2018 Planetary Chaplain Awardee Andy Burt: "Hope is the great motivator."

 
Andy Burt preferred photo-creditStephenEBurt.jpeg

On a recent Saturday, Anne D. “Andy” Burt joined a team of other environmental activists hanging “High Tide Here” blue ribbons around trees, signs and other structures in Portland’s downtown Bayside neighborhood.

“Our goal was to dramatize the impacts of human-driven sea level rise, make it visible,” she said. A considerable area at the edges of Back Cove, like Portland’s harbor-side Commercial Street, is expected to be submerged as rising seas from unabated climate change alter the high tide lines of coastal Maine by 2100. HighTideHere.org hopes to educate people and inspire others to take action against this loss, she added.

The action was hardly Andy’s first expression of “witness” about Maine’s and the world’s environmental crises. From 2000 - 2016, Andy worked as director and consultant for the Maine Council of Churches’ Environmental Justice program, focused on building awareness and creative responses within faith communities about climate change, ocean acidification, clean energy and local foods initiatives. She helped link congregations to local energy resources and to their neighbor farmers and fishermen through such signature programs as “Fishes and Loaves,” a 4-week study guide, and “Be a Good Apple.”

Partnering with the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association or MOFGA, Andy invited families to pledge spending at least $10 a week on local food. More than 100 congregations in the state signed on. Less popular was an effort to encourage Maine churches to use only local food such as cider for communion and to try Maine pine boughs on Palm Sunday instead of imported palm fronds. As quoted in the Maine Sunday Telegram, Andy said, “I don’t think anybody ever used cider. That was a little too far. But I like to push the envelope.”

In other efforts, Andy also co-founded with the Maine Sierra Club the Maine Partners for Cool Communities and the Green Sneakers programs which have evolved into local Climate Action Teams in neighborhoods from Kittery to Fort Kent. In 2011, peacefully protesting the construction of the Keystone Pipeline before the White House, Andy, a Quaker, was arrested.

Two years ago, Andy completed a one-hour documentary with videographer Charlie Hudson of Wiscasset called “Down to Earth: Climate Justice Stories.” The film features the stories of 13 Maine climate justice activists. “These inspired leaders of all ages, gender identities and background are creating a new spirit-filled movement to lead us away from dependence on fossil fuels and towards environmentally, socially and economically just communities, “ she says. The film documents the efforts of activists who have been involved “in bold efforts” to address climate change, confronting their local communities and institutions around fossil fuels divestment, working for clean air and water, and land and water sovereignty.

This fall, Andy — who still serves as MCC’s public policy advocate on environmental issues — is at work on a new five-minute film of climate solutions that Mainers are implementing in every corner of the state. She hopes to present each state legislator in the 2019 session with a copy of the DVD, along with background information of solutions already underway in their own counties and the public policies that could assure a more sustainable future.

“The vision for this is so abundant in the voices of the men, women and youth I’ve had the privilege to meet,” she says, quoting the Biblical admonition that without a vision, the people will perish (Proverbs 29:18).

Andy says she finds hope in their homegrown actions — front yard gardens, outdoor clothes lines, home windmills and solar installations “that everyday folks are moved to create and install to do their part.” She adds, ““Hope is the great motivator. We have to make visible our vision for a resilient world.”

As ChIME’s 2018 Planetary Chaplain award recipient, Andy plans to show excerpts of her first film, which will also be on sale for $10 on the evening she is recognized at ChIME’s Saturday, October 20 OMcoming event. ChIME’s $500 award will help her finish work on her second film in time to share with legislators in January.

ChIME honors not only Andy’s prophetic voice for the environment but a lifetime of activism for peace, social and economic justice issues. Andy worked as the American Friends Service Committee’s Indiana Field Secretary gathering stories of violence in Central American countries and helped found a shelter for homeless families in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

Andy and her husband first moved to Maine in 1969 and returned in 1989. The mother of three and an involved grandmother, Andy and her three generation family live in neighboring homes in Edgecomb in the Midcoast, surrounded by gardens. They heat with wood, the sun and a newly installed heat pump.