Candidates, local officials and climate activists addressed a raucous crowd here as part of Global Climate Strike activities, saying widespread political action and activism are needed now to fight global warming.
“Standing up to injustice is political and demanding better from the powers that be is political, and these are things that we should never apologize for,” said Cari Kimball, development director for the Montana Environmental Information Center.
About 200 people gathered on the steps of the Helena City-County Building in downtown Helena, where they heard calls to action from several people, including U.S. Senate candidate and Helena Mayor Wilmot Collins.
Collins, one of two candidates competing for the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, said he has pledged to take no campaign funds from fossil-fuel interests.
“We have a duty to fulfill and we can only accomplish this by taking brave and bold actions that will slowly and steadily reduce our carbon footprint,” he told the crowd. “Our time to tackle the biggest threat we’ll face in our lifetime is right now.”
Democratic U.S. House candidate Kathleen Williams attended the event, but wasn’t one of the speakers.
Speakers also mentioned a resolution that will come before the Helena City Council, to call for having the entire city consuming electricity from non-fossil-fuel sources by 2030.
Organizers conceded that, in reality, the resolution would be directed at NorthWestern Energy, the electric utility that serves Helena – because that’s the only choice that most Helena electricity consumers have.
NorthWestern provides substantial amounts of power generated by hydroelectric dams and wind farms, but still has power in its portfolio from coal-fired plants at Colstrip in southeast Montana and a natural gas-fired plant near Anaconda. It also buys power on the open market.
Kimball said it’s fine for people to do things individually, like walk or bike instead of drive, when they can, but that moving away from fossil-fuel energy and other climate-affecting actions will require broad political action.
The Helena event was one of several climate-strike events across Montana on Friday.