Tuesday, 17 Sep 2002

MISSOULA, Mont.

Earlier on this bright Tuesday morning, I found myself whizzing through the western Montana countryside in my little Geo Metro rental, alternating between thinking about my four meetings in Helena and Butte, admiring the countryside, and mentally going over the talk I’m giving later in the evening.

All three of my meetings (I guess it was too much to hope that I could pack four meetings and roughly six hours of driving into one day) turned out to be very worthwhile. In addition to finally putting faces to names and voices heard over the phone, I was able to paint a pretty good picture of the politics of rural renewable energy development.

Both within state government and without, there is growing interest and support for renewables. However, Montana’s cooperative utilities and certain key elected leaders, among others, still need to be brought around.

Old habits are hard to break. Much of Montana’s past wealth and prosperity was built on exploitation of its abundant natural resources, from copper and timber in the west to coal and grazing lands in the east to oil and gas on the Rocky Mountain Front. Climate Solutions’ Harvesting Clean Energy for Rural Development message, however, puts renewable energy development squarely in terms many Montanans will relate to. And its unifying vision of rural economic development through clean energy resonates with farmers, ranchers, agricultural agencies, coop utilities, and elected officials alike. With any luck, Montanans will come to see wind, solar, and biomass energy as the bumper crops of the future. I’ll look forward to future meetings and collaborations with our new Montana partners.

Then, of course, there’s this evening’s lecture. Obviously, I want to make it not only informative, but also interesting, and perhaps even a little bit entertaining. At the lecture, I’ll be test driving our new, cutting-edge Power Point presentation, with all of the hottest new messaging on global warming and solution-focused opportunity. I could have titled my talk, “Global Warming is Huge: and There’s Nothing You Can Do About it,” but I didn’t want my audience to succumb to the urge to nap. Instead, my goal is to leave them with the sense that this problem, while enormous in scope, is fixable. Hopefully, I can even motivate them to do something about it.

Finally, you might ask how a person who’s trying to address climate change can justify all of this air and car travel. Valid question. First, while we at Climate Solutions are conscientious about avoiding unnecessary travel whenever possible, there’s nothing like a face-to-face meeting to facilitate creative discussion and build trust. We’re trying to build coalitions here, after all.

Also, Climate Solutions has invested in new renewable energy through the Bonneville Environmental Foundation to offset the CO2 produced through our office and travel activities. And because my Missoula hosts are so on the ball, they’ve also purchased enough new renewable energy to offset all of the travel-related CO2 of the various speakers in their Sustainable Communities Lecture Series!