By Cassidy Randall, Rolling Stone
Illustration by Karlotta Freier.
Grace Gibson-Snyder takes a sip of chai from her reusable mug in the crowded coffee shop. She grew up here in Missoula, she says, “with a love of nature untainted by worry.” Every year on her birthday, her family took her to Yellowstone to hike and backpack. She rafted the Clark Fork that runs through town in the summers and skate skied the snow up a local canyon in winter. A sixth-generation Montanan, this gold-hilled, water-laced landscape shaped her fundamentally.
Close to five years ago in this exact place, she was brainstorming with her mother about a service project at the start of her freshman year in high school. Her mother showed her an article about China ceasing to take the world’s plastic recycling and suggested her daughter choose something environmental for the assignment. That moment was Gibson-Snyder’s first awakening to a planet in peril.
She suddenly began noticing that thick wildfire smoke choked the skies more frequently in summer, forcing her soccer practice indoors. She went for a hike in Glacier National Park, dipped in a lake at the bottom of a glacier that had existed for thousands of years and was predicted to disappear by the end of this century. By the time a teacher mentioned that the best way to reduce an individual carbon footprint was to forgo having children, she’d already started wondering on her own whether she should have the kids she’d always wanted. How much would her children suffer, and contribute to global suffering? How could this huge decision with such considerations be her burden at only 14 years old? And how was it that none of the adults in the proverbial room were doing anything about this?