Anne D. “Andy” Burt is unmissable on any tour of climate mobilization in the state of Maine. A formidable force of energy and optimism, she will tell you with a smile that “I like challenge.” Working for the past fifteen years within the faith community, she is passionate about using grassroots organizing to turn sentiment into action. Whether working with Maine Interfaith Power & Light to sign people up for green power, going door to door with Green Sneakers sharing lightbulbs and conversation, or corralling four hundred thousand people as a marshal at the People’s Climate March, Andy constantly challenges people draw the connections between faith, health, climate and community.
“My family is amazed that I take in all this devastating stuff and I don’t get depressed. I don’t stay down very long. We just have to work harder.”
Down to Earth is the name of Andy’s most recent initiative, a storytelling project working to gather the genesis stories of climate justice activists across the state. Sitting down with everyone from oil train blockaders to Penobscot elders and student activists she is searching for seeds: the foundational people, moments and experiences that move us to be bold. “Telling your story is giving people hope,” she reminds us. With these gathered stories Andy is working to produce a film, as well as leading a three week journaling class that prompts participants to reflect on their own values journey. “I’m hoping to seed some activists.”
“I just turned seventy,” Andy smiles, “but I don’t feel old. My spirit is young, but I do see a line out there. I can’t burn the candle at both ends. I know now that what is really important is storytelling. Just as native people pass everything down this way, so must we.”
Andy has five grandchildren, aged seven to fifteen. Their photographs adorn a sandwich board she wears to protests, and their futures motivate her actions every day. A few weeks ago, while sitting with her granddaughter, trying to get out a letter to the editor, she was incessantly being asked about her own grandparents. She took a break to share old photos and written memories, a reminder to take the time to sink more deeply into her own story.
“Mimi, I imagine when my mom will be telling my kids about you,” her granddaughter said. Andy hopes that this will be true, and is encouraged by any vision for the future. “I promise you I will do everything I can to make sure there will be polar bears,” Andy reassured her.
While we had to continue cycling up the coast after meeting Andy, we knew of a grassroots action the following day in Augusta calling for the impeachment of Governor LePage. “Of course I’ll be there,” Andy said. “Just after strawberry picking with my grandchildren.”