Post by: Rayelynn Brandl, Clark Fork Watershed Education Program Director
As we navigate this COVID-19 crisis, it is easy to focus inward; to be myopic as we shelter in place with our loved ones. Perhaps we find ourselves saying, When all of this is over, then we can get back to our work. Or, When all this is over, then we can make decisions.
As the Director of a non-profit focused on providing education about our local environment, I am feeling a bit non-essential. I am not one to sit idle. I prefer to be with people, facilitating their discoveries and fascination about our place. Imagining how to do our work without experiential activities like jumping into the creek to sample water quality and aquatic insects was baffling me.
I did not feel like working, plain and simple. I wanted to wait and see how it all goes.
As I reflected about these feelings and lamented about my worries, my sister, who is an essential nurse, interrupted me gently. She asked me to stop and reflect for a minute that all over the Earth, there are noticeable changes in environments as people hunker down more and consume less. She pointed me to the fact that China’s air quality has measurably improved, that canals in Venice are clear, and that the number of negative animal/human interactions are down.
I made some flippant comment about what all of that had to do with me.
I think I “got her Irish up,” as my grandmother used to say. My sister sighed and said, “When this crisis is over, we will still need a healthy place to live! If this moment in time has shown us one thing, it is that we humans need to be better. We cannot keep abusing our planet as we have been. If we do, we can expect that there will be even more spillover events like this one. Your work is mission-critical as I see it. You need to highlight what is happening to our Earth, that little changes can create big effects.”
I was stunned. Of course, she is right. Despite our tendency to be focused on the immediate future, our long-term future also is at stake.
In Butte today, we are on the brink of settling a Consent Decree (“CD”) with British Petroleum-Atlantic-Richfield Company. All agree that this settlement has been a long time coming. As we shelter in place, let’s not forget the lessons of the past and also consider our futures. We need to stay the course right now, focus on what we will need for the next seven generations of Montanans. Now is not the time to wait, despite our unusual circumstances.
As we hunker down and wait out COVID-19, I encourage each of you to keep Butte’s future in mind and make your comments to the Council of Commissioners. The Council is accepting letters and emails until April 15th. On April 15th, residents can call in to the Council to make public comment as well. It is time to get our CD settled.
Let’s move forward so that we can indeed have a healthy place to live.