Earth Day 2018

In April of 1970 as a junior at Billings West, I joined 20 million Americans in celebrating the first Earth Day by sitting on a Grand Avenue curb protesting an 80 foot tall sign that had just been erected by Big Oil—the first of its kind in Billings and a clear example of visual pollution. Earth Day was born out of the aftermath of a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara and was originally conceived of as a “teach in”—a way to educate ourselves and others about the environment and our “home.” Earth Day is now honored by a billion people worldwide and is the largest secular celebration. Even Christians recognize that when Jesus returns, having left us as stewards of our planet, he will not be happy with the job we have done. The new Pope has mandated that his followers take care of the Earth as moral duty. Earth Day is my favorite day and have tried to make every day an Earth Day. I am a compulsive recycler and reuser. Twelve years ago Metta and I bought an unfinished home in the Shining Mountain development and have restored a portion of Holly Creek which flows through it. I do not feel right driving 500 miles a week to serve our nation’s veterans at their Bozeman Clinic, but have used a low carbon footprint vehicle and plan to stop in October. My primary patient come retirement will be Mother Earth—she has a fever. It has been proven that the zip code you live in is a greater determinant of your health than how much you spend on medical care or where you get it. The Madison Valley is a true gift to all of us who share her, intolerable wind and winters aside. It may not last forever. The powers driving the Big Sky tsunami and profit centered greed have an eye on your land. The people who have promised to “bring the Bakken to the Beartooths” will not stop there. And by the way, I speak only reluctantly to those who think the massive oil drilling and fracking of the Dakotas is good unless they have actually been there—one visit was all it took for me.

My great, great grandfather, Otis Whitney, homesteaded near Whitney Point in 1864. He brought barley and the first bull to the Valley and built the first bridge over the Madison. The cows he brought from back east made dairy products he delivered to the Virginia City gold rush. What unites all of us with our ancestors here or beckons us even if our ancestors settled elsewhere is the quality of our environment. The original Earth Day was billed as a uniter of Republicans and Democrats. For all his faults, Nixon built the EPA. The current head of that agency was hired to gut it. Greed and profit lurk more important than the quality of our air, water and soil. Climate change is not a hoax. Most grade schoolers know this. It is happening before our very eyes and while we may quibble over the precise causes, it is reality. The Madisonian printed an article about our excellent road maintenance team in January—the head of that group flat out said that warming temperatures make their work harder. Two weeks later, the manager of the Ruby Dam cited increased precipitation as adding to the challenges he faces. The noxious weed folks can tell you their work is harder. Walk through our forests, especially where beetles have thrived due to absence of killing winter frosts. Now guided fishing on the Madison is going to change. Ennis Lake, if you spend time on it, is filling up with silt. Some say this is good, but it may deprive fish downstream of needed nutrients. Motorized wave makers have taken precedence over the sanctity of a peaceful bird sanctuary. You need go nowhere else to see evidence of climate change. It is here and will continue regardless of the cause. It is our choice to prepare for it and minimize our contribution to it.

There are endless lists as to what to do about the threats to Mother Earth. Here is a short Madison County specific list of suggestions.

  1. In that the theme of this year’s Earth Day is reducing the role of plastics(thanks again fossil fuels), consider lobbying all retailers in the Valley to end the use of plastic bags. Many communities that were tired of plastic flags decorating their plants and fences and choking their wildlife have already done that. Local plastic recycling is available. Use it.

  2. Come to the county library in Ennis at 11 a.m. on Saturday, April 21 and

watch “Petropolis”, an artful movie featuring the environmental catastrophe occurring just across the border in the Alberta tar sands. Focus group discussion will be available on how to become an active participant in saving our valley, state and rivers from ruination.

  1. Vote for candidates who care about Mother Earth and the quality of our

beautiful Montana, regardless of their political color. Stop partisonizing climate change. If you have children who can or will soon be able to vote, encourage them to register.

  1. Spend time with children outdoors on Sunday, the 23rd (Earth Day). Talk

to them and each other about our home and how they can take care of her.

Jaye Swoboda, 

Ennis. Montana


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The Madisonian

65 N. MT Hwy 287
Ennis, MT 59729

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