Wednesday, December 11, 2019

In Boston, talking about American nationhood and its problems with The American Question.

Spent yesterday in the belly of the beast, the old Massachusetts Bay Colony, doing an interview for this forthcoming documentary film project, The American Question. Filmmakers Guy Seemann and James Kicklighter are asking what holds us together, as communities or as a nation and I enjoyed sharing my take. Found myself talking a lot about the themes in Union: The Struggle to Forge the Story of United States Nationhood, which comes out in June 2020.

Found myself at one point standing, unexpectedly, at the spot on the edge of Boston Common where a (mostly African-American) crowd protested the release of the Klan-loving The Birth of a Nation back in 1915, which features in Union. The Tremont Theater was across Tremont Avenue. Now, appropriately enough, there's a gigantic AMC Loews Theater on the site.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

The Maine nurse saving lives in the Mediterranean

In this week's Maine Sunday Telegram I profile Tim Harrison, a veteran Medecins sans Frontiers nurse from Union, Maine who has spent decades saving lives in some of the most dangerous and unstable parts of the world. Now he's on an MSF rescue ship off the coast of Libya, saving thousands of migrants fleeing war, torture, and sex trafficking in their home countries, which are spread across the Eastern Hemisphere.

European governments, for their part, tried to shut them down, refusing scheduled refueling stops or even threatening prosecution (because the rescuers don't return migrants to Libya, the lawless country they are fleeing from in overloaded rubber rafts.)

Details in the story.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Kelp, "forests of the sea," vanishing from parts of warming Gulf of Maine

Kelp, a foundation species with a role not unlike that of corals in tropical seas, is vanishing from the coasts of New Hampshire and southern Maine due to the rapid warming of the Gulf of Maine, I reported in Saturday's Portland Press Herald.

Their disappearance -- and replacement by shrubby invasive red seaweeds -- means less refuge habitat for commercial fish species like cunner, juvenile pollock and cod, and possibly crabs and lobster as well, although they are as yet poorly studied.

The good news is the excessive temperatures that are wiping out kelp in places like the Isles of Shoals have not yet reached areas beyond Casco Bay, in southern Maine, and will likely take decades to reach eastern Maine, where nearshore waters are considerably cooler. Details in the story.

I've been covering climate change and the Gulf of Maine -- the second fastest warming part of the world ocean -- in some detail. For background, consider starting with this series and perhaps continue with this update from earlier this year.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Speaking on Maine's colonial and post-colonial past in Rockland, Nov. 16

Maine's bicentennial is fast upon us, and I have a thing or two to say about how our state's experiences as a colony of a colony set the stage for statehood in 1820 and a variety of cultural strengths and pathologies every since.

If you live near the western shores of Penobscot Bay, I'll be giving a talk on all this in Rockland on November 16. The talk is hosted by the Rockland Historical Society, held at the Sail Power and Steam Museum, supported by the Maine Bicentennial Commission, and kicks off at 4pm. It's free and open to the public.

You can find more details via this Village Soup article.

I'll be speaking and writing about Maine's historical legacy in the coming months and will post updates here.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Is Maine's decades-long lobster boom about to end?

I recently reported on a new scientific study that suggests Maine's lobster boom is about to come to an abrupt end, with landings returning to historic levels over the next five years.

First: the lobster boom. From the 1940s to the 1980s,  Maine lobstermen reliably caught about 20 million pounds of lobster each year. But starting in 1990 – and for reasons that are still debated – the catch began to increase steeply, surpassing 30 million pounds in 1991, 50 million in 1999 and 80 million 10 years later. The catch has exceeded 100 million pounds every year since 2011, hitting a jaw-dropping 132.6 million in 2016 before ticking downward to 119.6 million in 2018.

But, as I reported in the Portland Press Herald, a new and improved version of the priority lobster population prediction model -- one that takes into account increases in water temperature and resultant lobster diseases -- suggests the boom is about to sharply end, with the most brutal downturns in landings occurring in the places where the boom has been the loudest. But there's a caveat: all of this could be wrong if the warming of the Gulf of Maine is driving baby lobsters to settle in deep water where they were once unable to survive.

Enjoy the article for details.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Speaking on American Nations at UMass Amherst, Oct. 31

I'll be presenting on American Nations: The History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst on October 31, starting at about 10 am.

It's one of the keynote addresses at the university's "Combating Polarization" symposium. It's free and open to the public, but you do need to pre-register via the links here.

My co-presenters include Sara Konrath of Indiana University, who studies empathy and altruism, and UMass Amherst's own Jamila Lysicott, assistant professor of social justice education. The idea is to better understand what polarizes communities -- a public university campus, for instance -- and how people can constructively interact in such an environment.

There are full details via the top link above.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Will Maine issue a pardon to the late tribal attorney Don Gellers?

Last week I covered the extraordinary pardon hearing for the late Don Gellers, the Passmaquoddy tribe's first attorney, who represented them successfully in matters ranging from racial discrimination in barber shops to police abuse and murder in the 1960s. Then he filed a treaty breach case that effectively started the tribe's land claim against Maine, and was arrested as he walked back into his home as part of an elaborate conspiracy involving the attorney general's office, the leadership of the Maine State Police and, at least tacitly, state judges. He fled the country in 1971 to avoid serving years in prison for the "constructive possession" of some joints allegedly found in the pocket of a jacket in his upstairs closet -- a charge that had already been decriminalized in the state.

You can read about the pardon hearing -- where one of the three pardon board members had to recuse himself because of his links to the case -- at the Portland Press Herald, and about the case in detail in the first thirteen chapters of the 29-part Press Herald series, "Unsettled." But I also spoke with Maine Public radio's Irwin Gratz for an interview that aired this morning and, presumably, again this evening during the local blocks within "All Things Considered."

Gellers died in October 2014, shortly after "Unsettled" concluded. Here's his obituary.