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Failing Students on Climate Change

Failing Students on Climate Change

Photograph Source Leonhard Lenz

Last Friday hundreds of thousands of students around the globe walked out of classrooms to demand that our political leaders take concrete steps to address the deadly threat of climate change. They are right, of course, that the generations of their elders, from millennials to baby boomer grandparents, have failed in our responsibility to preserve a livable future for our ever more crowded, ever more polluted and ever more endangered planet.

And while that’s a sad statement to make, it is an undeniable truth and a shameful guilt that should cause every one of the “elders” to think long and hard about whether they’re making the world better or worse for our young people.

The movement, characterized by various identifiers such as #fridaysforfuture#schoolstrike4climate and #climatestrike, is vast and growing. The strikes by young people staring an unlivable future in the face are now massive, but were inspired by a 16-year old Swede, Greta Thunberg, who has now been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. As Thunberg famously addressed the United Nations climate conference in Poland earlier this year: “You say you love your children above all else, and yet you’re stealing their future in front of their very eyes.”

Truer words were never spoken. Just look at what these young people are up against. Here in the United States, the second-largest producer of greenhouse gasses in the world, we have a president who not only doesn’t believe 97 percent of the world’s scientists who acknowledge human-caused climate change, he demands that we exert “energy dominance” by drilling, fracking, pumping and burning more fossil fuels than any nation on the planet.

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Warnings of Doom, Amid a Smokescreen of Denial and Distraction

Warnings of Doom, Amid a Smokescreen of Denial and Distraction

Photo Source reurinkjan | CC BY 2.0

The Trump administration predictably tried to bury the dire warnings contained in the fourth National Climate Assessment by releasing it the day after Thanksgiving, when many people would be distracted by the mass consumption frenzy known as Black Friday. It didn’t work, of course, since the findings were nothing short of warnings of doom if humanity doesn’t radically reduce the production of greenhouse gases caused primarily by burning fossil fuels.

Equally predictable was the response from the Climate Denier-in-Chief that he simply “didn’t believe” the findings. The rays of hope are that, thanks to the Mueller investigation, indictments and convictions, as well as the recent election that erased the Republican majority in the House of Representatives, Donald Trump’s “reign of error” on the environment is coming to an end — and not a minute too soon for our nation and the planet.

Considering that the congressionally mandated Climate Assessment was put together by more than 300 scientists and 13 federal agencies, there are plenty of good reasons to heed its assessments and predictions, summarized right up front in the report as: “Climate change creates new risks and exacerbates existing vulnerabilities in communities across the United States, presenting growing challenges to human health and safety, quality of life, and the rate of economic growth.”

Here in Montana, the “risks and vulnerabilities” are particularly acute as a warming climate produces longer and more extreme wildfire seasons, less snow and drought-caused water shortages, rivers warming beyond the tolerable limits for our world-famous wild trout fisheries, and a host of impacts to a wide variety of businesses from agriculture to recreation.

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The Mining Industry Shows Its True Colors

The Mining Industry Shows Its True Colors

“Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…I won’t be fooled again.”

-President George W. Bush, 2006

Montana has been raped — in every sense of the word — by the mining industry for a century and a half. Anyone who doubts that need only look across our beautiful state at the ugly, dead, and polluting sites left behind when the mining barons took the gold and Montana got the shaft, as well as the tailings, the polluted groundwater, the streams devoid of life, the slag piles and the pits full of incredibly poisonous water.

Now, with the potential for an initiative that would prohibit the state from permitting mines that will require pollution treatment “in perpetuity,” the mining industry is once again trying to convince us that it is environmentally friendly, and, jeez, we shouldn’t be trying to stop them from creating perpetual pollution.

As reported late last week, the Montana Mining Association filed a lawsuit against Republican Attorney General Tim Fox, who determines legality for initiatives, and Republican Secretary of State Cory Stapleton, who certifies that the measure can appear on the ballot. They want the Montana Supreme Court to find I-186, the “Yes for Responsible Mining” initiative for which backers expect to gather the 25,600 necessary signatures this week, legally insufficient.

The Montana Mining Association’s Tammy Johnson claims “in general we think that this could portend a ban on future mining.” But that directly contradicts the schtick of Johnson and the various mining companies now trying to convince Montanans to stick new mines at the headwaters of the famed Smith River and under the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness Area. They have been spouting about their new and responsible mining methods.

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The Great Danger of Anthropocentricity

The Great Danger of Anthropocentricity

Photo by Becker1999 | CC BY 2.0

Evincing an almost unbelievable ignorance of environmental science, last week Scott Pruitt, President Donald Trump’s head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, told reporters “we know humans have most flourished during times of warming trends. So I think there are assumptions made that because the climate is warming that necessarily is a bad thing. Do we really know what the ideal surface temperature should be in the year 2100, in the year 2018? That’s fairly arrogant for us to think that we know exactly what it should be in 2100.”

This is the same Scott Pruitt who shocked the public, the scientific community and employees of the EPA when he announced shortly after stepping into his new job that humans were not yet determined to be the major contributing cause of global warming.

But of course humans are not the only inhabitants of the planet. And therein lies the great danger of framing environmental and ecosystem health strictly in terms of human existence. Chief Seattle is widely credited to have said in an 1854 speech: “This we know: the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.”

Here in Montana, it’s often said we still have all the native species that were here when the Lewis and Clark expedition passed through more than two centuries ago. Indeed, the grizzly bear still roams the wild Rockies, the lynx haunts thick forests in its search for snowshoe hare and the fluvial arctic grayling still can be found in a few cold headwater streams.

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Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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