Guest column: Earth Day lessons from Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust

Each of us is learning to come to terms with the unprecedented consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing guidelines as our own individual circumstances dictate. At the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust (BTLT), we have been finding refuge from the anxiety and uncertainty by being outside in nature and connecting our community members to each other as well as to outdoor resources and local businesses, farmers and fishermen.

On this day, the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, it seems timely to share some of the lessons that we have gleaned from the natural world during these trying times:

  • We are blessed to live here. The miles of coastline and river frontage and expanses of undeveloped fields and forests are close to home and present in our daily lives. Access to these natural gifts is permanently protected and you can find listings of a wide variety of places for you to get outside and find comfort in nature on the websites of all of your local land trusts.
  • Our region has some of the best agricultural soils and productive waters and clam flats in the state and exceptional farmers and fishermen working these lands and waters. We also have vibrant and community-minded local businesses. Our farmers, fishermen and business owners are working overtime to come up with creative ways to get their healthy and nutritious foods and other products and services to the public in safe ways. We have found some of the brightest highlights of our weeks have been our safe, socially distant visits to local businesses, docks and farms to get necessary supplies.
  • The consistent and perennial rhythms of nature are particularly comforting in these times when nearly everything else seems unpredictable. Rachel Carson, one of the inspirations for Earth Day, put it this way: “Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. … There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”

We, at BTLT, are doing our best to come up with creative and diverse ways to support our community through these times. We are sending out weekly emails, highlighting BTLT properties and other local outdoor public spaces, reminding the public about social distancing and protective hygiene measures, and directing people to resources that will enable them to connect with local farmers, fishermen and other local businesses seeking to distribute their products in safe, innovative ways. The weekly bulletins also provide links to nature blogs, videos of guided walks on BTLT properties, and more. You can access these, as well as reflections by some of our members on the first Earth Day in 1970, at

We are also working hard to ensure that two of our most beloved programs — the Tom Settlemire Community Garden and Crystal Spring Farmers’ Market – can be open this year. Last week, albeit with strict new hygiene and distancing protocols in place, we were able to open the Community Garden. This enables us to open the Common Good garden and grow much-needed food for the Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program. Our Crystal Spring Farmers’ Market will still open in May, but with many changes to conform with town, state and CDC guidelines that will ensure that people are able to gain crucial access to healthy, locally produced food, but to do so safely. Our staff and volunteers have been working diligently to come up with solutions to ensure the market can open. Plans are still being finalized but will be announced soon.

In addition, BTLT’s core work of managing our lands and trails – and conserving the most special places in our area – continue. It brings great pride and sense of purpose to our work knowing that the places we conserve today will be available forever to bring comfort to future generations going through challenging times such as these.

We know that there are tough times ahead for the Land Trust and for the world. Although there is much we can’t do right now, we choose to focus on what we can do – hiking on the Land Trust’s 23 miles of trails, tilling the earth and preparing for the growing season, supporting local farmers, fishermen and businesses, and sharing our love for the natural world around us.

Hold your loved ones tight, make sure to nourish your physical and mental health by spending time in nature, and reach out and ask for help when you need it and offer help when you can give it. The greatest silver lining to come out of the current situation is seeing the many ways in which our local community is coming together to support each other.

Emily Swan is the president of Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust

Angela Twitchell serves as executive director.