Rev. Doretta Colburn
There are some things we count on for healthy living.
In particular, the water we drink, the air we breathe and the general well-being of the environment in which we live matters to our overall health — physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Some know that more painfully than others when water sources, soil and air become contaminated with toxins that threaten health, viable farming, and safe living conditions. This does not need to happen, and we can do something about it.
Soon, LD 489 will be coming before the 130th Legislature to amend the Maine Constitution by adding: “The people of the State have the right to a clean and healthy environment and to the preservation of the natural, cultural and healthful qualities of the environment. The State may not infringe upon these rights. The State shall conserve, protect and maintain the State’s natural resources, including, but not limited to, its air, water, land and ecosystems for the benefit of all the people, including generations yet to come.”
Having this language written into our state Constitution creates an obligation that our government protects those rights and sets a standard by which actions and decisions are measured. Alongside the constitutional rights that already exist, such an addition would offer greater confidence that our environmental rights are protected before they could become a concern.
I write this on behalf of the Maine Council of Churches, an organization of seven member-denominations that represent 437 local congregations which have 55,000 members across Maine.
I am an ordained pastor of 26 years, a farmer, and a proud grandparent. In each of these roles I honor the value of every person and work hard to give my best to them whether it is physical, spiritual and/or emotional nourishment. Along with that, I cannot imagine anything other than the rights for every person to clean air, pure water and a healthy environment.
As a farmer and a grandparent, let me tell you about my two grandsons who come to the farm regularly. They are 4 and 7 years old and the most enthusiastic harvesters, not that much goes into the basket, as they eat their way from the mulberry tree, to the raspberry patch, to the fresh produce in the gardens.
As they eagerly reach for fresh samples, they take for granted the healthy environment that we are fortunate to be surrounded by. Our grandsons don’t question it. Why would they? To them, how could it be anything else but a natural expectation that the air they breathe is pure, the water they drink and play in at the lake is clean, and the environment they hike in and enjoy every day is nothing but healthy. They should not have to question it nor should anyone else.
So, I have become an advocate, not just for our grandchildren, but for all of us that we can have confidence in knowing that our rights to a healthy environment are protected and secured by our Maine State Constitution. My faith informs me of a responsibility to care for this remarkable planet that we call home and do what is just and right for the benefit of all.
Yet, even as we seek these rights for all people, it is imperative that we recognize the right that is Earth’s to these basic needs that sustain and flourish it.
Who among us does not treasure the natural beauty of Maine’s landscape from ocean to mountains, lakes, rivers and all the breathtaking wonders we are so fortunate to be surrounded by? It is why we love Maine and why we want to protect it for future generations. The pure joy and sense of freedom my grandsons feel trusting in the environment around them is something they and everyone else should always be able to count on. The Pine Tree Amendment will help to protect those rights.
Rev. Doretta Colburn of Waterford is an ordained minister who is active in climate justice work along with working her 60-acre farm where she raises bison, grows produce in season, and bakes artisan breads and bagels.
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