By Cari Kimball
I was recently listening to an interview with Casper ter Kuile – climate activist and divinity school graduate – who spoke to the importance of connection as a driving force for movement building and change-making. His words reminded me of how energizing it has felt this year to see our members show up for Zoom-based legislative update events and in-person lobbying events and rallies. In particular, our Legislative Roadshow trip to Kalispell and Whitefish was an absolute smorgasbord of connection moments.
The drive from Helena to the Flathead area is one of my favorite cross-state treks. I loved reconnecting, albeit in passing, with some of my family’s favorite summer camping areas (oh hey, Nevada and Monture Creeks!) when they’re blanketed in snow. And a new favorite windshield time treat is what I have lovingly named “Law School with Derf,” wherein Derf generously responds to open-ended prompts to provide riveting environmental policy lessons while driving. On the trip northward, Ian, Derf, and I discussed stream access, checkerboard land ownership, and the connections between environmental issues like sprawl today and the historic land-grabs of yesteryear.
Once in Kalispell, board member Roger Sullivan generously hosted us for lunch with a number of longtime MEIC supporters, where we enjoyed ample time to connect and learn from one another. Our evening event gathered several newer MEIC community members, including folks who we’d never connected with in-person before. I hadn’t fully realized just how much I’d been hankering for those extended conversations with our people, and the entire trip really filled my cup.
In the interview, Casper reflects on the weight of burnout he experienced in the climate advocacy realm, fueled largely by the sense that he and his colleagues were failing, and I was transported to some of the down moments we’ve had this session: seeing bad bills introduced, working our tails off to stop them, and watching them pass anyway. Like Casper, MEIC’s work for climate action and environmental protection taps into questions of how we build community and how we create lives of meaning, purpose, and justice. The connections we create with ourselves, our people, and our environment provide the scaffolding we need to weather the highs and lows. If we are not resilient in the face of losses, we simply cannot stick with this work for the long haul. And, ultimately, our connected, vibrant community is what makes our wins possible when they do come, despite the tough odds.
Finally, Casper also remarks on the essential ingredient of gratitude in building connection and creating meaning. With that in mind, I want to express my bone-deep gratitude to you, a member of MEIC’s community of change-makers, for joining us in our efforts to pass along a Montana worth inheriting to future generations. Because you’re with us, generously supporting us, responding to our calls to action, and sharing our vision with your friends and family members, we are stronger and more durable than ever before.
This article was published in the March 2023 issue of Down To Earth.