Boothbay, ME

The Archaic Life of Fishermen Confronts the Progressives of the Windmill Ecosystem

Mackenzie Andersen

Quality Rural Lifestyles Threatened by the Advancing Megalopolis
Nicholas Doherty / Unsplash

In my hometown of Boothbay, Maine, a consortium of interests, anchored in the public-private state, are installing the first floating windmills in the USA in the waters surrounding nearby Monhegan Island, where the fishermen have been fishing and maintaining the ecological balance for centuries.

This post is not intended to be anti-windmill but it is a pro-fishing industry. As local politics go, there is a long history of new residents pitted against the pre-existing community. The local community senses a condescending attitude from the new arrivals toward rural lifestyles and values. It is truer today than ever after a wealthy and aggressive developer moved into a historic New England middle-class community to transform it into the next resort area affordable only for the wealthy. Former first homes have been transformed into second and third homes or Airbnbs, causing a shortage of housing for the year-round community.

When the real estate market started booming during coronavirus which had brought the tourist industry to a slow-down, the movers and shakers for gentrification started talking about year-round jobs, requiring “workforce housing”, a new fifty-million dollar school system, and “incentives” for the large corporations that are the only sorts of jobs that qualify as jobs to the gentrifiers. The latter two solutions will certainly raise property taxes making housing even more unaffordable on the peninsula.

For decades Maine has been talking about how to attract young people, and even more so on the Boothbay Peninsula, where the youth demographics is lower than anywhere else in the USA. In the manner of planning a Chinese Ghost City, the gentrifiers added the fifty million dollar school to the mix but there is no viable financing plan, and the Confucious Institute looms in the background at the University of Maine. The basic formula of the Chinese Ghost city involves rows of undistinguished grid housing for the workforce, more individualized homes for the executive classes with the most individualization found in the architecture of public and government buildings. Once built, these cities are known to sit empty until the Chinese government provides enough tax and economic incentives to attract a large corporation to the newly erected city.

The issues of the fishermen vs the floating windmills are filtered through other cultural issues, as the “progress” contingency brands the historical rural lifestyle, including that of the fishermen, as “the old ways”, said with an unreflective assumption that new is always better than old. Many new structures that bear no relationship to their surrounding, are being erected throughout once visually harmonious neighborhoods reflecting a new cultural attitude that shows no respect for the existing community.

In 2018, the Boothbay Register covered a story about a town meeting in which the fishermen were invited to weigh in on the plans of Aqua Ventus, one of the businesses operated by the University of Maine, the foundation stone of Maine’s corporate state. The website for Aqua Ventus declares that it is “Tapping into Maine’s maritime heritage.”, which includes the fishing industry. The town selectmen asked the fishermen to be part of the conversation, but the fishermen remain skeptical in a state in which false narratives are frequently used to advance political causes.

A Friendship lobsterman told selectmen the project jeopardizes his livelihood which his family has been involved in for generations. Dustin Delano had recently fished around Monhegan Island. He told selectmen the community is deeply divided over the project. He described the project as bad for Maine and the state’s fishing heritage.
“This is all I know how to do. What’s going to happen if this changes everything,” Delano said. “We are seeing a lot of red flags starting to fly. I don’t want my livelihood being replaced by a 550-foot turbine.”
MAV is seeking selectmen’s approval prior to submitting a planning board application. Selectman Chuck Cunningham told fishermen the board wanted to meet with them before making a decision.
“We haven’t said yes to anything. We are interested in the R&D (research and development) aspect because of the jobs, but we don’t want anybody to get harmed,” he said. Selectmen hear opposing viewpoints on wind project Fishermen concerned project will harm industry BILL PEARSON Fri, 03/09/2018

MAV is an acronym for Maine Aqua Ventus, a project of the University of Maine, which was established under the federal government’s Morrill Act as a land-grant college, with broken promises that the college would teach scientific methods to farmers sons. Instead, the college invested in the advanced technology of the times. Today the University of Maine is the central core of the public-private state, allowing the state to operate its own industries, one being Aqua Ventus, another The Advanced Manufacturing Center at The University of Maine.

In the public-private state, the fishermen are up against a political steamroller whose only certain commitment is to money, using the brand of progress to replace the old ways with the new. This plays into the long-standing cultural divide between the pre-existing rural community and the new arrivals. With a wealthy new developer in town, the rural quality of life seems to be on the losing side.

The loosely organized, unofficial “party of progress”, is the party of wealth and gentrification, mostly led by those retired from the corporate world. They like seeing real estate values go up, They want to increase the density of the peninsula, despite warnings about the peninsula’s own water supplies being endangered by development, but in this conversation, they are the saviors of future generations in the fight against global warming but lacking an underlying consistent and comprehensive perspective, confidence in genuine concern for the environment or future generations falls short. The skepticism of the fishing community is understandable.

When columnist Joe Gelarden wrote a post titled What is going on with the Gulf of Maine, he intended to provide a non-political perspective on the effects of global warming on the fish in the water in an interview with Barney Balch, senior research scientist for East Boothbay’s Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences. He introduced the discussion with “ No, I will not dive into the pending political food fight over floating windmills v. fighting fishermen. That is another topic for another time. “. That was enough to offend fishermen. Technically it is a food fight because the fishermen are fighting for their livelihood and a way of life that puts food on their tables and the tables of the local restaurants, one faction of the local economy supported by the public-private-progress contingency, but if Mr. Gelarden was looking to get beyond the politics, to have an informed discussion about what is going on ecologically in the Gulf of Maine, it backfired.

Barry Gibson of East Boothbay published a letter to the editor titled “ A discouraging viewpoint” saying that “ the lobstermen, fishermen, and the many others who have been working tirelessly to protect our historic fishing grounds, deserve better.” These words are well-spoken in a town where the disconnect between gentrification interests and those of a quality rural lifestyle is so deeply rooted. New arrivals dominate boards, resting on laurels gained through climbing corporate ladders. The “progress cult” projects an unreflective arrogance that assumes itself knowledgable about everything, including other people’s industries in which they have no experience. The progress contingency brings development ideas with them when they arrive in the community, oblivious to the values of the pre-existing culture, which they dismiss auto-reflexively as “the old ways”. Welcome to the new way- the one-world-order-grid-complex- there is a planned place for everyone in the grid because nothing shall exist outside of it- the ultimate goal of the centrally managed state.

Margaret, representing the progress contingency, posted this:

Let’s focus on the issue and figure out how to fix it. Regardless of what we as individuals believe or don’t believe or don’t want to believe, the Gulf of Maine is warming. The lobster fishery may not survive, as much as I personally want it to. Learn the science. Be a part of the solution. We must all learn and change and figure out how to live with this rather than fight for our old way of life… the “way it was”. It is not the future. Help at least make this world a place where future generations can survive. We have to start now planning for how we get there.

I looked Margaret up and found she shares the last name with Peggy, who is on the town planning board, but I could not definitively identify Margaret and Peggy as the same person. The planning board is appointed by the selectmen, but beyond that little information is provided as to how members of the town planning board are selected, seeming more like a secret society of friends than anything else.

Margaret’s comment exemplifies the way that local politicians speak. “ Let’s focus on the issue and figure out how to fix it’. This rhetorically positions the speaker as being open to all points of view and reasonable, taking a methodical approach.

Then she states that the Gulf Of Maine is warming, which is verifiable through scientific studies, but Margaret verifies it with the statement “ Regardless of what we as individuals believe or don’t believe or don’t want to believe “, which implies that some do not believe it, but Margaret asserts that it doesn’t matter what you believe, it is true, for no other reason than she asserts it to be so.

Margaret says the “ The lobster fishery may not survive, as much as I personally want it to. Learn the science. Be a part of the solution”. The word “may” implies that the lobster industry also could survive, but even though Margaret uses the word “may” she goes on talking as if it is a foregone conclusion that the lobster industry will not survive, as much as Margaret wants otherwise, and tells people to “learn the science” after failing to engage a scientific reference in her previous statement about the Gulf of Maine warming.

Margaret goes on to advocate being part of the solution by accepting Margaret’s prognosis, which sounds like calling for the end of the Boothbay fishing industry. Stop fighting for your old ways, she says. “The way it was” is not in the future so just forget about it. Help us (the progress cult) to make a place where future generations can survive, (without food???).

The warming waters are part of an ecosystem inclusive of all marine life. Martha is not an expert on marine life or the fishing industry or how other people should live or what a rural quality of life matters, nor does she care. The arrogance she displays about her own knowledge is consistent with long existent tensions between the pre-existing culture and those who have just arrived. Her statement does not express knowledge, understanding, or self-awareness. She is unconsciously condescending toward the fishermen, unwilling to give them the credit due to their experience working on the sea that they might know something about the future of the fishing industry that she doesn’t. They should accept her pronouncement that fishing is over and done with — “the way of the past”, and make way for the “new”, whatever that might be.

If Margaret wants the windmills, she probably believes they are a financial advantage to her peer group, but she provides no argument, scientific or otherwise, although the economic feasibility of windmills is up for debate.

Maybe it isn’t really about the windmills but about the development plans of Boothbay’s gentrification faction who wants to develop “workforce housing” on the peninsula- i.e. grid housing for the displaced working classes.

Real estate developers Cindi Watson and Deborah Yale created a non-profit called the Boothbay Region Housing Trust for “affordable housing development” saying that they want to focus on “ workforce housing” for the “professional classes”, which is usually code for upper-income workers, who can no longer afford to live on the Boothbay Peninsula, The story photo was borrowed from a similar organization on Martha’s Vineyard showing a block of urban townhouses, wall to wall, in a rural setting, not your quality rural lifestyle, of the “old ways” that have got to make way for the new- an overcrowded peninsula, not quite Industrial Revolution-style, but the approach is the same, break houses up into smaller and smaller units and place them closer and closer together to produce more real estate dollars per square inch.

Watson and Yale complained about not bringing able to convert waterfront condominiums into workforce housing because of the “archaic ordinances” of the ’80s. They did not identify those ordinances but a quick search revealed them to be the ordinances protecting the working waterfront. — the old way.

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Boothbay, ME

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