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Sustainable Missoula: Climate action and the paradox and hope of Earth Day

par·a·dox:
/ˈperəˌdäks/ noun a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition that when investigated or explained may prove to be well founded or true.

And here we are. The earth completes its annual rotation around the sun, bringing another Earth Day, and we confront again the paradox of celebrating the earth on this one day, when she provides for us every moment of every day. We owe her everything.

Although a worn-out phrase, “Every day is Earth Day” rings true.

The climate crisis has us confronting many paradoxes: How do we go slow and build the necessary trusting relationships when we need to accelerate to meet the urgency of the moment? Can we really encourage people to slow down and celebrate this stunning world when our pace of action is orders of magnitude off? How do we reconcile the need for small everyday healing actions when the world is literally burning?

Indeed, this Earth Day morning headlines: A red flag warning has been issued in six states and there are uncontained large fires…  Evacuations, homes burning, firefighters on the front lines….

We are all on the front lines, and here’s what we know: these paradoxes are real, and we all need to be climate activists. We don’t need to all be climate heroes (though we’re grateful for heroes!), we each just need to be brave enough to jump in with actions that strengthen the collective response.

It’s not about any one individual action, it’s about pulling together so momentum builds. As the ever-inspiring Ugandan activist Vanessa Nakate offers: “Every activist has a story to tell. Every story has a solution to offer. Every solution has a life to change.”

We see the bravery we need across the world, in the Ukrainians who are fighting the horrifying injustice of Putin’s war, a war funded, and power amassed, by fossil fuels.

We see the bravery we need in the climate scientists who implore us to heed their findings. Indeed, in this latest IPCC Report, the one that is about the solutions—how to fix the problem—the overall message is: it’s still possible to meet the target of keeping global warming below 1.5° Celsius, but the window is getting extremely small and it would require immediate, coordinated global action.

We see the bravery in those who are tireless in their efforts to bring people together. Indeed, last night at the University of Montana, the Baucus Institute hosted a conversation with the U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry, and Kerry reminded us that no one has the luxury of saying that someone else will fight for our democracy and for our climate—we need everybody. In the trenches every day himself, Kerry offered that we will get to a zero carbon economy, but to avoid the worst consequences and suffering, we do need to take action today, together.

And we see the bravery we need, close to home. Music professor James Smart may not think of himself as a courageous climate activist, but he is stepping up to offer his talents this Earth Day with Project Earth (premiers live April 22, details below). In last week’s Sustainable Missoula column, Smart shares how by channeling his unique talents, he is bringing people together, fusing music, science, ethics and action. Faculty, students and community members alike. Collective action, just what we need.

We hope that on this Earth Day weekend, and beyond, you can join us in the sometimes overwhelming and difficult but truly necessary efforts to build a livable future. As author, researcher and creator of Gen Dread Britt Wray wrote for this Earth Day:             

[W]e talk a lot about the painful emotions that come with being awake to the environmental crisis. But the truth is that these emotions wouldn’t be so potent – or motivating – if they weren’t undergirded by fierce love for this planet, all its magnificent creatures, and our nearest and dearest humans. Grief and love are two sides of the same coin, anxiety marks our concern for things we care about, and rage is a mama bear’s roar that bellows when the line between right and wrong has been crossed. All of these feelings, and many more, stem from a celebration of the Earth and the wacky 3.5-4 billion years over which life on this planet has evolved.

We know these times are dysfunctional. They’re also arresting, ingenious, and awe-inspiring. We’re moving through them together, and can help each other as we do. How absurdly beautiful is that? Happy Earth Day. This day, and every day, is about so much more than we typically give it credit for.

Let’s do this together, in our own unique, brave, and beautiful way.

Amy Cilimburg is the executive director and Abby Huseth is the outreach director at Climate Smart Missoula.

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

Sustainability Happenings – lots going on for Earth Month!

Here we offer ideas about sustainable ways to stay involved in our community. For more, consider signing up for Climate Smart’s eNewsletter via their homepage and for the Home ReSource eNews via their homepage.

April 21 – 24Clark Fork Coalition’s annual River Cleanup – this year is a four-day, DIY cleanup covering over 30 miles of river. Choose the place, day, and time that works best for you.

April 22. 7:30pmProject Earth, a multimedia fusion of art, science and community engagement around the climate crisis, featuring UM Music ensembles, TED-style presentations and inspiration for action. At the Dennison Theater on the UM campus. Tickets are “pay as you can”. Join us for this unique event!

April 22 – 23. The 53rd Kyiyo Pow Wow. At the University of Montana Adam’s Center.

April 23. 10am. Run for the Trees. Celebrate Missoula’s urban forests with Run Wild Missoula and Missoula Parks & Recreation at the 30th annual Run for the Trees! 10k, 5k or FREE 1-Mile, un-timed, Family Fun Run. Details and registration are here. Various volunteer opportunities are also available

April 23. 12-4pm – MUD’s Earth Day Celebration, at the MUD/HomeResource site. The festival will feature an environmental expo, activities and workshops for children and adults, and educational programs, as well as food, drinks, and local music. 

April 23. 11am-2pm –  WildWalk & Wildfest, in connection with the International Wildlife Film Festival.

April 23 – May 7International Wildlife Film Festival in Missoula – both online and in-person! 

April 24, 28, 30 – Mt Jumbo trail work days with Missoula Parks and Recreation. Signup to help build new and improved trails in the saddle area of Mt Jumbo, one of Missoula’s most-loved and used trail areas. Details via Volunteer Missoula.

April 27th,  6-8pm. Organic Lawn Care 101. Missoula Parks & Recreation offers a virtual training with Beyond Pesticides director, Jay Feldman, and organic practices expert, Chip Osborne. Learn why & how organic lawn care matters! Pre-register here 

April 28. 6:30pm – The Right to a Clean and Healthful Environment: a panel discussion with Held v. Montana youth plaintiffs, the first youth climate case to go to trial in the US. Hosted by Montana Interfaith Power and Light and Families for a Livable Climate. Via Zoom – register here.

May 1-14. Missoula in Motion’s annual Commuter Challenge – register your workplace team and compete by logging sustainable commute trips to win team and individual prizes. 

Missoula County Public Schools is embarking on a journey toward Zero Waste and would appreciate your support! Sign up here to volunteer as a zero waste cafeteria coach.

Don’t forget – Materials donations to Home Resource keep the wheels of reuse spinning in our community; and remember that everything you need to know about what to do with your unwanted stuff is at www.zerobyfiftymissoula.com.