Abby Huseth

Early summer in Missoula is special. The deep green hillsides; the crisp, cool mornings; the scent of lilacs lingering; the bitterroots unfurling on the North Hills and carpets of balsamroot like pure joy in plant form: I cherish these signs of the season, partly because they don’t last long.

I’ve been holding onto this early summer feeling - the momentary sense that all is right with the world - even as I know that all is not right with the world. One look at recent headlines reminds me that our planet is running a fever. Deadly 120-plus degree records in India, heat domes in Mexico and Texas, sweltering heat worsening the already dire conditions in Gaza - these are some of the acute symptoms, but the chronic symptoms are widespread too.

Over the past year, the average person has experienced an entire extra month of hotter temps because of climate change. And the complex interactions between global heating caused by the climate crisis and natural El Niño and La Niña cycles mean the rest of the summer is likely to bring even more wild and extreme weather.

Right now in beautiful western Montana, it feels a bit like the calm before the storm. Here at Climate Smart Missoula, this summer we’re taking advantage of our local calm to accelerate efforts to help our community prepare for climate extremes, as well as take action to cut the carbon pollution that’s causing these extremes in the first place. To continue the medical analogy, we know we need to treat the physical symptoms (like hotter temperatures and more wildfire smoke) as well as the underlying causes (existing inequalities and our dependence on fossil fuels).

For us, that means collaborating with partners to host our annual Wildfire Smoke Ready Week (July 8-13), sharing resources to help everyone and especially those most vulnerable stay healthy when smoke arrives in our valley. To volunteer or learn more, contact Amy.

It means working with local government partners to release Missoula’s first ever Heat Action Plan and equip social service agencies, health providers, and the public with locally-oriented strategies to deal with extreme heat.

And it also means knocking on doors and learning from folks in neighborhoods that currently have fewer trees, so that regular community members are empowered to be stewards of a healthy urban forest and share more equitably in all its climate and health benefits. To help or learn more, reach out to Susan and Trees for Missoula.

As far as addressing the root causes of climate chaos, summer is also a great time for planning and action. Sitting here at my desk, I’m typing on a computer entirely powered by the sun thanks to the solar panels on our roof, and our new super-quiet heat pump (also solar-powered!) is keeping our small office pleasantly cool.

As summers get hotter and smokier, it’s clear we’ll need more options for Missoulians to find cool, clean indoor air, without making climate pollution worse. Through our collaborative Electrify Missoula campaign, we’re helping residents and businesses make a plan to get off fossil fuels and improve indoor air quality and comfort by electrifying their appliances. We’re also excited to begin planning, with Missoula County, the creation of a new “one stop shop” for electrification resources so that more of our community can make this transition.

And yes, we’ll need more (eventually all!) of that electricity to be powered by renewable sources. Now’s a great time to call a local solar installer and explore that option for your home or business. We’re also grateful to our City and County for their persistence with the Green Power Program, which will bring Missoula another step closer to our goal of 100% clean electricity by 2030. And here at Climate Smart Missoula we’re continuing to expand our Footprint Fund which supports energy efficiency and clean energy projects for our low-income neighbors, and which you can support today!

These are just some of the local climate solutions that can help our community weather the weather and become healthier over the long term. We hope you’ll join us and put climate action on your list this summer. Connect with us by stopping by our open house on June 20th, signing up for our e-newsletter, or attending upcoming events (including a Missoula watch party for the Montana Supreme Court hearing of the landmark Held v Montana youth climate case on July 10th!).

As we keep climate action on our agenda this summer, let’s not forget one more critical aspect of long-term wellbeing: mental and emotional health. Reading those headlines and considering the scale of the climate crisis and global challenges can feel overwhelming. Finding ways to take action right here in our own backyard can help!

Personally, I’m also planning to spend every moment I can enjoying the beauty of this special place I get to call home. And I’m resolving to hold onto that feeling of gratitude for all that is right with the world: it’s the best inspiration I’ve found to keep fighting for a livable future and healthy community.

Abby Huseth is the Deputy Director at Climate Smart Missoula. Climate Smart Missoula brings this Climate Connections column to you two Fridays of every month. Learn more about our work, support our efforts, and sign up for our e-newsletter at