Uncommon Ground

Peak Planet

It’s unconscionable that Congress ignores our planetary climate plight

By Mike Jopek

We taste our future. It’s in the air reflecting sunsets into shades of red or often simply infinite shades of gray. It’s in the beet-colored sunrises promising long days outside. It’s in the begrimed air and haze from regional forest fires raging across western America. 

Hopefully rain fell, will fall again, and clear up the dirty air. These new, annual smoke seasons foretell dystopian visions. Almost every day for years, we spend daytime outside on the farm, in the fields, working the soil, tending plants or shoveling snow. We’ve done this for decades. It’s a part of who we are in this fast-growing community. 

Outdoors, on the farm we grow crops like vegetables, berries and fruit. It’s why I hold out hope that the smoke and fire calm down and Congress gets a clue. I like it outside, it’s where I work. 

On the farm we live for water, those droplets of freshness that promise green and graciously fall from the sky onto plants sprouting life. The moisture seems rarer, unpredictable, and even after it lands, often blows away by hot wind. Temperatures in eastern Montana reached a scorching 107 degrees last week.

Decades ago, policymakers took decisive action scrubbing acid-rain coal pollutants from killing more maple trees in northeastern states. Policymakers took action to stop ozone-hole causing pollutants from escaping into our planetary atmosphere.

During the isolating pandemic-days of last year, as many humans slowed down, there were numerous reports of clearing air in traditionally smoggy areas of the world where we cause pollution and spotlighted how an alive planet heals.

On the farm we work the top foot of soil. We’ve mulched it over decades of work. That foot contains a lot life but digging deeper, into the clay, exposes small tunnels that earthworms seemingly use to find water during droughts, and deep roots of plants like comfrey that pull minerals and nutrients to feed the top foot of soil. 

Without water on the farm, there’s death. Blowing super-heated wind sucks the energy out of every plant. Hopefully the clouds drop more water. 

It’s unconscionable that Congress ignores our planetary climate plight. With little water and much heat, we’re in a world of hurt, no matter where you live on this floating blue dot.

The raspberries and strawberries were plentiful this season. We’ve been able to keep the soil from crusting over which causes berries to shrivel and drop fast. On these heated days we’re outside at dawn beginning a long shift, which ends when the heat and smoke envelope the valley making working conditions unbearable and unhealthy.

From around the nation, people are in the Flathead like never before. Our infrastructure is bursting at the seams trying to maintain the water, energy, safety, and technology demands of America on the move as we all endure a super-heated, dry planet. 

Fiddle on, Congress. The rest of us have jobs working outdoors in that unhealthy forest fire air or indoors with the windows closed. The average temperatures in our area are reportedly 10 degrees above the thirty-year average. You won’t conquer Mother Nature. She always wins. 

Before despair takes control and immobilizes my work, I head outside into the berry patch to harvest a few buckets of freshness for locals seeking a more friendly taste of the Flathead. 

Americans historically solved major problems, faced super-human challenges with patriotic duty. Only the blowhard politicians care which side of the bed we arose. The rest of us treat our community with kindness, showing empathy toward fellow humans who also live on this planet that’s facing monumental growing pains. 

There’s good money to be made and plenty of jobs pending in our renewal. Our planet is overheated — it’s time for Montana and Congress to quit bickering and work toward solutions. 

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