Coming of age post Reagan, in a world where Democrats scampered to the middle eventually leaping off to the right, my college friends and I would quip, “With Democrats like these, who needs Republicans?” We were not political purists. We lived in a time where working across the aisle could still occur–it occurred all the time in communities and neighborhoods–people hadn’t fully embraced the sports-team model of political identity.
We were interested in solutions first, and many politicians across the political spectrum seemed to be as well. But the writing was on the wall, Republicans were super organized, more and more ideology-bound, and they had money behind them, walloping Democrats. So Democrats shifted their messages to accommodate the new landscape. I’m not astute enough to know if that was inevitable, or the right thing to do at the time, but now, as old-guard Republican leaders shore up their allegiance to dark money, corporations, and oligarchs, it is clear that the only choice for Democrats is to return to their roots: fighting for “we the people” that make up a democracy. They are called to bring a clear message of justice forward for the masses, and fight for healthcare, education, solid employment under safe conditions, and into the mix, Democrats are called (as are we all) to lead on climate.
If Montana’s Democrat leaders, specifically Governor Bullock and Senator Jon Tester, are truly informed on the science and grasp the impacts, they shouldn’t hesitate to lead. In fact they have a moral duty to lead, a duty to use their “platform” to communicate the frightening truth about how the global climate crisis will impact our state. The science is concrete and very urgent. According to the 2017 Montana Climate Assessment, Montana is heating up faster than what is predicted globally or nationally. Montana is on a fast track to changes that will dramatically impact not only fishing and hunting conditions, but many of Montana’s vitally important industries such as agriculture and tourism. We will also see huge impacts on public health and safety as Montana families and communities face more frequent heat waves, wildfire, and wildfire smoke.
Here are a few ways that Governor Bullock and Senator Tester could lead on climate:
Bullock and Tester can begin by turning their backs on fossil-fuel money and sign the No Fossil Fuel Money pledge, a call-to-action championed by the Sunrise Movement. They could also explore how the framework of the Green New Deal Resolution (PDF) could work in our state for the economic and social gain of regular Montanans.
Next, Bullock and Tester could withdraw their support for the Keystone XL pipeline. Here is another opportunity for them to tell the truth. The truth is that the Keystone XL pipeline project is owned by Canadian company TC Energy which seeks to transport tar-sands oil (very dirty and polluting when it spills) over American soil (making around 1,000 water crossings, including traversing the Ogallala aquifer, which irrigates our heartland and is already threatened by climate change) to send it to the Gulf of Mexico for EXPORT out of our country into other markets. The harsh truth is that this pipeline contributes nothing toward American energy independence, but it will put our water and lands at risk every day. In Montana, it would threaten Fort Peck’s water supply, and the Missouri River as a whole.
Montanans need to ask: Why would we endanger our water supply, and that of our fellow Americans, for a Canadian-owned company? Keystone XL endangers our water and land, with little benefit to us.
Then, Governor Bullock and Senator Tester could step up and use their platform — and perhaps the Governor’s Montana Climate Solutions Council? — to create a solid vision for a fossil-free Montana, unpacking the amazing potential of renewables here, and envisioning Montana as a solar and wind powerhouse. This roadmap could show how we can transform our energy sector, moving away from dirty, unreliable energy like coal plants, toward clean, reliable energy in a market that creates jobs for Montanans, and helps to limit our exposure to expensive and dangerous climate impacts.
Many Montanans want Bullock and Tester to muster courage and act, becoming the leaders that they signed up to be. Many Montanans understand the global climate crisis, and more and more are waking up to the fact that political sports teams do not solve problems–especially existential problems like the climate crisis which now threatens a livable future for their kids.
Help support good leadership on climate in Montana
If you would like to help Governor Bullock, Senator Tester, and the rest of the federal delegation understand that Montanans stand opposed to Keystone XL and want a fossil-free future, please sign this petition being gathered by Families for a Livable Climate, to share with their staff in early 2020.