Climate Connections: The year ahead for climate voices and action
Amy Cilimburg and Abby Huseth
As the calendar turns over to a new year, many of us reflect on the past year and set goals for the year ahead. New Year's resolutions often get a bad rap, and it’s true – it’s easy to set ourselves up for failure if we expect change to magically happen with the flip of a calendar page. What needs to shift in 2023?
Looking at evidence of the climate crisis all around us, it’s clear that we can’t continue with the status quo. From the relentless deluges and flooding in California right now to the unusually warm temperatures in much of the U.S.; from new reports of glaciers disappearing to headlines like: “The past eight years were the eight warmest on record” and “2022 tied for highest number of billion-dollar weather and climate disasters”. These extremes feel relentless.
As we start this new year, we ask: Can we be relentless with our efforts to slow the warming and build a livable future?
It seems as good a time as any to make some new resolutions, especially when we remember that at the root of resolution is resolve. Google tells us that resolve means “firm determination to do something.” What if this year, we apply this mindset of resolve and determination to being part of climate solutions – to show up, speak up, and take action whenever and wherever we can?
Let’s Show Up – at the state legislature and beyond
Join us January 20th in Helena! Families for a Livable Climate is leading a statewide coalition to host Protect Our Home: Climate Advocacy Day Friday 1/20, 11am-3pm at the Montana Capitol Building rotunda. Montanans are ready and the time is now for a just transition to clean energy. Join this family-friendly day of climate advocacy and action, skill building, and connecting around the common cause of nurturing a resilient and healthy Montana for all. Learn more and sign up here.
And from now through the four-month legislative session, lend your voice, and show up in person or on zoom. Learn how here.
Let’s Speak Up about Climate
As far as resolutions go, this might be the easiest – we can all bring climate into our conversations with family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues. Research shows that the more we can share why we care and the ways we are taking action, the more we empower others to do so. And, talking about climate can break down barriers to policy and collective action.
Did you know that the vast majority of Americans underestimate their fellow citizens’ support for major climate policies and concerns? How much more would be possible if we made it the norm to share our own stories and speak up about solutions everyday?
Let’s Take Action - in our community and beyond
The opportunities to reduce our emissions and build a safer and more equitable future are endless and diverse. From how we travel around town, to composting wasted food, to buying less stuff and more local veggies, to moving retirement dollars into climate-friendly funds, there are ways for each of us to jump in and act.
In 2023, we at Climate Smart will be focused on homes and buildings – where we put them, what we build them with, what we put in them, and how we power them. If you’re building or retrofitting, we hope you “Mind Your E’s”! And for everyone, we hope you will help build the movement to Electrify Missoula.
Why Electrify? Simply put, it’s where there’s climate momentum and the potential to make a significant positive impact for climate and health. We’re committed to accelerating the transition off fossil gas and to all-electric appliances and heat pumps, especially for space and water heating.
Electrify Missoula is a collaborative effort of Climate Smart, Missoula County, the City of Missoula, and community members that works to ensure new and retrofitted buildings are climate-friendly and safe.
This makes sense today because 1) buildings are responsible for over half of our community’s climate pollution, and there are myriad ways to reduce this, and 2) we now have the 2022 federal Inflation Reduction Act, a transformational piece of climate policy which can help fund the work that needs to be done, and 3) electrified homes have healthier indoor air quality. (We keep learning more about how natural gas stoves pollute, possibly rivaling second-hand smoke in their dangers and resulting in more asthma, respiratory issues, even cognitive decline!)
And as our community continues to tackle the housing crisis, we’ll work with partners to build a Missoula where all, including our low-income neighbors, have access to homes that are healthy, climate-friendly, and affordable in the long term.
We’ll have more to offer and share about buildings and electrification as the year unfolds. For today, consider how you may go electric – whether you own a home or rent – and be ready to take action.
What else can you resolve to do? We can’t resist offering one last suggestion for those looking to add a little fun and adventure to 2023: How about joining us February 11 for Running Up for Air - Mt Sentinel, put on by our friends at the Runner’s Edge.
Join us to ascend Mt. Sentinel for 3, 6, or 12 hours and take a stand (and many steps!) for clean air in Missoula. Proceeds from the event benefit our clean indoor air and wildfire smoke ready initiatives, from outreach and education to providing vulnerable individuals and groups with free HEPA air purifiers. Whether it’s your first time up Sentinel or your 100th, join us for a wintertime lap (or two, four, or ten). Families, solo enthusiasts, groups of friends or colleagues - all are welcome!
There’s more on our list for 2023, from implementing the Climate Ready Missoula resiliency plan and our Summer Smart program, to seeking ways to organize, connect and support climate efforts and groups in our region, and offering creative opportunities for individuals, organizations and businesses to take action.
And there’s more we want to do together. Last fall, along with our partners in local government, we shared this perspective: Aiming to earn hope. We had recently returned from Mountain Towns 2030, a conference that brings local government, nonprofits, and utilities together to foster climate leadership and collaboration.
One theme really stuck with us: during the conference, professional photographer Peter McBride answered the question about whether he is hopeful this way: “Hope is earned.” In other words, hope comes from action. Help do the work that needs to be done, and then you’ll have earned your hope.
We aim to earn more hope every day, resolved to keep showing up and speaking up in the year ahead, alongside all of you.
Amy Cilimburg is the executive director and Abby Huseth is the deputy director at Climate Smart Missoula. Learn more and sign up for our e-newsletter at missoulaclimate.org.
Climate Smart Missoula brings this newly re-launched Climate Connections column to you the second and fourth Friday of every month, replacing the Sustainable Missoula column, which we previously curated with Home ReSource. Don’t worry, HR will be back with their own zero waste ideas, and we’ll continue to bring in a myriad climate voices.