Sustainable Missoula: Consider not what climate solutions are viable, but what are necessary

Caroline and Anna, together with other volunteers, worked recently to restore a section of Rattlesnake Creek’s riparian forest. (Amy Cilimburg)

Late last night, along with four colleagues from Missoula local government, I returned from the inaugural Mountain Towns 2030 Net Zero Summit Conference, a two-day event designed to inspire local leaders to move their communities to 100 percent clean energy rapidly, as the science demands.

The conference began with what we thought would be a typical climate science talk, describing the planetary impacts of global warming and the need for immediate response. We got that talk, but it wasn’t typical.

Somehow, Dr. Rob Davies, a physics professor at Utah State University, was able to bring an audience of committed climate solutions professionals to tears, helping us to more fully understand the scale of the risk and urgency to respond. Davies motivated us to aspire to do what is necessary, not what is merely viable. Because viable is not what our children deserve.

What is necessary is to keep fossil fuels in the ground. What is necessary is a rapid transition to a clean energy economy around the world. What is necessary is systemic change at all levels of society, from the local to the international.

Missoula City Council president Bryan von Lossberg and Missoula County Commissioner Juanita Vero, together with local government staff members Diana Maneta and Chase Jones, joined me in leaving the conference ready to build stronger partnerships and resolved to stop debating hope vs. despair, but rather to use what is necessary as our guiding star and plow forward, one energetic step at a time.

Our colleagues from Bozeman were there too, also motivated for action, as were representatives from NorthWestern Energy.  We’re all working together to develop a road map and act on our 2019 commitment to 100 percent clean electricity. Stay tuned. 

What is necessary is also a commitment to restoring and regenerating our natural world, as a significant part of climate solutions. As famed author and entrepreneur Paul Hawken shared with us at the conference, regenerating our soils, open spaces and forests is climate action. Significant amounts of carbon can be drawn out of our atmosphere. We know soil and trees matter, and if regeneration is done to scale, this is a critical means to solve our climate crisis. 

Such climate solutions fit here in Missoula, where opportunities to restore lands and grow trees abound. 

Just two weeks ago as part of the global Climate Strike week, Climate Smart partnered with Families for a Livable Climate and the Missoula Parks and Recreation Open Lands Program to restore a section of degraded land along Rattlesnake Creek.

Volunteers, including a group of Clark Fork School students, planted hundreds of tree seedlings, shrubs and grasses in an area near the PEAS farm. We’ll be back again this spring to expand this restoration project. 

And there are two upcoming opportunities to learn more and help. 

On October 10, Climate Smart will host our next Monthly Meet-up at Imagine Nation Brewing’s Community Room (5-6:30 p.m.) on the topic of urban and wildland forests and open lands. Join us for a conversation about the value of trees and wildlands, the climate nexus, and what we can do. 

And coming up in just over a week, our friends at Trees for Missoula and Missoula’s Urban Forestry program will be reforesting our streets and parks, planting and mulching 75 bare root trees that have been growing in the Urban Forest Gravel Bed and Bare Root Nursery since April.  

Volunteers are needed Saturday and Sunday, October 12 and 13, noon to 4 p.m. Can you help for just a couple hours? Tools are provided, bring work gloves if you have them, and wear sturdy shoes for shovel work. For more information, meeting locations and to RSVP, email Karen.Sippy@treesformissoula.org.

Trees for Missoula is a nonprofit committed to the belief that trees individually and the urban forest as a whole are a critical element of a livable urban environment. They are a great example of how dedicated community members partnering with local government can drive climate solutions. Join them and volunteer if you can. We’ll be there too. 

In the fall, our trees deepen their color. They give us pause and remind us it is a beautiful world worth saving. So plant a tree (or your fall garlic!) and find your unique path to growing a livable future. 

Amy Cilimburg is the Executive Director of Climate Smart Missoula. 

This Sustainable Missoula column is brought to you – via the Missoula Current – every Friday by Climate Smart Missoula and Home ReSource.

Upcoming Sustainability Events

Friday, October 4. First Friday. Check out Home ReSource’s “SponCon” creations at the new Merc. 5-8 p.m. Details here.

Saturday, October 5. National Public Lands Day Willow Planting at Milltown State Park. Meet at the Overlook (1353 Deer Creek Rd) to hike 2 miles to the site (shuttles available). Hikes depart at 11 a.m., noon & 1 p.m.; the event runs 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Wednesday, October 9. KettleHouse Community UNite for Climate Smart Missoula. Every Wednesday from 5-8 p.m. at the Northside KettleHouse, $1 of every beer goes to a local nonprofit. Enjoy tasty brews while supporting local climate action! 

Thursday, October 10. Climate Smart Missoula’s Monthly Meet-up. This month’s topic: Urban Forestry. All are welcome to join this informal discussion. Imagine Nation Brewing Co., 5 – 6:30 p.m. 

Saturday and Sunday, October 12-13. Plant trees, noon- 4 p.m.  See above and contact Karen Sippy for details.

Saturday, October 19. Pumpkin Run — This Run Wild Missoula 5k will benefit UM’s Revolving Energy Loan Fund which funds energy and resource conservation projects on the UM campus. Registration is $15.