Just as 40,000-some people rallied on the National Mall in the Washington, D.C. to demand action against climate change, a multi-generational crowd in Missoula gathered at the Xs on Sunday with the same mission.
More than 150 people showed up to urge action against global warming and to march through downtown to raise awarenesse about the environmental issues.
The call to action in Missoula focused on stopping fossil fuel development proposals like the Otter Creek coal mine.
“Public enemy No. 1 is burning coal,” said Steven Running, a University of Montana climate change specialist who shared in the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.
Facts regarding the dangers of coal consumption are “imminently clear” according to the most recent update of the Global Carbon Project, which is the work of international scientists, Running said.
Not only is coal the biggest polluter and an inefficient fuel we don’t need any more, he said, it’s toxicity effects the whole planent.
Mining it in the United States and shipping it overseas to high-demand countries like China isn’t an option either because we all share the same atmosphere.
“The CO2 comes back faster than the boats,” Running said. “It doesn’t matter if the coal is burned in China or in Colstrip.”
Vanessa Braidedhair, a Northern Cheyenne firefighter, traveled nearly 500 miles to attend the rally and to urge the crowd to oppose the Otter Creek coal mine.
“I don’t want my ancestral homeland to be sacrificed for China,” Braidedhair she told the gathering.
Calling the development an “environmental injustice,” Braidedhair said she has demanded that further environmental impact studies need to be done on how the mine would effect water, land, wildlife, culture and ceremonial sites of the people who live there.
“I don’t want it to impact Cheyenne culture – or the world,” she said of the proposed coal mine.
The tangible outcomes of climate change, such as more frequent and intense wildfires and increasingly hot, record-breaking summer temperatures, have a direct result on human health, said Beth Schenk, a nurse at St. Patrick Hospital.
Government and medical studies show that climate change has increased air pollution, which has increased the number of people respiratory illnesses and asthma, Schenk said.
Drought and flooding increases food borne diesease; increasingly hot summers have increased the number of heat-related deaths worldwide and also increased vector-borne diseases such as lyme disease, she said.
While the guest speakers passed off the microphone to each other, Bob Clark, event organizer with the Sierra Club inspired the rallying cry.
“What do we want?” he asked the crowd. “Climate Action,” came the response.
“When do we want it?”
“Now,” came the answer.
Clark then encouraged everyone at the rally to march to Higgins Ave. Bridge– where people would hold signs for about 30 minutes – and then everyone could reconvene at the Kettlehouse for more disscussion about climate change and action.
Missoula Mayor John Engen said he was happy to participate and speak at the rally.
Not one to pass up humor in any gathering, Engen smiled at the crowd and quipped: “Climate action now, beer later – sounds like a perfect kind of Missoula day.”
Missoula has committed to a plan to be carbon neutral by 2025, and although that might not be an immediate solution, it’s a path that is now being taken, Engen said.
When the speakers finished up energizing the crowd, the crowd took to the sidewalks and marched to the bridge.
The signs held aloft made it easy for everyone to understand the crowd’s quest.
“Protect Our Health Not Big Polluters,” read one. “It’s time to cut carbon,” “2 Million Clean Energy Jobs Now,”and “Yes, We Can Have a Sustainable Future,”said some of the others.
“This is about getting more people aware of the facts that climate change is real,” said Joan Birch, 76, who explained why she joined the day’s rally.
“I am here to help my generation and the younger generations – and for all of us,” said Madison Ambrose-Hall, 26.
“We need to stop climate change. Climate change is happening, it is real and we can’t keep ignoring it,”she said.
“We are here to say ‘Enough is enough,’ and that we need change and the time is now.”
Reporter Betsy Cohen can be reached at 523-5253 or at email@example.com.
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