We’re SO excited to finally be walking the walk when it comes to electrification and clean energy! In the past few weeks, we’ve added solar panels and a new mini-split system (both of which were generously donated as part of a home upgrade) at our office, AKA the Little House.
We’ve now got solar humming on our roof and a quiet, super efficient heat pump keeping us cool on hot afternoons. Check out this fun video of the moment we switched on our solar and started putting clean electricity back on the grid.
Big SHOUT OUTS to Orion Thornton with Onsite Energy, Kevin Depuy, Dwight Thomas, Rick Craig, and the folks at Pete’s Electric and Anderson’s Plumbing & Heating for getting us wired up and connected! A ton of donated community time went into this, and we’re so grateful.
The other day, I logged on to social media and saw a BBC headline that, just a few months ago, I probably would have scrolled right past. This time, I stopped and clicked.
“Cyclone Gabrielle: Three dead after New Zealand declares state of emergency.”
My heart sank. Just a couple months ago, my family and I were nearing the end of a two month sabbatical in New Zealand. After we returned, we saw the news about the terrible rains and flooding in the Auckland region in January, and now here was Cyclone Gabrielle: more destruction right on the heels of the previous storms. This felt personal; we’d just spent three days in the hard-hit Hawke’s Bay area staying with local friends, and I recognized place names that were now literally under water. Wairoa. Tarawhiti. Te Puia. Esk Valley.
This string of climate-supercharged storms that has severely damaged New Zealand has kept the small island nation - and the lessons I learned from my two months there last fall - at the top of my mind.
Our trip to New Zealand was something we’d dreamed about for years. I was eager to learn from the country itself. I’d heard so much about New Zealand’s “green” credentials, and it didn’t seem to be just a marketing ploy: days before we arrived there, the government had proposed a bold, world-first policy to reduce carbon emissions from their agricultural sector, the country’s biggest source of climate pollution and largest source of export income. I wanted to be in a country that was stepping up to the plate on climate issues, and this place seemed legit.
I also hoped the trip would give me some perspective personally. After two and a half years of juggling pandemic life and work with two small children, I was burnt out. I kept asking myself: Am I where I’m supposed to be? Does my work matter? How can I be a parent and spouse and colleague and daughter and friend and do it all well? I hoped my sabbatical time would give me clarity.
That’s not exactly what I got - at least not in the way I expected.
On the climate front, I did learn that New Zealand really is, relative to us, ahead of the curve. Climate change is much less polarized there: refreshingly, the major political parties on both left and right agree it’s real, human-caused and urgent, even if they disagree on how to address it. They have ambitious conservation and ecological restoration goals and are actually making progress. The country is powered by over 80% renewable energy, and it’s a national point of pride to wear sweaters indoors to save energy. The country is also miles ahead of the U.S. in efforts to address its legacy of colonialism and redress harms done to its indigenous Maori people. After dissolving a former national park and restoring sovereignty over the region to the local iwi, or tribe, Te Urewera became the first natural resource in the world to be granted legal personhood status. Stunning.
But New Zealand is not a utopia. It’s a real place, with real problems. The cities are car-centric, built on floodplains, and full of aging infrastructure. Much of their rural population feels left out and left behind by urban policymakers. Racism and income inequality exist. And clearly they’re not immune to the ravages of climate disasters.
As for my personal hopes? New Zealand didn’t give me any firm answers there either. For the first few weeks, I felt unsettled. Instead of sabbatical giving me answers to my life questions, it seemed to train a giant spotlight on them.
Yet, as the weeks passed, I did get a lot more comfortable with my questions. And I started to realize that asking the right questions might be more important than having all the answers. Perhaps I shouldn’t be asking if I’m doing it all right?
Back home in Missoula, I’ve been thinking about how this lesson can inform our work on local climate solutions. Here are some of the important questions we at Climate Smart are asking:
How can we focus less on expectations, and more on opportunities?
Or put another way - how can we make sure that our plans have room for ambitious flexibility? Our recent Community Clean Energy Workforce Prize is a great example. Our collaborative Building(s) for the Future initiative strives for low-carbon homes and buildings, yet with myriad paths to get there, how to make progress on this effort has felt murky. Now we have more clarity - let’s say yes to electrification and no to methane gas. We know that a barrier to electrification is a robust and diverse workforce, and opportunities might come our way from new federal funding. Missoula County’s climate action program manager Caroline Bean had a wild idea that a small team of us should jump into a new workforce development effort focused on underserved women. We all took a chance, said yes to this new path, and it’s paying off.
How can we both act with urgency and be in this for the long haul?
The climate crisis is impacting us now, and every bit of emissions we avoid today matters. But we also need to change the systems that got us here in the first place. That means, for example, encouraging those who are able to electrify their homes and businesses, go solar or switch to an EV today, but also investing in long-term relationships with partners and working for a Missoula where abundant, affordable, and climate-friendly housing is the default and available to all.
What if we get it right?
This might be the hardest and most necessary question of all. One of our climate heroes, Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, asked it on a recent podcast and I can’t stop thinking about the power of this question. It can feel almost naive in the face of today’s climate realities. But if we can’t envision a livable future for our community, how can we get there? What will Missoula be like in 30 years if we make the right choices today?
Since I first read about Cyclone Gabrielle’s damage in New Zealand, I’ve been following the social media posts of our friend Jill McDonald. She’s a minister at a church in Hastings, the biggest city in Hawkes Bay. She and her family are okay, but they know many people in their community whose homes had been damaged or destroyed. Jill immediately jumped into action, opening her church for people to shelter in and charge their phones; connecting people who needed a place to stay with hosts who had spare rooms; creating a website to facilitate lending of backup generators for power. In a gesture of quintessential Kiwi hospitality, she’s even baking scones for people who stop by.
We don’t know exactly what the future holds here in Missoula, and I can imagine it will always come with its share of challenges. (Learning how to bake scones seems like a good idea, just in case.) But if we can stay curious and keep asking questions of ourselves and with each other, we can open doors and bring people in, navigating together towards the north star of an equitable, climate-safe community for all.
As the calendar turns over to a new year, many of us reflect on the past year and set goals for the year ahead. New Year's resolutions often get a bad rap, and it’s true – it’s easy to set ourselves up for failure if we expect change to magically happen with the flip of a calendar page. What needs to shift in 2023?
Looking at evidence of the climate crisis all around us, it’s clear that we can’t continue with the status quo. From the relentless deluges and flooding in California right now to the unusually warm temperatures in much of the U.S.; from new reports of glaciers disappearing to headlines like: “The past eight years were the eight warmest on record” and “2022 tied for highest number of billion-dollar weather and climate disasters”. These extremes feel relentless.
As we start this new year, we ask: Can we be relentless with our efforts to slow the warming and build a livable future?
It seems as good a time as any to make some new resolutions, especially when we remember that at the root of resolution is resolve. Google tells us that resolve means “firm determination to do something.” What if this year, we apply this mindset of resolve and determination to being part of climate solutions – to show up, speak up, and take action whenever and wherever we can?
Let’s Show Up – at the state legislature and beyond
Join us January 20th in Helena! Families for a Livable Climate is leading a statewide coalition to host Protect Our Home: Climate Advocacy Day Friday 1/20, 11am-3pm at the Montana Capitol Building rotunda. Montanans are ready and the time is now for a just transition to clean energy. Join this family-friendly day of climate advocacy and action, skill building, and connecting around the common cause of nurturing a resilient and healthy Montana for all. Learn more and sign up here.
And from now through the four-month legislative session, lend your voice, and show up in person or on zoom. Learn how here.
Let’s Speak Up about Climate
As far as resolutions go, this might be the easiest – we can all bring climate into our conversations with family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues. Research shows that the more we can share why we care and the ways we are taking action, the more we empower others to do so. And, talking about climate can break down barriers to policy and collective action.
Did you know that the vast majority of Americans underestimate their fellow citizens’ support for major climate policies and concerns? How much more would be possible if we made it the norm to share our own stories and speak up about solutions everyday?
Let’s Take Action - in our community and beyond
The opportunities to reduce our emissions and build a safer and more equitable future are endless and diverse. From how we travel around town, to composting wasted food, to buying less stuff and more local veggies, to moving retirement dollars into climate-friendly funds, there are ways for each of us to jump in and act.
In 2023, we at Climate Smart will be focused on homes and buildings – where we put them, what we build them with, what we put in them, and how we power them. If you’re building or retrofitting, we hope you “Mind Your E’s”! And for everyone, we hope you will help build the movement to Electrify Missoula.
Why Electrify? Simply put, it’s where there’s climate momentum and the potential to make a significant positive impact for climate and health. We’re committed to accelerating the transition off fossil gas and to all-electric appliances and heat pumps, especially for space and water heating.
Electrify Missoula is a collaborative effort of Climate Smart, Missoula County, the City of Missoula, and community members that works to ensure new and retrofitted buildings are climate-friendly and safe.
This makes sense today because 1) buildings are responsible for over half of our community’s climate pollution, and there are myriad ways to reduce this, and 2) we now have the 2022 federal Inflation Reduction Act, a transformational piece of climate policy which can help fund the work that needs to be done, and 3) electrified homes have healthier indoor air quality. (We keep learning more about how natural gas stoves pollute, possibly rivaling second-hand smoke in their dangers and resulting in more asthma, respiratory issues, even cognitive decline!)
And as our community continues to tackle the housing crisis, we’ll work with partners to build a Missoula where all, including our low-income neighbors, have access to homes that are healthy, climate-friendly, and affordable in the long term.
We’ll have more to offer and share about buildings and electrification as the year unfolds. For today, consider how you may go electric – whether you own a home or rent – and be ready to take action.
What else can you resolve to do? We can’t resist offering one last suggestion for those looking to add a little fun and adventure to 2023: How about joining us February 11 for Running Up for Air - Mt Sentinel, put on by our friends at the Runner’s Edge.
Join us to ascend Mt. Sentinel for 3, 6, or 12 hours and take a stand (and many steps!) for clean air in Missoula. Proceeds from the event benefit our clean indoor air and wildfire smoke ready initiatives, from outreach and education to providing vulnerable individuals and groups with free HEPA air purifiers. Whether it’s your first time up Sentinel or your 100th, join us for a wintertime lap (or two, four, or ten). Families, solo enthusiasts, groups of friends or colleagues - all are welcome!
There’s more on our list for 2023, from implementing the Climate Ready Missoula resiliency plan and our Summer Smart program, to seeking ways to organize, connect and support climate efforts and groups in our region, and offering creative opportunities for individuals, organizations and businesses to take action.
And there’s more we want to do together. Last fall, along with our partners in local government, we shared this perspective: Aiming to earn hope. We had recently returned from Mountain Towns 2030, a conference that brings local government, nonprofits, and utilities together to foster climate leadership and collaboration.
One theme really stuck with us: during the conference, professional photographer Peter McBride answered the question about whether he is hopeful this way: “Hope is earned.” In other words, hope comes from action. Help do the work that needs to be done, and then you’ll have earned your hope.
We aim to earn more hope every day, resolved to keep showing up and speaking up in the year ahead, alongside all of you.
-Amy & Abby
This week has been quite the emotional roller coaster. The passing of our visionary, kind, and tenacious Mayor, and the most significant climate legislation in US history becoming law with the signing of the Inflation Reduction Act. Lows and highs. Both more impactful than I can get my head around.
First, John Engen. In the past few days, so much has been written, spoken, and shared about John and his legacy, how much he gave and how much he will be missed, his humor and his heart. His legacy is evident in many different arenas, from building a vibrant downtown, to owning our water system, to bringing zero-fare to Mountain Line, to believing safe, affordable housing is deserved by all.
John’s legacy also includes over a decade of helping Missoula take climate seriously and make bold commitments to act, commitments that we work to accelerate today. It was not as common or popular back in 2011 to dedicate city staff to research our greenhouse gas emissions and create plans to address them. John was the first mayor in Montana to join the national Mayor’s Climate Network and convene a task force to determine what the city can and should do, even asking his task force to “go bold” and set an ambitious goal of carbon neutrality for municipal operations by 2025.
In the years after crafting that first plan, I spent many hours in John’s mayoral office, discussing what was missing in Missoula in the climate sphere, and he helped me imagine what would become our organization, Climate Smart Missoula. He offered to convene the right community partners and ask for their commitments. It’s not that John made climate actions happen himself, but rather he made sure those who could were connected, had agency, set ambitious goals, and kept at it.
I’ll admit that recently, as the climate crisis has intensified, I’ve wanted our mayor to focus more attention on it. (And the City. And everyone.) The pressures on our city are many, and no doubt it’s difficult to meet this moment. So, we’ll keep making noise about it and advocating for solutions that address climate and the other challenges we face at the same time. I am known as someone who tries to (strategically) push for more, act on my values, and build partnerships, and as I reflect, I know I learned this from Missoula’s longest-serving Mayor.
And there is a connection to this week’s signing into law the biggest climate legislation ever passed by Congress. It’s not perfect, and it’s not the end of story, but it took persistence and a “never give up” attitude from countless activists, leaders and policy experts to get this first step passed, setting us on a new course aimed at addressing our climate emergency.
John Engen’s earlier efforts, together with our collective commitments and partners, including the City and the County, have positioned Missoula to avail ourselves of funding included in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). John helped lay the groundwork, strengthened relationships, and showed us how to be nimble and keep our eye on the prize – a vibrant and resilient community that works for everyone. We’re increasingly well-prepared to accelerate our work with support from this new legislation, and with more people engaged.
“Historic, imperfect, transformational” -- these seem to be the most common words I hear from fellow climate wonks about the climate and energy provisions in this massive new IRA bill. “Awesome, you must be stoked” – is what I hear from everyone who knows what I do for a living. It’s all those things and more. As these things go, the reality of all the bill contains is nuanced. But in a nutshell, it enables the first sustained period of declining fossil energy consumption in US history, even with its significant flaws.
We’ll have lots more to share about what this legislation means for Missoula residents, businesses, nonprofits and local government, in the coming months and even years.
Climate Smart Missoula is already working in partnership with the City, Missoula County and others to understand and implement efforts to reduce fossil fuels and energy use in buildings, efforts which will no doubt accelerate thanks to the IRA.
Affordable housing is not just about monthly rent or mortgage payments, but also about stable energy bills, healthy indoor air, and the ability to be comfortable in the winter and cool in the summer – and fully electrified buildings with heat pumps are the best way to get at all these.
Funding from this legislation will absolutely help us Electrify Missoula, and we're excited. If you are thinking of electrifying your home or purchasing electric appliances but it’s not essential this year, hold on until 2023. If you’re thinking of going solar this year, go for it. This new IRA legislation will make both possible for more Montanans.
Just as John set the table for momentum to grow climate solutions locally, this new era of federal action is setting the table for so much more climate action the world over. We have this table thanks to climate visionaries, leaders, and activists. We have a seat at that table, thanks in no small part to John Engen’s vision.
- Amy Cilimburg
By Amy Cilimburg and Mary Sullivan
For a week in July we were out in our community, with our partners, for our 2nd annual Wildfire Smoke Ready Week, spreading the word about what we can all do to stay healthy when smoke rolls into our valleys. This year, our cool, wet start to summer means we’ve yet to see smoke from local fires, but with our geography, smoke from afar makes its way into our airshed. Our summer, regionally, is also heating up and drying out fast. With whiffs of wildfire smoke this week, now is the perfect time to get ready.
This post follows an earlier piece in the Missoula Current series (here) - with Trivia!
Usually community members are the ones asking us the questions this week - and thanks to all we’ve learned over the past few years, we’ve plenty of answers. This year, we thought it would be fun for us to ask you the questions. This past Wednesday at Imagine Nation Brewing, we tested our community’s knowledge of all things smoke-related at our first-ever Wildfire Smoke Trivia Night. The "Hotter Every Year" team sneaked out the win for some great prizes (INB beer + filters). The "Smoldering Ash Holes" won ice cream for the best team name!
Here are a few of the questions that stumped the crowd - Can you guess correctly? (Answers at end).
If those questions left you feeling unsure about your smoke-smarts (or feeling like high school human biology class might as well be the ancient past), fear not! It’s never too late to become an expert! Read on and click through the links for more. You too can dazzle your friends at your next cocktail party or BBQ, and you’ll feel confident you know what to do if and when the smoke descends.
If you know Missoula County Air Quality Specialist Sarah Coefield, you know she’s a woman of many, many words, and this week she’s written five(!) brief articles with what you need to know to prepare for smoke. We have them all in one place - visit WildfireSmokeReadyWeek.org for these great posts:
And to keep with the Q&A theme, we have these simple tips:
Q: How do I know how bad the air is?
A: Bookmark todaysair.mt.gov, check it, and learn the air quality rules of thumb. You can also visit fire.airnow.gov to see smoke data across the country.
Q: What’s the best way to create clean indoor air when it’s smoky outside?
A: Purchase a HEPA portable air cleaner (PAC) or build a DIY fan + filter combo
Q: Can I go outside when it’s smoky?
A: Reduce time and avoid intense physical activity outside.
Q: What else can I do to help myself and others when it’s smoky?
A: Check in on your friends and neighbors and support our community.
This last Q&A is critical. Smoke can have real mental health impacts, as well as physical. And with a longer, more severe wildfire smoke season thanks to climate change, there’s the double whammy of worry. When we feel overwhelmed it can help to look for ways to be a part of community efforts. This summer we encourage you to:
Wildfire Smoke Ready Week is brought to you by Missoula City-County Health Department, Climate Smart Missoula, United Way of Missoula County, Missoula County Sustainability, Missoula County Office of Emergency Management, and Missoula County Fire Protection Association.. We are grateful to everyone who is a a part of Wildfire Smoke Ready Week and this community.
And the right to protect all from the existential threat of climate change.
We at Climate Smart believe in building a livable, safe future for all. The world we're working to build every day is one where the great diversity of humanity and the ecosystems on which we depend don't merely survive, but thrive. That's why we can't ignore issues of human rights, equity and justice that deeply impact all of us - especially those who have been historically excluded and oppressed, or are already most vulnerable to the dangers of an unstable climate.
As individuals whose own bodies and choices are affected by the ruling on reproductive rights, our team grieves how our siblings across the country will be impacted, both immediately and in the long term. Our fight for a climate-safe world is interwoven with the fight for protecting the rights of individuals and communities to determine their own futures. We are intimately aware of how recent Supreme Court rulings threaten those rights, particularly for women and for tribal communities. And with today's devastating ruling gutting the EPA's key tool for cutting carbon emissions, the uphill climb to solve the climate crisis just got steeper. (We'll share more thoughts on this soon.)
As we wrote in our Sustainable Missoula column recently, with so much going on in the world it's easy to feel disconnected and despairing. The antidote is to become agents of connection everywhere we go: calling out the ways climate and justice issues intersect; finding solutions that build a healthier AND more equitable planet; and building the political will and solidarity as a wider community to advocate for transformative change. We're committed to this work long term, and hope you'll join us.
Abby & the Climate Smart team
Like you, we've seen the stunning, heartbreaking footage of unprecedented flooding across communities in Southwest Montana this week, which has caused severe damage, stranded residents and visitors, and disrupted lives and livelihoods.
The sharp jump in water levels along the Yellowstone and other rivers was caused by a rain-on-snow event, as a sequence of cool temps, snow, and rain combined with spring snowmelt to inundate waterways. Climate has to do with patterns over time, so it can take a lot of data to establish a particular weather event or disaster was caused by the climate crisis. But there's no doubt that the fingerprints of the climate crisis are all over this flooding. Excess heat in Earth's climate system is disrupting weather patterns and the water cycle, causing greater variability of precipitation and earlier snowmelt (the 2017 Montana Climate Assessment's chapter on water has a good summary of water-related climate impacts we can expect to see more of).
Even as I write this, there's a gap between my desire to describe and make sense of what's happening, and the emotions it stirs up. For all its value, the cautious, nuanced language of science often feels so inadequate in the face of the raw and painful human and ecological costs of climate disasters. Already this year, we've seen severe drought plaguing much of eastern Montana, widespread heatwaves in the Southwest and Southeast U.S., and wildfires across the West. And it's only June.
So, how can we respond? Here are some suggestions, and as always, we'd love to hear your ideas and thoughts too - just hit reply to this email.
Help those impacted.
We're aware of several relief funds that have been established to support Montana communities recovering from flooding; do contribute if you're able.
It's critical that we connect what's happening around us with the climate crisis. A warming climate loads the dice, increasing the odds of these kinds of once-infrequent (or unprecedented) disasters happening. The more we can help friends, family and colleagues understand that the climate crisis is not some future possibility but is here now, the more we can grow the movement for urgent action to avoid the worst impacts. Do offer suggestions for being part of solutions, too; this can help avoid getting stuck in feelings of anxiety or overwhelm.
Resolve to stay engaged, and take care of yourself.
News and images of destruction can be hard to take in (and that much harder for those who have personal connections to places that are impacted). And it's not as if the world otherwise is hunky dory! An epidemic of gun violence, racism and hate crimes, housing and economic precariousness, threats to our democracy...there's plenty to be worried about, and it can feel overwhelming. Take the time you need to grieve losses, reconnect with people and the natural world, and then re-commit to staying engaged in the movement for building a livable future, starting right here in Missoula.
Seek out signs of forward movement.
Looking for good news - and it does exist! - can help remind us that the work of building a more resilient, climate-safe world is underway, and can inspire us to keep doing our part. Here are a few pieces of climate progress you may have missed recently:
Many of us in the climate community were bracing for last week's release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Sixth Assessment Report - not just because of what it contains, but because of its possible impact on climate action efforts. With today's short-attention-span news cycles and plenty of competition when it comes to urgent challenges of the moment, would even such a momentous scientific report translate to action in the real world? Does the IPCC report matter?
Coming from someone who works on climate issues day in and day out, this might seem like a sacrilegious question! So what do I mean?
On one hand, the IPCC report provides the most up-to-date physical understanding of the climate system and climate change. The findings are stark: it confirms unequivocally that it's real, it's us, and it's bad - and to make sure it doesn't get worse, we must make massive transformations across our society and economy very quickly. It's critical that leaders and policymakers have access to the best scientific data about the changes that are here and coming so their decisions are informed by reality, not wishful thinking. With this report, the stakes of our policy choices couldn't be clearer.
At the same time, during a summer where increasingly extreme climate impacts surround us everywhere we look, the grim headlines prompted by this report can be hard to take in. Not because the vast majority of people don't care - but because we care too much! So many of us are feeling the heaviness of all that's going on our world and personal lives, it's easy for even those who are already climate concerned to feel overwhelmed and tune out - or let our fears paralyze us.
So, how can we respond?
The data and science in the IPCC report are valuable, but more science and data are not what will help most people bridge the gap between caring about the climate crisis and actually doing something about it. Thankfully, there’s been increasing attention to the social and psychological dimensions that can help us link care and action, in our own personal lives and as we seek to help others engage with the climate crisis as well.
A recent article titled bluntly, "How to live in a burning world without losing your mind," contained this piece of wisdom:
"The way out of this confusion is neither feel-good solutionism nor submitting to the apocalypse. Instead, we need to learn to make space, in our conversations, activism, and media, for feeling grief, anxiety, guilt, and fear about climate change, no matter how difficult or dark. Where many of us rush into the role of town crier—a Paul Revere shouting out warnings--we may be better off...becoming a guide, helping those around us work through difficult emotions and figure out how they can take action." (emphasis mine)
So, back to the IPCC report. Does it matter? Yes! But how we choose to respond matters more. The scary headlines and sense of urgency can feed our anxiety – but we can’t let our response stop there. We can recognize this anxiety and the valid feelings of fear and grief that fuel it, offer ourselves and others compassion, and bring our full selves – including our range of human emotions – to the work that needs doing.
More suggested reading and resources on navigating these issues:
We’re all in this together – let’s work on bringing our whole selves to the work of healing and transforming our world, because as the IPCC report makes clear, every fraction of a degree of warming matters. By taking care of ourselves and others, we can turn our emotions – fear and anxiety, but also love and wonder for our incredible planet – into tools for action for the long haul.
-Abby Huseth, Outreach Director
Fighting climate change is hard. It’s consistently two steps forward and one step back. It necessitates compartmentalization and separation of work and home life. Most days you can’t think too hard about how simultaneously existentially important and minuscule your efforts are. It’s a job with infinite contradictions and doubts. And at the end of the day, if we succeed in transforming our society into a just, healthy and decarbonized one, then I've just worked myself out of employment and will need to develop some other skills!
Some days, however, make all the stress and consternation feel worth it. On Thursday, July 22nd, Climate Smart had the privilege of hosting a fan and filter giveaway with the Missoula Food Bank and EmPower Place. These air-filtering systems are critical to creating clean indoor air and keeping folks healthy during the smoky summer months. As the climate crisis escalates and fire season grows, this #WildfireSmokeReady work to help our community prepare for months of a smoke-filled Montana becomes an ever larger share of our time and energy.
Our main tool in building a resilient and Climate-Ready Missoula against a warming world will be our relationships and willingness to look out for one another. Our partnership with the Missoula Food Bank to give out these filters perfectly exemplified this truth. The event succeeded in distributing over eighty air filters, half of which went to seniors through the Fresh Food delivery program, and the other half to families visiting EmPower place--a hands on learning center for kids. Missoula Food Bank staff and volunteers and the Climate Smart team (including our interns-extraordinaire Sydney and Isa) rallied together to assemble and give out these fans and filters to food bank users who are at heightened risk to the health detriments of prolonged wildfire smoke.
The true expressions of gratitude from folks who received these filters filled my heart and left me feeling energized and determined. I felt appreciated and impactful. I was surrounded by a team of people who were willing to work hard alongside me to help and protect our community; the staff who enthusiastically agreed to help us realize the project, our interns for joining to assemble fans with us, and the volunteers who donated their time and worked with food bank customers to get these air filters into their hands, as well as our dedicated Climate Smart team. I had worked at the Missoula Food Bank during the summer of 2020, and was so grateful that the connections I made with the team there were able to produce such an important effort such as this.
The success of the event showed us that we needed to replicate it as soon as possible. Every air filter in EmPower Place was all claimed within the first 30 minutes of a planned 3-hour event. We immediately began planning for another event, submitting a call for donations to buy more fans and filters. Our supply is refilling and another event date is set: Thursday, August 5th, 1-3pm in EmPower Place. The work continues!
Hello! Kelli here- I wanted to take a minute to reflect on my first month at Climate Smart and to share some of the things that I’m excited to dig into over the next few months. I think it’s fair to say that my first few weeks have been a Climate Smart “sampler platter”: a little bit of energy conservation, a little bit of wildfire smoke prep, some buildings for the future work, with a side of sustainable transportation! From wrapping up Missoula Gives week to conducting background research for an EPA grant, I’ve gotten my feet wet on a myriad of different projects, programs, and initiatives – which I think is a very appropriate entry into this type of work. The Climate Smart team has so many exciting things going on- a big part of this first month has been acclimating to the full scope of where climate smart has been, where it is, and where it’s headed.
One of the most exciting things about working on the CSM team is being encouraged to learn, research, and seek new and relevant climate knowledge – and being given the space and time to truly understand how it impacts our community. In just a month’s time I have become a more discerning reader and receptor of information and am starting to come to terms with the responsibility of disseminating it locally and effectively. Anyone who knows me well would say that I’ve found my people! On a daily basis I get to let my nerd flag fly and go down climate-research rabbit holes (if time allows- there are limits!) that align with my own interests and the goals of some of our bigger programs; namely sustainable design/ working to decarbonize the built environment.
Along those lines, perhaps the piece I’m most excited about developing is Building(s) for the Future; an initiative originally led by Caroline Lauer who is now the Climate Resiliency Coordinator for Missoula County. At its core, it is an ambitious and exciting call to reduce the carbon footprint of Missoula’s new and existing building stock and to push our community towards achieving its 100% Clean Electricity Resolution. I’m really looking forward to fleshing out some of the next steps and contributing a fresh perspective with my background in architecture and design.
As I’m settling in, I’m both excited and a bit apprehensive. Climate Change is an omnipresent issue and can easily be overwhelming. It is not even an “it”- it is a multiplicity, a force that directly relates to every single thing on earth *cue the head spinning*. But what starts making sense to me, and why I’m so excited to charge ahead at Climate Smart, is that piece by piece and bit by bit we can actually start making a tangible difference and gradually begin to right the ship, especially with the outstanding breadth of community, city, and county leadership we have here in Missoula.
Looking forward to working with all of you to chart a better, smarter, more sustainable path forwards!
CSM Program Director