For me, it is impossible to think about the fossil-fueled dreams of NorthWestern Energy without pondering the climate crisis calamities unfolding globally.
In Indonesia, 182 neighborhoods were submerged in New Year’s rains and flooding, leaving at least 60 people dead and hundreds of thousands of people evacuated or impacted by the worst monsoon rains in a decade. According to The Guardian, “Rising sea levels and extreme weather – both worsened by the climate crisis – threaten the megacity of 30 million people.”
In Australia, it is estimated that a half billion to 1 billion animals have perished, along with 25 humans, with more than 1400 homes incinerated. And, the extreme bushfire season is not nearly over, with Australian summer having only just begun! The extreme temperatures and extreme fires are correlated, and made worse by our changed climate and the ever-growing climate crisis.
On my way home from the winter holidays, my 5-year-old daughter snuggled close after waking up and, unprompted and unaware of the Australia crisis, said, “Mama, I’m a baby koala and you’re my mama and you have to keep me safe. I don’t even have my fur yet.” Given the news, it was an absolutely heart wrenching moment.
It’s through this lens–the lens of protecting my daughter and my family–that I consider the prospect of NorthWestern Energy building more natural gas infrastructure, and doubling down on its commitment to coal, to fuel our future in Montana. For me, and many other Montanans, both scenarios are beyond unconscionable, especially since we have some of the best potential for renewable energy in the country, and most Montanans support it.
The Global South has borne a heavy price from the climate crisis already. As the Global North hurtles back toward the sun with our spring and summer approximately two months away, I wonder how the world’s inaction on climate will affect Montana families this year during our warmer months?
I cringe because I know that in the global climate crisis, our turn will come, and who knows what it will look like?
Whatever this year brings, there is no question that in the long run, the impacts of the global climate crisis will be astronomically more expensive than the critical changes we need to make to our energy sector. Changes that can help ensure a livable future for all, sustain our land and water, create jobs, and support families transitioning to new employment. We can do it all, and we must. Failure is unthinkable.