Move Out, March for Water

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It’s fitting that our final day in Helena, Montana involved a march in support of clean water and demanding the Army Corps of Engineers not issue permits for the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) which is slated to cross the Missouri River (the source of our drinking water). When we first arrived in April we barely had time to unpack before heading to a march for Bernie Sanders’ bid for the presidency (oh, what could have been), so we  were excited to join a hundred others in Helena to stand in solidarity with the brave water protectors on the front lines at the Sacred Stone Camp.

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Today’s day of action, one of more than 200 similar events worldwide, focused on raising awareness on Helena’s busy Route 12 and rallying in front of the Army Corps of Engineers Office. It was great to see the countless waves and hear the cheers and honks from passing cars, and several people who were unfamiliar with the NODAPL movement stopped to ask why were all were gathered on a Tuesday afternoon. State Troopers even drove by and took everyone’s picture with a tablet; apparently families standing on a sidewalk are a threat and need to be fed into a terrorism database.

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From there we marched to the Max Baucus Federal Building, only to learn the Army Corps of Engineers office was “closed” and there was no one to receive the message from our delegation. Department of Homeland Security officers watched from inside as we made our message of “Water is Life” and “Stop the Pipeline” loud and clear. In the end no one made it past the front desk, but we knew it was important to be there exercising our right to have a say in what happens on public land, land taken from the Lakota people (and whose “undisturbed use and occupation” of the surrounding lands is enshrined by the federal government in the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty). It would take just one spill to pollute the drinking water for millions of people, so we couldn’t think of a more important place to be today fighting for the future.

Dear Tomorrow: A Digital Time Capsule of Climate Change

Through our involvement in the Montana Moms Clean Air Force we were made aware of a truly remarkable project. Dear Tomorrow is an archive of letters participants write to their loved ones about climate change, which will then be released in 2030 and 2050 to both the recipients and the general public. We found the process of drafting a letter to the Younger Fives to be an extremely challenging yet inspiring process. Climate change is definitely on our minds as parents but putting our thoughts and intentions into words was no small task. Doing so, however, helped crystallize our commitment to act, knowing that our kids will have the opportunity to read our letters as adults. As parents we do a countless number of things each day to keep our kids safe and healthy; adding a few more to reduce our impact on the planet and push for collective climate action is a small but meaningful way to provide for their future.

While creating a DearTomorrow letter, photo, or video is a transformative experience, we’ve also been inspired by reading others’ contributions. We’ve included our letter below as well as others that provide a powerful snapshot of what climate change means to families; click an image to read more. 

Finally, DearTomorrow is in the running for the Judge’s Choice award at the MIT Climate CoLab Conference in September. You can vote for them at the Conference web site (it just requires a super quick sign-up process).

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Democracy in the Park

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For the past several months, we’ve been experiencing our democracy in a whole new way. Instead of watching as spectators, we’ve been energized to donate and volunteer for the presidential campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders, calling citizens all over the United States to help get out the vote (with the Younger Fives listening in and helping to code the calls) . When we heard this weekend that Bernie was making a campaign stop in Montana, we knew this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity we couldn’t miss out on.

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From this…

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…to this.

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We knew the logistics of making the day a success would be a challenge. Hours waiting in line is a tall order for kids (and adults too), but Five Spice had the foresight to make the case for the Missoula rally over the Billings one (earlier in the day, in a park, shorter drive) and found us a hotel right next door so we didn’t have to drive from Helena on the same day as the rally. Also thanks to Five Spice, we had awesome Bernie t-shirts that she had made for the march a few weeks ago in Bozeman. It’s amazing what a computer printed design, traced onto freezer paper, cut out to make a stencil, adhered with an iron and tape, and filled in with fabric paint, can do!

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Caras Park the day before the rally.

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The view at 6:30 a.m. on the big day.

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Five of Hearts counting the crowd size.

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The line stretched from the bike path, along the city streets, and back over the bridge across the Clark Fork River.

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After a 5:30 a.m. wake-up call, we joined a few dozen other people in line at 6:30. The crowd didn’t stay small for long, though. Five of Hearts passed the time by making a count, and she calculated the people waiting had grown to almost 50 people by 7:00 a.m and over 500 by 8:00. All in all, over 9,000 people came to hear Bernie speak, and over 4,000 couldn’t even get into Caras Park after it reached capacity. 

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Our spot, front and center

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Passing the time

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Bernie arrives!

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Fortunately, we didn’t have that problem and were one of the first ones in when security started letting the crowd through at 10:00. We found a prime spot up against the front barricade and parked ourselves there for another 2.5 hours before Bernie took the stage at 12:30 p.m. The Younger Fives did an AMAZING job waiting patiently, even more incredible considering we couldn’t bring bags, food, or liquids in with us. They managed to find ways to pass the time, mainly by keeping journals and filling in Mad Libs. From start to finish, they held it together for eight and a half hours with taking only about 50 steps from our spot in line outside the park to our place right in front of the stage. Go Younger Fives!

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Bernie’s more than hour-long speech was pure inspiration. It’s easy to see why so many younger people support Bernie because his bold vision for the future is certainly one we Fives want for our kids and future grandchildren. He made the point that 100 years ago women couldn’t vote, but women and their male allies worked tirelessly to redefine what it meant to be a women and earned women full participation in the political process in 1920. 60 years ago segregation was the law of the land, but the nonviolent efforts of African Americans and their allies finally brought us a step closer to the promise of equal opportunity for all. 10 years ago same-sex marriage seemed like an impossible goal, yet through the efforts of the LGBT community and their allies same-sex marriage has been affirmed nationwide for over a year. Just a few years ago the fight for a $15-dollar-an-hour minimum wage seemed like pie in the sky, but through the efforts galvanized by fast-food workers this has now been signed into law in states like New York and California. Right now Bernie’s platform of universal health care as a right, tuition-free public college, responding to climate change like the threat that it is, equal pay for women (and so many other common-sense issues) might seem too ambitious, but history has shown that when people come together. we can move mountains. 

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Republicans like Donald Trump have a bold (but horrifying) vision for the future, and the best way to counter it is to offer an equally bold alternative. The kind of small-step, incrementalist approach the Democratic Party has embraced time and time again only ends in demoralizing and disengaging progressives. The New Deal (the much maligned “democratic socialism” Bernie embraces) brought us child-labor laws, Social Security, and rebuilding American’s infrastructure, things we all benefit from to this day. For us Fives, asking the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share so the government can do its job of protecting (i.e. fire departments, clean environment) and empowering (i.e. public education, transportation infrastructure) its people seems far from radical; instead, it is reaffirming the best of American values.

DSC01578 DSC01581The end of the rally couldn’t have been more surprising for us. After wrapping up with his speech, both Bernie and Jane Sanders took the time to talk with the crowd. Not only did we get to shake hands with both of them, but Five of Heart’s journal / crowd count log turned into an autograph book as both Bernie and Jane were kind enough to sign it. Were we Feeling the Bern after our day in Missoula? You better believe it!

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Act in Paris

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Like countless people in 175 countries around the world, we’ve been busy the last few days preparing for our local Global Climate March on Sunday, November 28th. The United Nations climate summit starts this week in Paris, and we are absolutely convinced that this summit represents our last good chance to provide our children and our children’s children with a world not plagued by chronic drought, famine, and war. The horrific attacks in Paris only reinforce the urgency of climate action. The connection to Syria has been at the forefront of the discussion about the violence that claimed at least 130 lives, and given the unmistakable influence of climate-change related events on intensifying volatile situations like those in Syria, the ripple effects will only be increasing over time.

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Five String’s Poster for the March

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Five Spice’s Poster for the March

World leaders have the opportunity (and duty) to go beyond pledges and commit to action. NASA’s carbon counter calculates the amount of carbon in the atmosphere is presently 401.58 parts per million, above the 350 parts per millions the scientific community advises is the ceiling for a planet hospitable to humans. The vast bulk of fossil fuels must stay in the ground, never to be burned, and this is something oil companies can only be coerced into doing through government action and popular pressure. A just transition to 100% renewable energy is the other piece of the puzzle, with the richest countries most responsible for the carbon in the atmosphere paying their fair share to helping all countries adapt.

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High Five’s Poster for the March (“Stop Climate Change! Team Work!”)

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Five Ball’s Poster for the March

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Five of Heart’s Poster for the March

From Parksville, Canada (where we’ll be attending a march) to Phitsanulok, Thailand, there are over 2,000 planned marches across the world on Sunday (though the one in Paris has been canceled by the government due to security concerns). The companies that stand to benefit from the short term burning of fossil fuels (the oil, coal, and natural gas industry) and from the long term havoc of a world fighting over scarce resources (weapon manufacturers, etc.) already have an army of lobbyist to ensure politicians hear their side. It will take a sustained surge of popular expression to drown out the pleas for profit in favor of the outcome our children and our planet need. Tomorrow’s just the beginning, but it’s going to take all of us to achieve the improbable.

Profound Panorama: A Day at Crater Lake National Park

 

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Climbing up the sandy bank from the parking lot, we were unprepared for the view ahead. Circled by a ring of hills, the deep blue waters of Crater Lake glimmered below and held us mesmerized. Throughout the course of our visit to Crater Lake National Park, we experienced the lake from at least a dozen different viewpoints, and each vista was as impressive as the previous one.

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The view is matched only by the equally magical landforms rising above the surface of the lake. Some, such as Wizard Island (first picture above), are visible from almost anywhere around the Rim Drive. Others like The Old Man (a mountain hemlock floating upright in the lake for over 100 years) take a little more patience (and a pair of binoculars). The kids were amazed to learn that the Phantom Ship (second and third pictures above) was actually 170 feet (17 stories) tall despite its tiny appearance from our elevated viewpoint.

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The day wasn’t all seated vistas though, and the Younger Fives were hard at work (as always) completing their Junior Ranger booklets. They learned about the geology behind the volcanic eruption of Mount Mazama that created North American’s deepest lake, about the importance of rain and snowfall in keeping the lake replenished (it has no inlets or outlets), and about the Klamath tribe that historically lived in the area and whose present-day reservation is just south of the park. One of the kids’ biggest surprises came on the Scavenger Hunt Bingo; the park ranger pictured on the board was the one that administered the Junior Range oath to them. See if you can spot him above 🙂

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One of the inescapable themes we all took away from the exhibits and conversations with people around the park was the impact of climate change at Crater Lake. The park has averaged about 44 feet of snowfall since the Park Service started keeping track in the 1930s, making it one of the snowiest places in the country. That number, however, has been dwindling for the past several years; the 2015 season only brought 18 feet of snow. About the same amount of precipitation is still falling here overall, but more and more is coming down in the form of rain and not snow. This is part of a larger problem of decreased snow pack that we’ve been seeing in our travels throughout the West this past year, from Colorado and Wyoming to California and Oregon.

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The National Drought Mitigation Center puts out a weekly map of drought-impacted areas across the country, and the places impacted only seem to be growing (especially in the West).  Less snow means less fresh water flowing into rivers and streams, thereby creating a situation where below-average snowfall in Colorado helps fuel the chronic water shortages that we’ve seen firsthand in states such as California. Diminished snowfall also has a marked impact on wildfires by prolonging the dry season; at this moment there are 163 fires on public lands according to the US Forest Service, one of which is just miles from our present rental.

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The Younger Fives feeling like giants in a stone model of Crater Lake.

Crater Lake has definitely inspired us with its beauty, and its cautionary tale about the link between climate change, snowfall, and drought is one we find hard to ignore. The Younger Fives take their Junior Ranger pledge pretty seriously, so in addition to staying on the marked trails and helping keep the animals in the park wild, taking action on climate change is another duty to help preserve national parks like this one. There are countless activities planned around the country tomorrow (Wednesday, October 14th) as part of the People’s Climate National Day of Action. While there might not be a rally nearby (which is our situation), there are many ways to raise awareness about addressing climate change, from posting or sharing on social media to being more mindful of our own energy and water use. Tomorrow we’ll be parking the car and taking the 4 Liters Challenge as part of homeschool, which is the amount of water (about 1 gallon) that hundreds of millions of people around the world must live on each day for all their water needs. What will you be doing? Leave your comments below!