Mitchell Center hosts ‘How can we be honest brokers in an honestly broken system?’ speak september 19

ORONO – Senator George J. Mitchell’s Center for Durable Solutions at the University of Maine will host the conference “How Can We Be Honest Brokers in an Honestly Broken System?” Monday, September 19, at 3 p.m., the speaker will be Sonja Birthisel, director of the Wilson Center at UMaine.

Birthisel will share stories and observations of the challenge of finding a vocation and personal sustainability in a complex ecosystem of social change. She has spent much of the last decade seeking to respond to the pressing reality of climate change.

As a scientist, she has done her best to wear the “honest broker” hat through projects like the Forest Climate Change Initiative’s Natural Climate Solutions (NCS) Initiative. In 2019, she decided to move beyond roles that felt “safe” to her as a scientist and become increasingly involved in advocacy and activism, including civil disobedience.

Birthisel is an agroecologist, educator, religious leader, activist and member of the Orono City Council. She is passionate about pursuing environmental and social justice through systems change and seeks to engage this work on many levels, wearing a colorful array of hats. She graduated from UMaine in the fall of 2018 with a Ph.D. in ecology and environmental sciences and a specialization in sustainable agriculture.

All lectures in the Mitchell Center’s Sustainability Talks series are free and will be offered remotely via Zoom and in person at 107 Norman Smith Hall on the UMaine campus in Orono. Registration is required to attend remotely via Zoom. Visit the event webpage to register and receive login information.

Please note that face coverings are mandatory for everyone attending the Mitchell Center Sustainability Talks. For the latest UMaine health and safety guidelines, please visit

Updates to this event will be posted on the event webpage. To request a reasonable accommodation, contact Ruth Hallsworth, 207.581.3196; [email protected]

About the Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions: The Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions at the University of Maine aspires to be a valuable leader and partner in understanding and solving problems related to the growing challenge of improving human well-being while protecting the environment. We collaborate with various stakeholders and bring together faculty and students from many different fields. By connecting knowledge to action, we seek to create a brighter environmental, social and economic future in Maine and beyond.

About the University of Maine: The University of Maine, founded in Orono in 1865, is the state’s land, maritime, and space grant university, with a regional campus at the University of Maine at Machias. UMaine is located on Marsh Island in the homeland of the Penobscot Nation. UMaine Machias is located in the homeland of the Passamaquoddy Nation. As Maine’s flagship public university, UMaine has a statewide mission of education, research and economic development, and community service. UMaine is the state’s public research university and a leading Carnegie R1 research institution. It attracts students from all 50 states and 81 countries. UMaine currently enrolls 11,989 undergraduate and graduate students, and UMaine Machias enrolls 747 undergraduate students. Our students have the opportunity to participate in groundbreaking research with world-class scholars. UMaine offers more than 100 degree programs through which students can earn a master’s, doctoral, or professional science master’s degree, as well as graduate certificates. UMaine Machias offers 18 degree programs. The university promotes environmental stewardship, with substantial campus-wide efforts to save energy, recycle, and meet green building standards in new construction. For more information about UMaine and UMaine Machias, visit and