Our world is constantly in motion, just as quick as the wheels on our bicycles as we pedaled into Roundup yesterday evening. However, it seems that society is having difficulty keeping up with the change that is occurring on our planet and the alterations we need to make in our own lives to accommodate these changes. Are we as a species afraid of accepting this?
Today, the WRFI gang got a taste of the messy political system while meeting with republican state legislative representative, Tom Berry. He debriefed us on his frustrations with the political system in the state of Montana and how the governor who had at one point been supporting Berry, recently vetoed a bill providing funding to help fix the local coal mine. This was a second hand experience on how change in the government is hard to come by from both sides of the political spectrum.
The conversation eventually shifted to the real reason we were all there; to hear what a republican politician has to say about climate change. For a group of environmentalists, much of Berry’s ideas about the environment sounded very contradictory in terms of his understanding of the change in climate. “He doesn’t understand the difference between weather and climate,” Whitney noted in a debrief after the meeting. “Climate has been getting hot and cold for hundreds of years,” Berry stated. This was a concerning statement to me, and the majority of the group. The fact that politicians voting and making decisions in the government aren’t acknowledging the big problems that our generation faces is troubling. After all, if our WRFI group can understand the necessity for a shift in our energy use why can’t others? I think that many members of our society are so grounded in their way of life that they are resistant to admit or even understand the issues. Part of the problem develops from viewing the planet like a means to conquer, as Berry states, “God has given us a resource to use.” This idea of consumption is unsustainable however his views represent a large majority of many rural land dwellers. This meeting was truly an eye opening experience to learn perspectives from someone other than environmentalists and learn how much effort is necessary to change the not so sustainable views of others.
Later in the day we experienced a significantly different perspective from a couple that has been in motion since the 1970s through journalism and community outreach. Sitting in Wilbur and Elizabeth’s green and luscious backyard, we had the opportunity to listen to a couple who are in it for the long haul; they simply want to make a difference in the living practices people maintain with a simpler life balance and greater understanding about the environment. Involved with a program known as Alternative Energy Resources Organization (AERO), they developed a published plan for getting all of Montana’s energy from renewable energy resources within the state. In talking about shifting to renewable energy sources, Elizabeth thought that “the reason people don’t change is because of fear.” That made me think of Tom Berry, I wonder if the reasons he isn’t acknowledging climate change is due to the fact that he is afraid of admitting that his generation and his view points aren’t validated any longer. To admit this would take away pride and belief, and no one wants to lose their belief system, especially later in life.
In the mid afternoon some of the group split off to ‘change’ their state of hygiene and opted for a dirty river bath. The afternoon led to an evening BBQ at a local church where we met some of the hospitable Roundup locals and the new priest. For me, this was an odd situation since I haven’t even been in a church many times. A priest in training told me that I looked like I “belong in a church.” I’ll have to do some serious self searching of this statement at a much later date. Socializing with friendly people and eating good food was a perfect way to end the day. However I couldn’t help but wonder if the church may in some way be keeping these locals from recognizing climate change in reference to Berry’s statement earlier in the day. This seemed too controversial a subject to bring up over a free church provided dinner, however.
Recognizing climate change and what it means for the state of the human species seems like something that still needs to happen in much of rural Montana. Luckily, Wilbur and Elizabeth live in this rural Montana town as well. Maybe their simple life and sustainable mindset will eventually rub off on others. The world continues to turn as we prepare to shift our location with a 40 mile ride the following morning.