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Creating the Silicon Valley of Climate Change

Students in the University of New England Gulf of Maine Field Studies Class work on a living shorelines project.

When one hears the words Silicon Valley, one often thinks of the world’s tech capital, where giants such as Google, Facebook, and Hewlett-Packard emerged as giants. Silicon Valley became the epicenter of tech, where the best and brightest scientists and developers were met with venture capital and government funding to tackle some of the world’s most pressing challenges. 

With the Gulf of Maine warming more rapidly than 99% of bodies of water its size in the world and New England warming faster than any other region in the contiguous United States, the beauty and heritage here in Maine are at risk. This is coupled with global concerns where 56% of the population say climate change is the most critical issue facing society today, yet 4 in 10 have not changed their behavior to reduce their contributions to climate change. With such a grim outlook, one may wonder, where is the Silicon Valley equivalent to solving climate change?  

Introducing the Gulf of Maine Field Studies class, a program started in 2018 at the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust (KCT) in partnership with Regional School Unit 21, the University of New England, and the Gulf of Maine Institute to bring awareness to high school and college youth on the pressing issues of climate change facing the Kennebunkport/Kennebunk communities. At the heart of the class was the idea of bringing science outside the walls of the classroom and equipping students with skills to tackle the difficult conversations ahead that are needed to slow the rise of climate change. The changing climate is one of the biggest threats to the lands that conservation trusts, like KCT, have worked tirelessly to protect for decades. Our islands, our beaches, our forests, our history, our heritage—are all at risk. 

Emboldened by the inspiring action that the Gulf of Maine Field Studies class took, the KCT board and stakeholders recognized a time-critical opportunity to educate, empower, and activate youth not just in Kennebunkport and Kennebunk, but around the globe. The question became, why not make Kennebunkport the Silicon Valley of climate change action? This board vision to reach 10 million youth by 2025 led to the creation of the Kennebunkport Climate Initiative (KCI), with a vision of becoming a national leader in community-based education programs, start a nationwide grassroots movement, and save our lands and oceans, not just for our small town, but for communities everywhere. 

Students in Kennebunk High School’s Gulf of Maine Field Studies Class explore alternative energy solutions on Goat Island.

The Kennebunkport Climate Initiative is a non-partisan, solutions-based youth organization pushing for local, tangible solutions to a global challenge. With high school and college youth, KCI seeks to build a cohesive voice at the local level around the globe. With the support of passionate adults, our youth programs will lead decision-makers across governments, businesses, and communities to embrace climate solutions. Since the creation of KCI in 2020, we have reached more than 620,000 youth across the country and have KCI educational programs in more than 38 high schools representing 19 states, well on our way to ensuring the beauty and heritage of communities like those in Maine are protected for future generations. Sitting on our Board and Advisory Council are some of the top scientists, educators and business leaders in the climate change space. 

Ten years from now, we are confident that we can look back with great pride in Maine for being a leader in climate action... and beyond as the Silicon Valley of Climate Change action.

To learn more or support KCI, visit