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Sustainable Missoula: Going bold on climate action in the year ahead

Another year, another January with high hopes for climate action. And real fears. Can this year be different? The year that we collectively bend the curve?

It can be. It must be.

It’s hard to take your eyes off of the Australian fires where, according to one biodiversity expert, an estimated 1 billion animals have perished, or the Indonesian floods, or the puddles in front of the office here in the January melt zone.

As I paused to consider the decade past and the new one to come, knowing I am privileged to take some time for reflection and complain about puddles, I re-read how other climate professionals approach the sheer scale of this crisis.

Renowned climate scientist Kate Marvel has this to say:

“But the scale of climate change engulfs even the most fortunate. There is now no weather we haven’t touched, no wilderness immune from our encroaching pressure. The world we once knew is never coming back.

“I have no hope that these changes can be reversed. We are inevitably sending our children to live on an unfamiliar planet. But the opposite of hope is not despair. It is grief. Even while resolving to limit the damage, we can mourn. And here, the sheer scale of the problem provides a perverse comfort: we are in this together. The swiftness of the change, its scale and inevitability, binds us into one, broken hearts trapped together under a warming atmosphere.

“We need courage, not hope. Grief, after all, is the cost of being alive. We are all fated to live lives shot through with sadness, and are not worth less for it. Courage is the resolve to do well without the assurance of a happy ending. Little molecules, random in their movement, add together to a coherent whole. Little lives do not. But here we are, together on a planet radiating ever more into space where there is no darkness, only light we cannot see.”

Courage. That’s my word for the year and decade.

In this together. That’s my saving grace for the year and decade.

And with courage together, and with our many partners, we at Climate Smart Missoula have a bold agenda. Here’s what’s happening to get this year off to an action-packed start:

First, of course, along with Home ReSource, we bring you this Sustainable Missoula column every Friday — keep reading, sharing, contributing and supporting the Missoula Current!

Next up:

Climate Ready Missoula. Monday, January 13 is the release of Missoula’s first-ever climate resiliency plan for our city, community and county. Join us at the City Club for lunch and presentation. Together with Missoula County and the City, we launch our new website, linked here, and begin a three-week public outreach which will include open houses, various presentations and more.

The Big Climate Change Event. February 19th at the Wilma is a not-to-be-missed community gathering. Back in October I wrote a Sustainable Missoula column about how inspirational a presentation by Dr. Rob Davies proved to be for myself and colleagues, so we decided to bring this home.

As City Council President Bryan von Lossberg says: “Professor Davies will challenge you to distinguish between doing what is merely feasible versus what is necessary. And this leads to the harder question of our resolve. Past generations have risen to the challenge of their times – will we?” Co-sponsored by the City of Missoula, Missoula County, the University of Montana, Clearwater Credit Union, and more. Mark your calendars, join us and bring others.

Running Up for Air. February 22 is a new, unique event brought to us by our pals at Runner’s Edge and in support of Climate Smart. Created to draw attention to air quality and climate issues, we’re thrilled to partner with runners and hikers and walkers. Who doesn’t love the M, Mt. Sentinel, and going up and down and up and down for 12, 6, or 3 hours for clean air and a livable tomorrow?

DearTomorrow letters to the future, now through the end of January and with Families for a Livable Climate. When we share our stories and resolve to take action for the future and those we love, we tap into deep wells of courage: our human emotions and interconnectedness. Every voice matters – write your letter today and help inspire one another and our community to go bold in 2020 and beyond.

And there’s more – see below.

As I started my own DearTomorrow letter to the future and my daughter, I know that some of what drives me to work doggedly on climate solutions is that most likely, in a decade or two, all our daughters and sons will be asking us why we didn’t do more.

I hope to be able to say that I had the courage to ramp up my actions more each year as the crisis built. I hope to say that the world’s youth inspired me to not fail them, to stop passing the buck, to work together. I hope she respects my trying.

And as my daughter, home from college, pondering her future, asked of me, I hope to keep my sense of humor, my sense of curiosity for the natural world, to create a bit of space for laughter and fun. Turns out our kids want us to give them a future and enjoy today, together.

2020 can be a big year for climate action. Let’s do what is necessary. Let’s work together to make it happen.

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

Every Friday. Missoula Friday Climate Strike. Noon – 1pm. Join us at the Missoula County Courthouse as we stand in solidarity with climate strikers around the world. Watch this space for strikes in other locations as well! More here.

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.

Now through January. 2020 Clear the Air Challenge all month. It’s not too late to sign up!

January 12. Fixit Clinic. Coaching & tools for sewing/mending, 3-D printing, soldering & more. Registration encouraged here. Home Resource Community Room, 1515 Wyoming St. 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. Free and open to all. 

January 13. City Club Missoula: Longer Wildfire Seasons, More Floods, More Crazy Weather…How Do We Prepare for Our Changing Climate? Climate Smart Missoula, Missoula County, and City of Missoula will release Missoula’s Climate Resiliency Plan, discuss insights and launch a new community conversation. 11:30am – 1pm, DoubleTree Hotel conference room. More information and tickets HERE.

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. A joint meeting of the Five Valley’s Audubon Society and Montana Native Plant Society.

January 16. UM’s Seeking Sustainability Lecture Series kicks off. Meets Thursdays 7 – 8:30 pm Jan 16 – May 7 in Gallagher Business Building room 122. Open to the public. Learn how UM, local government, nonprofits and businesses are working together to create a more sustainable community and how you can help. See the weekly schedule here.

February 19. The Big Climate Change Event. Join us at the Wilma. 7pm. Presentation you won’t want to miss + climate commitments and what we can do. Save the date and learn more

February 22. Running Up for Air endurance event sponsored by the Runner’s Edge and in support of Climate Smart Missoula. 3, 6, or 12 hour up and down event on Mt Sentinel. Join us by signing up to participate or pledging to support runners!