, but what about the average citizen? What leads people, like some of Champlain’s students, to dismiss evolution, antibiotic resistance, and climate change? How do they perceive science as a discipline?

 news sciencemarch

“In our society, we think of scientists as inhumane, but they’re just a bunch of people,” said Champlain.


Others at the march agreed and said science and its educators come with some negative stigmas attached.


“People fear scientists, but their work is so universal,” said Nathan Katsiaficas, a Portland-based geologist. “Science literacy is at an all-time low.”


James Cormier, a science buff, and astrophotographer who grew up after the space age of the '60s experienced a time when people cared deeply about science and understood how it benefited humanity. Back then, he says, kids were fascinated by it.


“But now, science has taken a backseat,” said Cormier, who also attended last week's Science March. “It’s a cultural problem. The youth need to catch on about the benefits of the scientific method and how we’ve come to understand reality.”


Cormier pointed to science celebrities like Bill Nye and the astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson (both with fantastic shows on Netflix) as examples of great science communicators — people who don’t just understand science but are able to convey it in an engaging way to the broader public. According to Cormier, we need more people like them to promote a more comprehensive (and entertaining) culture of science literacy.

"Everyone should just take science more seriously," he said.



  • Published in News

The Cannabis Generation: Pot and Pan Kitchen offers an array of medicinal sweet treats

For over a year now the folks over at Pot and Pan Kitchen have been quietly putting their botany knowledge and cooking skills to good use by offering up an entire menu of marijuana-infused sweet treats.

One of the owners of Pot and Pan Kitchen, Andrew Doolittle, told me that the company began with Doolittle making hard candies out of his own kitchen. He would melt down Jolly Ranchers, boil them with a little water, and add his cannabis extract. They came out outrageously strong but didn’t taste very good.

“I thought they kind of sucked and people were getting way too fucked up on them,” recalled Doolittle.  

Since then, Doolittle and his team dialed in the recipe for their own hard candies, did some math, bought new molds, and have perfected their own version of cannabis hard candy called medicubez.


Sour medicubez gummies. 

Doolittle’s been a caregiver for over 7 years and saw the demand for edibles within his patient base. So he changed and expanded his business model to allow for caregivers to use his company as a processing center. Now Pot and Pan Kitchen is able to potentially serve every patient and caregiver in the state!

“Once we started doing that, that’s when we really took off as a company,” said Doolittle. “It was huge for us.”

Now Doolittle’s team works out of a commercially licensed kitchen and makes a whole assortment of treats from hamburger whoopie pies, caramel bonbons, cinnamon sugar cupcakes, cookies and cream brioche donuts, cake pops, raspberry cheesecakes, peanut butter cookies, gummies, salves, and s'mores.

“You name it,” said Doolittle. “And we can infuse it with cannabis and bake it.”

I interviewed Doolittle last week, and we chatted about what first time users should know before consuming edibles. Read up, because Doolittle is gearing up to apply for a commercial sale license next year, meaning that his delicious cannabis concoctions could be legally and readily available to everybody through a Portland storefront. A Portland marijuana bakery? This could be huge.



Moxie lollipops.  

First up, what’s the process for making edibles?

Cannabis butter is the traditional way to make edibles, always. You take the marijuana and saute it, and then you add butter. That’s like the old school way.

How many times have you had a pot brownies and it either didn’t really do anything for you, or it got you way too fucked up? I know 100 stories like that.

It’s really hard to use butter without getting it tested for an accurate dose. That’s one thing that we pride ourselves on at Pot and Pan Kitchen is accurate dosing. You always know what you’re getting when you’re eating an edible.

The easiest way to do that, instead of using plant material (flower or trim), is by using a concentrate or extract. An oil of some kind. That allows you to accurately dose your product. You don’t have to use weed butter. You just add activated cannabis oil to your product and as long as it’s mixed properly you get an even distribution.


Hamburger whoopie pies.

Breakdown the doses for me, because I would be the one to eat too many treats because I didn’t feel the effects right away.

It’s totally a person to person thing. It’s tricky with edibles. They can hit you anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours. They can last anywhere from 4 hours to 10 hours. It’s common that you hear that people get way too high over edibles. They probably ate a dose that was way too high for them, or they didn’t wait long enough before eating more.

And that’s hard to do because our edibles are delicious.


DarkChocolateSeaSaltBonbons Dark chocolate sea salt bonbons.

So what’s the best advice for first-time eaters?

For someone who doesn’t smoke much I would say start with 5mg. If the person’s a little bigger, their body chemistry is different, their metabolisms different, 10 or 20 mg might be a better amount.

Always start small. Because you always can eat more.

It’s always healthier to eat marijuana instead of smoking it. It lasts longer. You get more out of the medicine.


Is there a taste difference between foods made with cannabis butter versus extract?

Most people don’t like that subtle weedy taste. There’s nothing worse than a gross tasting weed edible. You get that from using cannabis butter.

Cannabis butter imparts a strong taste because of the chlorophyll,the plant material, and the terpenes, which are the flavor molecules. They will add that gross taste that you experience in cannabis butter; it’s basically burnt chlorophyll.

If you use a cannabis oil extract with terpenes in it, you’ll still get some weed flavor but it’s not that burnt flavor.

There’s a refined version of cannabis oil that’s called distillate. It’s made through alcohol extraction, that strips the oils of all terpenes. It literally has no flavor. That will make an edible with absolutely no taste, and we work with that product often.


How do you feel about cannabis culture in general nowadays?

Marijuana isn’t demonized at all anymore. Millennials love it. We are going to be the cannabis generation. It’s well recognized for its medical benefits. Maybe some of the old-timers don’t like. But I would say that anybody under 30 in Maine is pro-cannabis.

Climate skeptics demand safe space for their unscientific beliefs


For decades, the overwhelming consensus from scientists and their peer-reviewed studies is that climate change is both accelerated by human activity and a serious threat.


But despite this, it would seem that contrarian voices are getting louder in the Trump era — at least a third of the seats in Congress are held by climate change skeptics. Here in Maine, a bill is being introduced that would "protect" those who don’t believe that climate change is an urgent, human-caused issue, despite 70 percent of Mainers believing the opposite.


State representative Larry Lockman (R-Amherst) has introduced LD 771, An Act To Protect Political Speech and Prevent Climate Change Policy Profiling.

 news climate larrylockman

Larry Lockman, pictured here on the left, is no stranger to controversy and outlandish statements.

The bill comes in response to attorney general Janet Mills, who joined law enforcers across the country to file a lawsuit against oil conglomerate ExxonMobil last year for potentially misleading the public by downplaying the dangers of climate change. According to Lockman, the bill would prohibit the state’s attorney general from prosecuting someone based on their climate change beliefs.


In other words, this bill would protect those who wish to advocate that climate change isn’t happening, or at the very least isn’t exacerbated by human activity and carbon emissions, from prosecution. It's an indirect response to the Citizen's United case — proponents of the bill say that political speech is the most protected form of free speech.


According to a press release, Mills responded to the bill by writing that she is, “committed to using the authority of my office to address (global climate change) in a meaningful way by defending important Environmental Protection Agency regulations against attacks led by the coal industry and exploring litigation options that will hold the worst polluters accountable for their actions.”


This bill to "protect the free speech" of climate change skeptics comes at the behest of Jonathan Reisman, one of the most prominent ones in Maine. Reisman is an associate professor of economics and public policy at the University of Maine at Machias, and is a leading conservative voice on environmental policy in the state. He said this bill is a direct response to the partisan investigation of Exxon and that he doesn’t want to live in a state where the attorney general doubles as the “environmental thought police.”


“I was quite concerned that the attorney general's office was once again suppressing political speech they disagreed with,” said Reisman in an interview with the Phoenix. “I’m offended by the Leonardo DiCaprio rule, if you don’t believe or accept the alarmist view on climate change, you’re not allowed to have public office.”


Reisman was referring to National Geographic's highly lauded documentary "Before the Flood," which had Leonardo DiCaprio traveling the world and asking world leaders how their nations will cope with climate change challenges.


While Reisman does believe that the climate change is indeed happening and that “human activity is part of it,” he’s not convinced that it will lead to any apocalyptic scenarios as “climate change alarmists would have you believe.” He says people like Senator Angus King like to play the “apocalypse card” because it gives them the moral authority to steer environmental policy.


“The models that we are using don’t have a strong record of predictive validity,” said Reisman. “We’ve seen efforts to massage the data that don’t inspire a lot of confidence.”


According to Reisman, when he examined the models from the 1997 Kyoto Protocol (the international agreement to curb greenhouse gas emissions), the suggested reduction of emissions didn’t even have a tangible effect on reversing climate change.


“But they don’t want to talk about that,” said Reisman. “There’s political opportunism in it. But correlation doesn’t equal causation, King’s not telling the whole truth. He’s pushing more government to solve a problem, but what’s being proposed isn’t even going to solve this allegedly apocalyptic problem.”


20 years later, many environmental scientists and policy experts have said that by and large, the Kyoto Protocol was a failure. Although several countries did meet their emission standards, including the U.S. (which failed to ratify), two of the world’s biggest polluters, India and China, never signed the deal.


However, the Kyoto Protocol did operate under the assumption that climate change exists and is caused by human activity. It paved the way for last year's Paris Climate Agreement, signed by President Obama, which promised the world that the U.S. would reduce its emissions by 26 to 28 percent below its 2005 levels by the year 2025.


But now that sustainability standard is at risk, partly due to denial that climate change is a pressing issue. Is it just cognitive dissonance? One study from Swedish psychologist Kirsti Jylhä last year found that most people who accept hierarchical power structures and conservative values tend to deny climate change more often. Another study, from 2011 in Global Environmental Change, asserted that climate change denial was much more popular among conservative white men, presumably because they've benefited the most from the industrial capitalist system and stand to lose money if their businesses take sustainability seriously.


I observed this "white male effect" with a couple of Trump supporters I spoke to last week, who asked to remain anonymous, and said that they’ve always been skeptical of the science behind climate change, and dismissed it as just another part of the “liberal agenda.”


“Unfortunately, science has become a partisan issue,” said one Trump supporter from Gorham. “It’s just an unnecessary way to increase government regulations over businesses.”


According to Dylan Voorhees, the Climate and Clean Energy director at the non-partisan organization the Natural Resources Council of Maine, Lockman's climate denial bill is "ridiculous." He dismissed climate change denial as purley a political phenomenom, interest politics on a grand scale where "doubt is the product." 

"It is beyond question that, at the national level, this climate change denial propaganda and dark money campaign has become overwhelmingly affiliated with the Republican party and various conservative causes," said Voorhees. "Psychology plays a role in all kinds of public opinion, including on science and policy. But it would not play a role in public debate if it wasn’t for hundreds of millions spent trying to manipulate our beliefs."


Are we in a new chapter where it's cool to disregard facts and science? Probably not. But people like Lockman must feel emboldened by President Trump and his administration dismissing climate change as a “faith-based ideology.” We’ve got Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of Exxon Mobil as Secretary of the State, telling the Atlantic that he doesn’t think climate change is caused by human activity. Last month we read news that Trump signed an executive order to dismantle the Clean Power Plan, which curbed carbon pollution and toxic pollutants from power plants.


And just last week, Scott Pruitt, the newly appointed head of the Environmental Protection Agency, who also doesn’t trust the science behind climate change, told Fox News that he’d like the U.S. to exit out of the Paris Agreement, calling it a “bad deal.” He falsely asserted that China and India have no obligations to curb their emissions until 2030, despite the fact that they’ve already begun work on renewable energy.


It’s no wonder that Glen Brand from the Maine Sierra Club (and many others) have dubbed Trump’s administration as the “most anti-environmental administration this country has ever seen.”


Mainers gather with thousands to resist science denial

 news climatemarchNYC

The historic "People's Climate March" drew thousands to NYC in 2014.

Trump, his administration, and his fellow climate change deniers holding state offices around the country are poised to influence environmental policy for years to come. According to Brand, the timing couldn’t be worse.


“The timing is particularly tragic, because it’s at this time that we have to ramp up and make progress towards 100 percent clean energy,” said Brand. “And now we’re going to be delayed by fossil fuel lobbyists. He’s offering a really dark vision of the world where scientific fact is ignored.”

 news climatemarch2

People have been rallying for environmental sustainability for decades, but the issues surronding climate change are more pressing than ever before. Photo courtesy of the "People's Climate March." 

Brand is doing what he can to fight back against the anti-environmental agenda. With the Sierra Club of Maine, he’s charted six buses to take Mainers to the People’s Climate March in Washington D.C. on April 29. According to Brand, although America “will survive Trump,” it’s important to resist and send a strong message that the people will continue to fight for justice, equality, and a safe and healthy natural environment.


“I’m hopeful that events like this will have long-term reverberations,” said Brand. “Of course, a march doesn’t reduce carbon emissions. But it galvanizes people. We will pump up people's energy to do the resistance work that’s necessary right now.”


A couple satellite marches are happening locally (in both Augusta and Portland), organized by the Natural Resources Council of Maine, 350 Midcoast Maine, the Maine Conservation Alliance, and the Maine People’s Alliance.


“Climate-change from carbon pollution threatens our natural resource based economy, damages coastal towns with rising sea levels and extreme storms, and makes people sick, increasing Maine’s already high rate of asthma and tick-borne diseases,” said Judy Berk from the NRCM. “President Trump is not going to protect people and our environment from the threats of climate change, despite the fact that most Americans believe climate change is happening and we need to act now.”


Lockman's bill was sent to the judiciary committee last month and will soon go before the full Legislature. 


The March for Science | April 22nd, 10 am-1 pm | City Hall, Portland |


Maine People’s Climate March | April 29th, 10 am-1 pm | 111 Sewall St., Augusta |


  • Published in News

Teach your children well

My folks are the best. I was extremely lucky to have the greatest parents growing up. They treated me so well, always looked out for me, taught me the right lessons and I think instilled a great perspective on how to go about life. I owe everything to my mother and father and I love them with all of my heart and soul.

That being said, I’m still pretty pissed off they never put a guitar in my hands when I was a kid!

Here I am listening to so much music as a young person. By the time I was seven or eight I was into jazz, big band, classic singers, doo-wop, oldies, Motown, soul, disco, classic rock, pop rock, new wave and power pop to name a few. I listened, collected and talked about music like it was my job before I even hit double digits. How do you not get that kid to play an instrument! Anything! 

They didn’t even go the cautious route by sticking me in a school band. Hand me a trumpet or send me down the street to Mrs. Whoever’s house to pick up piano lessons! Something!? Nothing.

So, what was their hang up? To this day, I still don’t know. I mean, I haven’t really had it out with them about it, yet, but they loved music. It was always around. They liked that I liked music. They loved to dance and sing along. My dad played amazing finger drums on the couch, steering wheel and dinner table. They played music everywhere we were and they always let me buy records and tapes with my allowance money. I had stacks of tapes, records and 45’s. Enough music in my bedroom that you’d think the average parent would say to the other parent, “honey, we should probably start to get him some lessons”. 

Did they think I was going to be an eight year old rebel renegade musician who would mess up the works in town and have the locals shaking a fist at me as I drove by in a black Mustang blasting my music smoking two cigarettes at once? I think they knew me better than that.

Did they hope I’d become a doctor, lawyer, mayor or simple law bidding citizen that wasn’t going to shake up things with that rock n’ roll music? No. I think they knew me better than that.

My folks weren’t pushy or suffocating. They let me do my thing, which at a young age was collecting and loving music and hanging out with friends playing hoops. I hung up Van Halen posters in my room, wore Beastie Boys t-shirts and tried to grow my hair out a little bit. The signs were all there that this was perhaps my calling. I should be playing something.

Which instrument though? I didn’t know. I liked so much different music. So, I can’t expect they would have known either. Come to think of it, I don’t think I ever even asked them to buy me a guitar or if I could buy my own guitar. Years and years AND YEARS of following Eddie Van Halen; how did I not beg them for a red Kramer (guitar) with white and black scattered stripes?! Maybe this was all on me.

It’s funny, I didn’t even really know any kids I could have jammed with then. I knew kids in sports and acting, but not many musicians. Later on in high school, sure I knew one or two guys. Even then, it was the same guys everyone in school knew. These guys were like mystical legends. Who were these aliens?! There was always that guy from school band who played traditional sax. The best he could do though to impress anyone outside of class was playing “Urgent” by Foreigner or “Bitch” by the Stones. Doesn’t sound like much but it was partially impressive. 

I remember one friend’s reputation starting to grow. “Dude, Roger plays guitar. He’s got an amp and his folks let him play in their basement”, a close friend said to me. Whoa! Roger came off like a rock star to all of us. I let him borrow one of my Ozzy tapes long ago so he must have some skills.

I remember going to his house once to see him play. The journey was long. Friggin’ guy lived over a half hour away! Still we trudged on to see Roger and his guitar. I remember he kinda stunk. He knew, “Hey Joe” by Hendrix which was no fun. He didn’t really play anything by Van Halen except, “You Really Got Me”, which wasn’t even a Van Halen song, but he played it and it was impressive enough to all of us. All we knew is it got him girls and that’s when you know it’s working folks!   

So why didn’t the inspiration of Roger fire me up to go to my folks to say, “Hey, I wanna rock! Let’s handle this accordingly”.

I’ll be honest in my life, variety has been the musician dream killer. I’ve been into so much different music, I wouldn’t know what instrument to have played or what type of music to write.  Even as I got older I still don’t think I could have settled down to a single sound or instrument. I have a musical multiple personality condition. One minute Al Green, later on Iron Maiden, then Peter Tosh followed by Roy Orbison and then XTC.

My dad and his brother were into drums as kids. They both played a little bit. So I had the drums in me bigtime, but it never developed. I just didn’t know what instrument to pick… so I pursued none.

It took me a while to realize it was best for me to be into everything, not one thing. It allowed me to work with all kinds of music and deal with all types of artists because I honestly could speak their native tongue when it came to what music they made. Rock, rap, metal, acoustic, punk, r&b; I was able to work with and respond to it all working in music for the past 28 years.

Today, we’re in a dangerous time for kids learning how to play instruments. Music in schools, music programs, public broadcasting and the arts are losing too much its support. That’s unacceptable. If this curve unfortunately continues to head in that direction, it is up to parents to bring their kids to Mrs. Whoever’s house for lessons or to see the Jack White poster on their kid’s bedroom wall and realize they’re the only ones who need to put a guitar in that child’s hands or a piano in front of them. We need to handle this crisis and support it as a community. In a city like Portland, drenched in spectacular art, music and culture; it’s up to us to preserve its future. Now, more than ever.

Music will never go away, if WE keep it alive.

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