By Madison Hebner
In this and future issues of Down to Earth, we’ll be featuring pieces from all of our board members so you can get to know the extraordinary people who guide MEIC.
I’ve been fortunate enough to grow up in this beautiful state that many of us are lucky to call home. Early on, I was taught to appreciate the seemingly unlimited hiking, skiing, fly fishing and other outdoor activities in Montana. They have become a considerable part of my life, something I’m sure is familiar to many Down to Earth readers and listeners.
Unfortunately, with each new year, I’ve also observed negative environmental factors threatening this lifestyle. Rising global temperatures are projected to decrease snowpack and escalate flooding, which is a terrifying thought to us winter sports enthusiasts. It’s likely that most of us have firsthand experience with the devastation of forest fires, and an exponential increase in temperatures and dryness is a literal time bomb. The irregularity and decrease of spring runoff will lead to heavier concentrations of pollutants in the water, affecting plant and animal life. By stating the previous, I am simply reiterating something I think we are all aware of – our state (and planet) is in grave danger.
However, all hope is not lost. My childhood experiences in Montana, coupled with my passion for climate justice, have cultivated ambition for all aspects of MEIC’s mission to protect air and water quality and equitably transition to renewable and clean energy sources. Specifically, my past work as a climate justice lobbyist during the 2021 Montana Legislature fostered my passionate interest in working towards total clean and renewable energy, while considering the complicated factors that are involved – promoting coal community transition, remediation of contaminated sites, economic development, infrastructure, and community assistance.
Luckily, these are all issues that MEIC works tirelessly on. MEIC’s work to reduce the use of dirty coal and promote a thoughtful transition to renewable and clean energy sources is one of the single most important (in my humble opinion) things we can do to combat the gloom and doom of climate change.
How I see it, is that every person can play a role in fighting the climate crisis, no matter your field of expertise. As I wrap up my graduate degree in the seemingly unrelated field of microbiology, I am constantly considering how I can play a meaningful role working towards climate justice.
I’ve discovered that my role looks like understanding how climate change affects the biological ecosystem and human and animal disease. For others, it may involve voting for politicians who prioritize the energy transition, promoting research on alternative energy and farming practices, and elevating the needs of climate-impacted communities. It’s easy to focus on the danger of where we’re heading, but let’s turn our attention to the difference we can be making instead. It’s not over yet.
Madison Hebner has called Montana home for most of her life. Her time as a statewide legislative organizer and lobbyist with Forward Montana during the 2021 Legislative Session fueled her passion for expanding clean energy and maintaining Montana’s clean air, land, and water. Along with her interests in climate science, Madison is also a biology enthusiast. She studied the wildlife-human interface of infectious diseases at Rocky Mountain Laboratories and is now completing a master’s in Microbiology and Immunology at Montana State University in Bozeman. If you bump into Madison and her spunky dog Laika on a local trail, be sure to say hi!
This article was published in the June 2022 issue of Down To Earth.