I’m sorry. Sometimes the incongruities in this age of climate change are too much. On one hand you have the most deadly fire in California history wiping out whole towns.

And, on the other hand, you have Montana’s Department of Environmental Quality preparing to authorize a 10.5-square-mile coal mine expansion to a bankrupt company that can’t find enough money to reclaim the landscape after the coal is gone.The Westmorland Coal Company expansion will allow another 19 years of coal for Montana’s Colstrip coal-fired electrical plant, one of the three largest sources of CO2 in North America.

Some 200,000 Americans have had to evacuate their homes in California, but we can’t let that interfere with a company spewing more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Let’s use the same language to describe the people who lost their homes in California as we do to describe the folks who, last month, lost everything to the 175 mile-per-hour winds and hurricane storm surge that came ashore in Mexico Beach, Florida. If you look at the photographs of Paradise, California, and Mexico Beach, you can’t tell the difference. These communities have been wiped off the map.

Let’s call the displaced people what they are, climate refugees. And let’s ask the executives at Westmorland, do you have kids? Do you have grandkids? Do you know what kind of world you’re leaving them?

Really, the caravan moving north from Honduras that has caused so much consternation to the person who sits in our nation’s highest office is also made up of climate refugees. Their plight comes from a changing climate in Central America where rising temperatures and recurring droughts are affecting not only subsistence crops but also commercial crops like bananas and coffee. The coffee industry alone used to hire more than a million Hondurans. No more. Without a safety net . . . what would you do?

More than anything else 350 Montana tries to piece together these tragedies into a picture of what’s really happening and, more importantly, what’s really coming. We still have time to make the changes we need to make. But, according to the world’s top scientists, that window is closing. We strongly support what many are calling a Green New Deal that would transition us to the new economy and meet the scale and the urgency of the problems we face.

We’re hoping you’ll stand up with us to put our shoulders to the wheel and lead Montana, in the next few years, to our clean energy future.

Together, we can do that. Please join us for our action committee meeting on Monday, November 19, at 5:30 at the Missoula Public Library.


Jeff Smith, co-chair, 350 Montana

P.S. — And please note that NorthWestern Energy has cancelled its public hearing in Billings on November 20. There has been no explanation for why the company cancelled the meeting and no date set for the postponed hearing.