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Sustainable Missoula: The year ahead, with change in the air

Amy Cilimburg, left, and Chase Jones, the City of Missoula’s outgoing energy conservation coordinator. 

2021. What will it bring? What can I bring to it?  What will we bring to it?

These were basic questions we at Climate Smart Missoula pondered over the recent holidays, which already seems like forever ago. We pondered, and we committed. Many of us made Climate Resolutions for the New Year – Rekindling our commitment to a brighter future describes that hope.

And now the tumult of these times. How to hold onto our resolve, continue to “meet this moment,” and accelerate climate action?

Here at Climate Smart we know that we can only make progress when our societal norms of truth and democracy hold. So we are trying to understand where we are as a country, state and community, how we got here, and what it means for our climate efforts. In our work, we rely daily on evidence and accountability. Which we need now more than ever.

We are both hopeful and anxious for our future and the changes to come. Likely you are too.

Can we embrace the changes of 2021? And how can and will our country’s climate priorities change? The new Biden-Harris administration is no doubt changing just about everything when it comes to addressing climate – bringing expertise, science, evidence, justice, and an “all-hands-on deck’ approach.

Re-joining the Paris Accord (day 1!) is the easy part. Daily we’re learning more about the policy and legislative priorities of the new administration, together with the now Democratic-led Congress (thank you, Georgia)—it’s COVID-relief first, followed by climate and infrastructure and all through a lens of equity. Indeed, according to the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, they plan to pass the “Environmental Justice For All Act” asap!

The way in which climate solutions are being woven into every federal department, initiative and rebuilding effort is truly heartening. And these can and should affect, influence, and even help fund, work down to local levels. That’s us. Read more about what can happen for climate with our new President and Congress here, here and here.

In Montana, eyes, ears and masks are also turned to Helena, where a topsy-turvy legislative session is underway, and priorities for climate action are not front and center. We will continue to work with partners to advocate for renewable energy, smart climate policy, and equity and against environmental rollbacks—relying on our friends from MREA and MEIC, among others.

And with our new Governor and state administration, we’ll make the argument that we can and should address these issues in ways that offer economic benefits, take advantage of Montana’s unique attributes, and set us up to be competitive for federal funding opportunities. A change at the state level means we need to build new relationships and be an even more compelling voice.

And locally, we’re accelerating climate efforts in ways that do meet this moment. Back last February at the Big Climate Change Event, Dr. Rob Davies advised that if you cannot solve the problem in its current form, make it bigger. Solve for more. That seems to fit 2021.

We think of this with our collaborative work in the Built environment, tackling low-income and affordable housing and climate/energy together. Hopefully you’ve heard about our efforts to make big change in this arena with our carbon offset Footprint Fund. Stay tuned for more as we Build For the Future, together. Positive change.

Yet still, it will not be an easy year.

 As we reckon with the turmoil in Washington DC and the ways in which it limits our ability to get our work in Missoula done, we’re reminded of a favorite podcast, How to Save a Planet. On a recent episode, “Black Lives Matter and the Climate,” co-host Dr. Ayana Johnson, a Black biologist and climate leader, shared the ways in which she has been personally immobilized, her work derailed in the wake of racial injustice.

Injustice and racism steals time and distracts in deeply painful ways from her climate efforts. In order to build the biggest team possible to address climate change, and to make sure everyone on the team is able to focus on the task at hand, we need to address racism, and we need real systemic change.

Together let’s spark the change we need via new and enduring climate and justice conversations. Let’s bring creativity, art, sculpture, and eventually (gasp) in-person gatherings and rallies to grow the movement.

And finally, there is a different kind of change for the City of Missoula. January 15 is the last day at the City of Missoula for our dear friend and colleague Chase Jones, one of the most dedicated and kindest colleagues we’ve ever worked with.

Chase is leaving his position as Missoula’s Energy Conservation Coordinator, to move on to other professional opportunities, but luckily for us, he’s not leaving this community. For over a decade, Chase has been at the helm of the City’s sustainability efforts, working day in and day out to move climate, energy, and zero waste efforts forward. All of us are indebted to Chase, and when you see him around town in the months to come, thank him for his incredible tenure!

Change is in the air.

Amy Cilimburg is the executive director at Climate Smart Missoula. This Sustainable Missoula column is brought to you – via the Missoula Current – every week by Climate Smart Missoula and Home ReSource.

Sustainability Happenings

As COVID-19 has altered community events. Here we offer ideas about sustainable ways to stay involved in our community. If you like these offerings, consider signing up for Climate Smart’s eNewsletter here. And sign up for Home ReSource’s eNews via their homepage here.

Now through April. Montana Legislature is in session. Get the awesome “How to be Involved Guide” from Montana Free Press. To follow efforts for clean energy, climate, conservation and sustainability, consider connecting with (and getting the low down and action alerts from):

Month of JANUARY. Clear the Air Challenge. Missoula in Motion’s effort to help us all breathe easier. Join. Details here.

January 18th, Martin Luther King day. Home ReSource will recognize the work that MLK started and stand with courageous people everywhere in the continuing fight for racial justice by raising money at checkout for the Montana Racial Equity Project.

January 28. Families for a Livable Climate Systems Change event: Localized Living 4 – 5:30 pm

Through April. Missoula Valley Winter Market. Located in the Southgate Mall (in former Lucky’s Market). Market hours: Saturdays, 9am-2pm through April 17.

Periodic thru February 13 (dates added periodically). Virtual Fixit Clinics. Want to try fixing from home? Present your broken item to a global team of expert community repairers and get suggestions for things to try. After all items are presented, participants move to Zoom breakout rooms to implement the suggestions and, hopefully, fix the items.

Find more local activities and events at Missoulaevents.net and on Montana Environmental Information Center’s Conservation Calendar.

And you too can help organize events – here’s the 2021 Calendar of Environmental Awareness Days – a month by month break down of world day campaigns.