Sustainable Missoula: Creating a space for climate stories
Montana is a big state - over 147,000 square miles and the 4th largest state in the nation, to be exact. Because of our low population across such a vast area, it is easy to feel disconnected from our neighbors across the state. Varying political views, cultural backgrounds, and identities further exacerbate these chasms.
Even shared experiences and hardships such as extreme heat, storms, pollution, flooding, drought, and wildfires have been polarized, dividing us in vulnerable times when we most need support and connection from our communities. Unfortunately, according to the Montana Climate Assessment, Montana is a hotspot for climate change, warming more rapidly than the global average.
Since 1950, Montana has warmed an average of 2-3° F, and we are projected to warm 4.5 - 6° F by mid-century (2040), and a whopping 8.5 - 10° F by century’s end (2070). This warming translates to a pattern of record-breaking heat waves, devastating floods, poor air quality, and agricultural uncertainties, among many other impacts and changes.
The climate crisis is one of the biggest threats to our state, species, and home planet, but we can solve it through collective action. Humans are resilient, and we are at our strongest when we work together.
How, then, do we build connections and strengthen our communities through such deep and wide chasms? How do we come together to solve the most pressing issues of today?
The truth is, there is no one answer. It will take a myriad of techniques and efforts to reach across the state and begin to bridge our divides. One technique that has proven effective at helping humans strengthen relationships, overcome challenges, and cooperate in groups is storytelling. We’ve written about the strength and tradition of storytelling before, sharing how it is a powerful tool to build empathy, align values, and affect change. Storytelling is a deeply human practice; we’ve evolved over thousands of years to connect with each other over stories.
We at Families for a Livable Climate recognize the power of storytelling, and we also acknowledge how important it is to speak up about climate change. We know, despite widespread misinformation and attempts to divide and silence us, that there is actually vast support for climate action - we simply have to normalize it and mobilize those who are concerned. The first step is to break climate silence, and we do this by creating space to share personal stories as well as equipping Montanans with the skills and confidence to have climate conversations across differences.
Our Montana Climate Stories project provides a space for Montanans to share and hear personal stories from their peers across the state. The project amplifies the ways climate change is touching the lives of real Montanans and the ways our neighbors are tackling the climate crisis. It is a means to paint a more complete and human picture of climate change - to help us understand the spectrum of impacts; build empathy, connection, and motivation; and open our minds to an array of solutions.
Right now, the Montana Climate Stories project lives primarily on a dedicated website and Instagram channel, but human stories are meant to be shared in person. Bringing these stories to community spaces around Montana will be a powerful tool to close the gap between our neighbors experiencing climate effects in their own backyard.
That is why we have decided to expand our Montana Climate Stories project with a traveling exhibit and in-person storytelling and discussion events throughout the state. We are working with statewide partners to bring the exhibit to six Montana communities in 2023 and hope to hold storytelling and discussion events in each community when the exhibit opens.
We are currently accepting submissions to grow our collection of stories and build the traveling exhibit. Now through January, Montana storytellers, artists, and photographers can submit their story in an original essay, narrative, poem, photo essay, photography, or artwork for a chance to be featured. Selected storytellers will receive $100 for their submission, and for this round we are prioritizing Indigenous voices. The priority deadline for submissions is January 7 and the final deadline is January 30.
We look forward to this opportunity to build connections across Montana, strengthen our communities, and inspire each other with climate solutions. We hope this project will embolden and empower Montanans to get involved in building a livable future for all.
Sarah Lundquist is the Communications Director for Families for a Livable Climate.
Sustainable Missoula: This Sustainable Missoula column is brought to you – via the Missoula Current – most weeks by Climate Smart Missoula and Home ReSource.
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 the Home ReSource eNews via their homepage here.
Now through November 8. VOTE (for climate and sustainability champs!). Check your registration at MyVoter page. Register and vote at the Missoula County elections center (corner of Wyoming and Russell). Encourage your climate-aligned friends and neighbors!
October 30 - December 4: Intergenerational Advocacy for a Livable Climate: Fall Speaker Series hosted by Montana Interfaith Power and Light. Five talks held virtually, 6:30-8 pm; all are welcome! Registration required.
- October 30 - Youth Advocating via the Judicial System for Their Rights to a Livable Climate.
- November 6 - Faith, Hope and Action: Climate Justice Advocacy
- November 13 - Developing Your Personal Story for Climate Advocacy
- November 20 - Communicating Across the Political Divide: How to Communicate with Those with Different Views
- December 4 - Networking with Environment & Climate Action Groups in Montana
November 2. Fixit Clinic at Home ReSource. 4pm-7pm in the Community Room. A Fixit Clinic is an event where community members can bring their worn, broken, or malfunctioning items for help learning to repair them. This includes items like clothes, furniture, jewelry, and appliances. Skilled volunteers (aka Fixit Coaches) help repair those items by sharing their knowledge and skills. Registration is appreciated – Sign up here. If you’re interested in volunteering as a Fixit Coach in an upcoming clinic, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nov. & Dec. Lifelong Learning Center classes. Community classes on Electric Vehicles and Solar Electricity for your home or business, taught by solar industry veteran and battery enthusiast Dan Brandborg of SBS Solar.
November 19. Families for a Livable Climate is hosting a climate storytelling workshop with Marc Moss of Tell Us Something on Saturday, Nov. 19, 10-11:30 a.m. at the Missoula Public Library. The workshop is in-person with a virtual option. More information and register here. This is tied to their fall call for submissions for climate stories.
Materials donations are always welcome at 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