Support Leaders Who Support Sustainability

Progress that destroys the very reason we live here is not progress at all but naïve action

By Elizabeth Quist

I don’t think I’m alone in being someone who grew up in Montana only to dream of one day leaving it. Once I did, I found myself in the middle of New York City realizing I had made the biggest mistake of my life. Fortunately, life has a sneaky way of turning those giant mistakes into terrific learning experiences. As I meandered my way through the last five years away from home I have at last found my way back, only to find many things were not the way I left them. Curiously, I have found myself caught in traffic jams (in Montana?!), talking to more people from out of state in local watering holes than locals, and feeling a rising unease at the amount of land being developed into what looks increasingly like sprawling suburbs.

On my hikes in Glacier National Park I’ve noticed the glaciers have shrunk substantially, so much so I had to Google at what point a glacier is too small to be a glacier any more (the National Snow and Ice Data Center’s website was very informative). I realized that there is a very real possibility that my children will one day ask me why Glacier National Park is named that. “What is a glacier?” they will ask, and I will have no example to point to.

But commodities prices are down and land is more expensive than it used to be, making farming a difficult living. This is the tipping point where most places will fall in favor of exploiting natural resources and favoring privatization. Now, I want to be clear, I am always in favor of progress, especially when it enriches the lives of Montanans. But progress when it destroys the very reason we live here is not progress at all but naïve action that only benefit the current moment, disregarding entirely future consequences. The good news is Montana has the two most important things needed to succeed in the age of sustainability: incredible renewable energy potential and the people who are best fit for successfully tackling an emerging field: Montanans. I am also hopeful when I see leaders like Gov. Steve Bullock calling for greater renewable energy investment in our state. Montana needs to continue divesting from dirty energy and continue looking for new ways to power our state and create jobs.

It’s predicted that by 2020 most, if not all, glaciers in Glacier National Park will have melted. It is 100 percent up to us what happens to our state and we must be informed when we make these decisions. Not only how it will affect us but also how it will affect future generations. When my daughter asks me what a glacier is, I better be able to point to Grinnell Glacier and say, “That right there, baby!”

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