By Cari Kimball
It feels surreal to be sending an email about Down to Earth right now… but I’m sending it anyway,” wrote MEIC’s Communications & Engagement Director in late April. Katy’s email arrived while our staff was watching MEIC’s Anne Hedges eloquently, systematically, and joyfully deconstruct climate denial ignorance during a legislative committee hearing on HB 971. Earlier that day, House Republicans voted to censure Rep. Zooey Zephyr (D-Missoula) for her criticism of their legislation that would harm transgender youth.
At every level this session – from denying 11,000 Missoulians their representation in the House to preventing Montanans from challenging agency decisions that ignore the climate through bills like SB 557 and HB 971 to sloppily rushing the legislative process in a way that stifled public input – we witnessed a power grab and an attack on our rights to participate in decision-making that impacts us. It’s worth remembering that power-grabbing and silencing voices are not the tendencies of political movements with the moral high ground and a vision for a better world; they are more often the death rattles of a rotten culture on the wrong side of history. I think I speak for all of the staff in saying we felt disheartened at times but also fiercely determined to keep advocating for protection of Montana’s air, water, land, climate, and the health of our communities.
I’ll never forget that hearing for HB 971. So many fantastic MEIC members, supporters, partners spoke up (despite the short notice) with conviction and eloquence about the harms of the bill. Seeing our community in action during the committee’s questions was a joy-sparking inspiration. Our community of change-makers and rabble-rousers keeps showing up and making their voices heard.
I was reminded that in the aftermath of the session, we’ll be picking ourselves up, dusting ourselves off, and beginning the next phase of the work (guess what… we’re going to sue ‘em!). We might have lost that vote on HB 971 due to a biased supermajority, but we’re only getting started.
Ursula Wolfe-Rocca, an educator, writer, and political organizer, observed poignantly on chaotic situations such as the end of Montana’s 2023 Legislative Session saying, “It can be overwhelming to witness/experience/take in all the injustices of the moment; the good news is that *they’re all connected.* So if your little corner of work involves pulling at one of the threads, you’re helping to unravel the whole damn cloth.”
We can’t do it all, but we can each do our part. I’m so grateful to each of you for plucking away at the threads of injustice in your corner; it certainly inspires me to keep doing the same in my day-to-day. Whether it’s by writing and creating art, advocating for the rights and freedom of marginalized communities, providing care, or educating, together we can unravel the tapestry of harmful legislation before us that does not serve us. Together we can weave the better, more sustainable fabric that present and future generations of Montanans deserve and need.
This article was published in the June 2023 issue of Down To Earth.