Sustainable Missoula: We must channel climate activism into daily action for change

Winona Bateman with her family at the Families Strike for Our Future rally in Missoula as part of the Global Climate Strike on September 20, 2019. (Sara Diggins)

Last week, one particular headline seemed to rise above the noise of the 24-hour news cycle: “11,000 Scientists Declare a Climate Emergency.” And indeed, this week’s headlines are further evidence of that emergency: Massively destructive wildfires in Australia. Record flooding and damage in Venice. 

Though the emergency is real, the movement for action is also growing. In September, over 7.6 million people around the globe took to the streets to demand action on climate, including several thousand in Missoula who came out during a day of rallies and demonstrations across the city. 

To make the deep systemic change needed to address the climate crisis, we need a movement that channels the energy of these big gatherings into day-to-day action.

Many Missoulians make choices every day in their own lives to fight climate change. Our individual choices do matter. But given the urgency and scale of the climate crisis, what’s even more important is using our collective power toward system-wide changes: writing letters or articles, attending governance meetings, showing up to discuss it with our elected representatives, protesting, and engaging friends and family in compassionate conversation on the issue.

So beyond what we can do on our own to push for system change, where can you find “the movement?” Where is it and how can you get involved?

I found myself asking this question nearly a year ago. As a busy parent of a small child, I knew I wasn’t alone in seeking ways to plug in and focus my care and concern for my daughter’s future. In January, I founded Families for a Livable Climate, a volunteer community group that works to empower families to advocate for their future in the age of climate change.

Since then, we have reached hundreds of families, creating connections, building community and raising awareness about the climate crisis. Through our efforts, we’re working to build a statewide network of families that can coordinate on concrete actions to affect change, as well as build a sense of community and connectedness.

We partner with many local organizations, and there are many ways to be involved. Through our free Community Climate Conversations program in partnership with Climate Smart Missoula, we offer a short climate presentation coupled with a storytelling workshop to any individual, group, business or organization willing to host it, across the state.

This event outlines the basic science of climate change and its impacts on Montana, and helps participants explore their personal climate story and how the climate crisis affects their lives already, empowering them to use their story for connecting in community and taking action. We are currently looking forward to 2020 and would love to bring this workshop to your community or group. 

In Missoula, and other Montana communities, in solidarity with the “Fridays for Future” youth climate strike movement, we are hosting “Fridays for Action” working groups to support community members who would like to have a consistent working commitment to climate. During these gatherings, we work on specific actions, plan events or listen to guest speakers to become more informed on climate issues in Montana. Of course, not everyone can make Fridays work, so the signup is open to anyone who wants to volunteer on projects or even lead a working group on another day. 

We also work with other groups such as 350Montana to help keep families informed on important issues and actions that are needed, providing family perspectives. And by the way, in the next few days, two important actions are needed from all Montanans (Here’s a chance to jump into the movement!): Submitting comments on the Keystone XL issue in Montana (by November 18), and submitting comments regarding NorthWestern Energy’s Resource Procurement Plan to the Montana Public Service Commission (deadline just extended to January 3). 

And if you’re seeking a meaningful way to sidestep some of the holiday consumerism frenzy, consider taking part in our upcoming Dear Tomorrow project, in partnership with Climate Smart Missoula. Dear Tomorrow is a global storytelling effort all about sharing personal messages about climate change to inspire commitments to action.

On Black Friday, November 29, from 9-11 a.m., come to Goodworks Ventures (129 W. Alder St in downtown Missoula), enjoy some cookies and cider, and make a commitment to the future by writing a letter or postcard to yourself, your family, or your community. You can also submit your letter online, or look for Dear Tomorrow displays downtown on November 30 – National Climate Action Day and Small Business Saturday – stay tuned for final locations.

As the end of 2019 approaches, join us or join another group, or consider how you could lead on climate in your field of work, place of worship or in another important area of your life. We need everyone and we are all in it together.

Winona Bateman spearheads Families for a Livable Climate. Follow Families for a Livable Climate via their website, newsletter, or on Facebook.

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

Upcoming Sustainability Events

Tuesday, November 19. Zero Waste Workshop. Replace plastic with homemade reusable beeswax wrap with MUD. Home Resource Community Room, 1515 Wyoming St. 6 – 8pm. More info and tickets here.

Friday, November 29. Dear Tomorrow project launch and letter-writing party. 9-11am at Goodworks Ventures, 129 W. Alder St. 

Wednesday, December 4. Workshop on Wildlife Friendly Gardens and Bird Feeders with MUD. Home Resource Community Room, 1515 Wyoming St. 6 – 8pm. More info and tickets here.

Friday, December 6. Clark Fork Coalition Holiday Party. All are welcome to join for free food, fun, and friends. Clark Fork Coalition Offices, 140 S 4th W St. 5 – 9pm. 

Friday, December 6. Five Valleys Land Trust Holiday Party. All are welcome. 120 Hickory St, 5pm. 

Friday, December 6. Sunrise Movement Climate Strike. Details to follow.

Thursday, December 12. Climate Smart Missoula’s Year End Celebration and Smarty Pants Awards. All are welcome to this annual celebration of local climate action! Details here.