In early 2019, the mounting, urgent warnings from the world’s scientists that we are on the verge of a climate catastrophe, pushed me to become a climate activist for my child’s future, for the future of all Montana families.
Sifting through the bad news, including the potential loss of over 1 million species, my thought was, “My daughter’s future is on fire. How will I put it out?” and the only way I could move myself from despair and hopelessness was to act.
I started Families for a Livable Climate looking to connect and share concerns about the climate crisis, but also to help galvanize their concern into concrete actions. Our first project was organizing families to submit comments to Northwestern Energy on their latest energy procurement plan, and now we’re organizing for the Global Climate Strike on September 20 in Missoula, and preparing to kick off a series of Montana Climate Conversations to help empower families to advocate for their future, among other actions.
In Montana, the climate crisis will affect everyone. Through its impacts on Montana forests, water, and agriculture alone, it will impact our public health, our economy, and our quality of life. And most frightening of all it could devastate our children’s future.
We’ve felt its impacts already. In 2017, we had increased wildfire and smoke, and flash drought that hit our agricultural community hard. Recently, the Hi-Line was identified as a hotspot in the climate crisis, with predictions that, if we continue with business as usual, it may become less productive, impacting our economy and the world’s food supply. (The Hi-Line article is worth a look, there is a stunning map showing winter temperature increases in Montana between 1895 and 2017.)
All Montana families should be very worried about the future. But how do we come together in such a divided time?
I’m not sure I know the answer but I do know that one of the most important things we can do about the climate crisis is to talk about it. And in my experience that means meeting people where they are, with compassion, to have a real conversation. This is a lost skill. One that our group is hoping to help revive, and if it will be revived anywhere, it will be Montana.
Coming together over our shared natural resources, and our Montana way of life is something with which Montanans have experience. Unlikely alliances occur regularly to support Big Sky Country and our shared love of the land, such as Jon Tester’s Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act. Communities across Montana have spoken up when bad decisions in the works, such as the Northwestern Energy Bailout bill for cleanup associated with Colstrip that was defeated in the 2019 Montana State Legislature because of pressure from NorthWestern ratepayers across the state.
“But the climate crisis is too political,” I hear a chorus shout. “You won’t be able to bridge that gap.”
I promise you we will, and reaching out to families directly is a big part of that picture. Families care about the future. And if they are skeptical about being involved, or worried that talking about the climate crisis is too “political”, here’s is one analogy that I share:
If your child comes to you, and her temperature is 105 degrees. Is it a “political” position to whisk her to a doctor, and use the solutions of science to bring down her fever? No. Our tools of measurement tell us she has a fever, and we respond by treating that fever, failing to respond would be negligence at best, and tragedy at worst. Now, there are a few outliers who for religious reasons do not treat their children or themselves with the scientific tools at our disposal. We give them space and allow their beliefs, but most of us do not let their beliefs turn our child’s fever into a political issue. We treat it.
Our earth is very similar to a body. It is a closed system, and it has an ideal temperature range. This fluctuates, as does our body temperature, but unfortunately for us and our children, it has a raging fever out of line with normal fluctuations, and we know why: our atmosphere is filling with CO2 and other greenhouse gases which are trapping more heat in Earth’s system. We’re the cause, and we have the solutions to cure it.
Here is a 37-second animation that shows temperature anomalies by country from 1880 to 2017:
(Created by Antti Lipponen, Physicist, research scientist at Finnish Meteorological Institute. CC by 4.0 License.)
It’s clear that the planet that we call home has a raging fever that is human-caused, and it isn’t going away untreated. I say to families reluctant to jump in: If Earth was standing at your bedside in the middle of the night, you would take one look at her suffering face and say “we need to get you to a doctor.”
And just like when a child has a fever, we need to move into solutions thinking. All of us should be calling for solutions to be implemented as rapidly as possible–it is not a political perspective: It’s a matter of scientific measurement. Calling for solutions is the only way to ensure that our children, who we protect in all kinds of ways, all day, have a livable future. For the outliers that try to make this a political issue, we should treat them similarly to those who deny healthcare to their children, and refuse to let their perspective politicize the facts for our family.
There is no Democratic future or Republican future, there is only our future. I hope you will join us in taking care of our children’s future. It is a movement for everyone, it is a movement to save life as we know it. —
Montana Climate Assessment, 2017.