Uncommon Ground

Believe in Youth

Montanans enjoy a state Constitution that guarantees every state citizen a right to a “clean and healthful environment”

By Mike Jopek

The strawberry moon was full yet only a sliver glowed around the cloud barrier which shadowed the early morning skyline. I was in route to the airport on an a.m. shuttle-run as day awoke and mountains appeared over the previous night’s darkness.

A light rain fell from the sky. I was grateful for the moisture. As a farmer, I’ve grown to hunger for water and seek shade from the day’s blaring heat. It’s unseasonable hot, an alarmingly dry springtime. A month ago, locals got a tasteful reminder of how Flathead seasons have changed.

It wasn’t long ago when smokey air was the anomaly. Today it’s a dreadful reality facing everyone who enjoys the outdoors during peak seasons. Now that wildfire smoke choked out Washington, D.C., as it has western states for the past decade, maybe Congress will do something to mitigate this manmade disaster.

Montana produces a lot more energy than we use, exporting most across America to power starved and faraway places. Our relatively cheap power is a required commodity to urban areas that generate none of their own. Montana wants nothing to do with analyzing for released pollutants while filling state coffers with tax revenues.

Locals in the Flathead enjoy vast amounts of renewable power from the grid. Nearly all the local cooperative’s imported power previously originated from renewable sources like water.

Further east in Montana, homeowner power bills continue to escalate as the public agency in charge of regulating power seemingly rubber stamps every industry requests. It’s weird how regionally expensive some conventional forms of power have gotten. It feels more about corporate greed than inflation.

Montana is blazing forward to stop the first-in-the nation lawsuit, brought forward by young state citizens, after previously refusing to analyze for pollutants released by in-state power plants. Montana wickedly thinks it shouldn’t be bothered to look for pollutants from in-state generated power that’s exported to thirsty American consumers already facing summers of forest fires and smoky western air.

Montanans enjoy a state Constitution that guarantees every state citizen a right to a “clean and healthful environment.” It’s part of the 50-year legacy, last generation’s bequest to the next generation. It makes sense that young locals are the ones critiquing the state to guarantee their Constitutional rights to a livable planet.

The state vainly tried to stop the youth initiative, even got the state supreme court involved but they said no. Everyone knows that pollutants are bad for people, that toxins shorten lives and make the outdoors unbreathable.

The next generation deserves our support much like we realized from elders when we were younger. That generation believed in us. We believe in today’s youth. Youngsters and the unborn deserve a breathable, livable and prosperous planet, one where the weather is less chaotic and fears of raging forest fires become distant thoughts.

To the younger citizens who are active in community and work to make our towns and state a better place to live, we appreciate you. You’ll inherit the Earth and we’re merely caretakers in time. It’s easy to get caught up in day-to-day politics but in reality, our phase here is short.

The old generation won’t always agree, often stands in the way, but curiously offers plenty of guidance and inspiration if you look at it right. I marvel at how smart today’s youth have become, how hard they’re willing to work, and how effectively their beliefs permeate into society.

The morning broke, the robins and chickadees overtook the airwaves as the large wave of a cloud blanketed the Rockies. It looked a good day to get outside early and work the row before the relentless heat overtook the day. Pray for rain, I muttered, walked out the door and pulled my hat low.

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