Sustainable Missoula: Smarty Pants Awards honor Missoulians committed to climate action

2019 Smart Pants Award winners and Climate Smart Missoula staff (left to right): Caroline, Bob, Winona, Amy, Nick, Jeff, Abby (P. Bean photo)

On Thursday evening, we at Climate Smart Missoula hosted our Year 4 Celebration, bringing together a wonderful collection of Missoulians to reflect on 2019 climate successes, build momentum for 2020, and share a bit of holiday cheer.

The highlight of this annual event, and the real reason we gather, is to celebrate our community’s collective climate efforts and honor those who go above and beyond. This year we presented five “Smarty Pants” Awards. Read on and join us in celebrating Bob, Winona, Donna, Nick, and Jeff: 

Bob Giordano, Master’s in the Fine Art of Community (& Bicycle) Building Award

“The bicycle is indeed the great leveler. It puts the poor person on a level with the rich, enabling them to ‘sing the song of the open road’ as freely as the millionaire.” That was reported in 1894 in New York’s Century Magazine, but it’s a sentiment that rings true in Missoula today, much to the credit of Bob Giordano’s 25 years of hard work. 

Bob is the Executive Director and Founder of the Missoula Institute for Sustainable Transportation and Free Cycles, both of which are dedicated to increasing access to and usage of walking, bicycling, and public transit. Through policy, programming, and outreach, their work improves the health and wellbeing of our community and environment by promoting sustainable transportation, as well as by extending the life of materials through the build-a-bike program. 

Since 1996, over 200,000 people have visited the shop at Free Cycles, and at least 20,000 free bicycles have been earned and built. Bob has ensured that Free Cycles serves as an important community gathering space, hosting a wide range of events – from concerts to comedy nights, many of which are climate oriented.

Bob’s impact has extended beyond the shop; he was a critical force in the 5th and 6th street road conversion projects, where we can all now enjoy a substantial bike lane. Most importantly, Bob has been a kind, generous, creative, and committed force for climate action who is in it for the long haul. He’s a Master!

Winona Bateman, Rising Star Award

Last year, we had the privilege of giving one of our “Smarty Pants” awards to our friend Tom Platt, who left an indelible mark on this community before he passed away far too soon. An instigator and key force behind our 100% Clean Electricity Options Report, Tom exemplified the spirit of what’s needed in this moment as we all come together to address the climate emergency: he was “all in.” 

This year, we are excited to honor Winona Bateman, who, like Tom, is ALL IN for climate action. A year ago, Winona had a moment of reckoning about the climate crisis and since then has dived in wholeheartedly to become a full-time advocate.

Drawing on over a decade of professional experience in the communications world, and channeling her deep concern for her daughter’s future, she founded a group called Families for a Livable Climate, which focuses on bringing families of all kinds into the climate movement and helping them find their place and their voice. 

In just one short year, Winona has forged connections with groups and people across the state, with her signature wholehearted, “all-in” enthusiasm and passion. We’ve had the pleasure to work with Winona and Families for a Livable Climate on a number of efforts, including our Dear Tomorrow project, and seen firsthand her gift for drawing people in to the movement and helping them become advocates for a livable future.

Every time someone like Winona decides to go all in—responding to the climate crisis with the urgency it requires—it empowers others to step up and do the same. With all she’s done in just a year, we’re excited to see where she goes in 2020 and beyond, and how many others she inspires. Rise star rise!

Donna Gaukler – Doctorate of Dedication Award

Most of us don’t really understand and appreciate the dedication of our City staff, but appreciate them we should. As Director of Missoula’s Parks and Recreation Dept. since 2002, Donna Gaukler is one of our City’s gems, making a real difference in the lives of all Missoulians. She works tirelessly to lead the City in providing places and programs accessible to everyone and notes that “It is in parks where we meet our neighbors, learn about each other, our community, and become stewards of our environment.”  

It’s Donna’s decades of dedication to building a livable future and not shying away from the challenges climate change offers that we give her this Doctorate. Through her leadership in the development and adoption of land use and management plans, to guiding improvements in neighborhood parks, regional parklands, and conservation lands, to serving on our “Climate Ready Missoula” Steering Committee, we all benefit, and will for years to come.

We’re particularly grateful for the spot-on advice Donna gives as part of this Steering Committee, as we collaborate on a first-ever Climate Resiliency Plan for Missoula County. She also loves our urban forest as much as we do and supports our “Shade Shelter” building efforts. With such dedication, Donna deserves this Doctorate, and our deep gratitude. 

Nick Silverman – Doctorate of Dedication Award

Although Nick Silverman already has both a Master’s and a Ph.D, given all the “climate smarts” he’s provided our community and state over the last few years, he richly deserves another Doctorate.  (And it’s a testament to our community that we’re giving two Doctorates this year!)

Nick is a hydro-climatologist by profession, applying state-of-the-art climate models to inform decision-making, working to improve resources for farmers, ranchers, recreationalists and government. He’s an author of the 2017 Montana Climate Assessment and has made a career of effectively sharing climate science in engaging ways. Whenever we need a climate science explainer, whether it’s for workshops on wildfire smoke or presentations on climate projections, Nick is there. He’s said to us many times, “If I’m in town, of course I’ll do it—I’m always happy to help.”

Nick is also a key member of our Climate Resiliency Planning Steering Committee, serving as Technical Advisor and diving in deep to help us understand everything from Missoula’s aquifer to human climate migration. And his efforts stretch beyond Missoula—he’s volunteering to provide expertise to Montana’s new Health and Climate Assessment and is on the Board of a new group: Missoula Health Professionals for a Healthy Climate

Simply put, Nick is incredibly generous with his time and completely enjoyable to work with, deserving this Doctorate #2. 

And last but not least…

Jeff Smith — Catalyst for Change Award

To tackle the climate crisis, we need all kinds of change-makers. We’re excited to give this Catalyst for Change award to Jeff Smith, a longtime community conservationist who, as the co-leader of 350 Montana, has been laser-focused on keeping fossil fuels in the ground. 

Jeff is indefatigable in his efforts to push NorthWestern Energy and the Public Service Commission (PSC) to make decisions that move us toward a decarbonized world. And as we can see from recent news, it’s paying off—the PSC just voted to preserve net metering, something that likely would not have happened without advocates raising their voices, and Jeff helping them to do just that. Change has been catalyzed. 

We began working with Jeff and his team at 350 to pass Missoula’s 100% clean electricity resolution, and Jeff was invaluable in bringing focus to this effort. Climate Smart and 350 played different roles in this effort, demonstrating how trust is built and how we’re stronger together.  

Jeff has a day job with Wilderness Watch, but is always working on our needed transition to renewable energy. He’s impressively principled, believing in strong, visible activism that is always strategic and respectful. We’re honored to honor him.

All five of these individuals are smart, strategic, indefatigable and in it for the long-haul. We are so grateful to them and to all who are helping build a livable future. We also honor our community partners who donated to the evening festivities, including Goodworks Ventures for hosting, and our friends at KettleHouse Brewing, Western Cider, Bridge Pizza, the Good Food Store, Le Petit, Hellgate Cyclery, Home ReSource, Shakespeare and Company, The Runner’s Edge, Upcycle, Missoula In Motion, and Missoula Grain and Vegetable who provided us with the biggest bag of Carrots for the Climate Cause ever!

Thank You Everyone! Onward to 2020….

Amy, Abby and Caroline make up the staff 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

Now through January. Dear Tomorrow Missoula letter writing project, sponsored by Climate Smart Missoula and Families for a Livable Climate. Dear Tomorrow is a global storytelling project focused on sharing personal messages about climate change to inspire action. Details here.

December 13. Sierra Club Holiday Party. All are welcome. 5:30-10pm, Goodworks Ventures, 129 W. Alder St.

December 17. Public Comment session regarding NorthWestern Energy’s 20 year Resource Plan (full plan here). 4pm, Missoula Public Library large meeting room. Comments can also be submitted by January 3 by emailing psc_utilitycomments@mt.gov with the subject line “Docket No. 2019.08.052.”

December 18. Reuse & Upcycling of Ornament Workshop — workshop offered with MUD. Home Resource Community Room, 1515 Wyoming St. 6 – 8pm. Info & Tickets here.

January 13. City Club Missoula forum: Making Missoula County Climate Ready. Climate Smart Missoula, Missoula County, and City of Missoula will release Missoula’s climate resiliency plan and discuss insights. 11:30am, DoubleTree Hotel conference room. 

January 13. Climate Change and how it affects our native plants and animals. Free talk by Kelsey Jencso, MT state climatologist & lead author of Montana’s Climate Assessment. 7 pm, UM’s Gallagher Business Building room 123.

January 16. UM’s Seeking Sustainability Lecture Series kicks off. Meets Thursdays from 7 to 8:30 pm Jan 16 through May 7 in Gallagher Business Building room 122. Open to the public. Learn how UM and Missoula city/county government, nonprofits and businesses are working together to create a more sustainable society and how you can help. For schedule and/or syllabus, email vicki.watson@umontana.edu.

February 19. The Big Climate Change Event. Join us at the Wilma. 7pm. Save the date and stay tuned.