I don’t know about you, but there’s this sinking feeling in the mornings. The smoke is getting to me, and I’m feeling cheated. Summer used to be care-free. The most pressing thought was, where did I leave the float tube?

The sinking feeling comes when I’m wondering whether this is the new normal. And, because I’ve been reading the climate predictions since the mid-90s, I can’t escape the thought that this, as bad as it is, might just be the outer edge of what’s coming.

But I was born an optimist, and those first dark thoughts every morning give way to a belief that we’re getting very close to making this climate movement successful. That’s where you come in.

The medicine to relieve despair has always been plugging into something larger than your individual self. We can talk about what’s wrong until we’re blue in the face. Gathering together, figuring out a strategy, and engaging in constructive problem-solving is what matters. This summer I had the good fortune to attend a training with Al Gore’a Climate Reality Project, and those folks really kick it into gear. That’s why 350 MONTANA has put together a brief list of things you can do locally.

We’ve also been very active at the farmers markets, gathering signatures on two petitions. Let John Woodland (johnwoodlandr90@gmail.com) or Dave Harmon (ecollama@msn.com) know if you want to help out.

Finally, there is a great deal of buzz right now about converting our energy system to 100 percent renewable energy. Four years ago when we started 350 MONTANA, we put that into our mission statement, and we were the only ones talking about it. Now cities, including Missoula, are thinking about ways to go 100 percent clean energy. An alliance of governors is sticking with the Paris Climate Accords to reduce carbon pollution. And there are tangible goals being talked about by nations, states and provinces, cities and towns, almost everwhere. Here’s an article written by Bill McKibben about this transition:


McKibben writes, “Already, more Americans are employed in the solar industry than in coal fields, and the conversion is only just beginning. [U.S. Seantors] Sanders and Merkley’s federal 100 percent bill, beyond its generous climate benefits, is expected to produce 4 million new jobs over the coming decades.”

In Montana, this smoke can be a reminder that we’re ground zero for this Great Transition. We don’t have to be the state with one of the largest coal-fired greenhouse-gas-producing power plants in North America. In the next few years, we can change that. We can become the first state to go all out for 100 percent clean energy. We have the wind and solar resources. We have the money. And there’s no doubt we have the skilled workers needing the work.

So . . . as we look around every morning and taste the acid-smoke on our tongues from 30,000-acre forest fires all around, we can know that our work right here, right now, can make a big difference.

Thank you for being a part of this movement.

Jeff Smith, co-chair, 350 Montana