Montana, Congress has two weeks to save the world

$3.5 trillion budget bill could and should combat climate change

September 21, 2021 8:38 am

Photo of Montana by Lucy Hochchartner.

Imagine what is it like to have two weeks to save the world. Let’s just say, it’s a lot. Now, this may sound like a hypothetical exercise, or the start of a fantastical epic, but it’s not. This is the world we’re living in right now.

In the next 10 days, Congress has the chance to pass a $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill. It doesn’t have a cool name, and it sounds pretty esoteric, but don’t be fooled; this bill is our best — and perhaps only — chance to address climate change.

That makes right now, this September, the most important month of my lifetime. I am just 23 years old, and my future is already on the line. At 23, I am not worried about meeting the love of my life, building my career, or starting a family. I am worried about making sure our senators use this fast-closing window of opportunity to chart a course toward a better future.

We need this bill, because, without it, we’re careening toward utter tragedy. This summer, nightmares became reality. Droughts bled our land dry, heat waves were not just uncomfortable, but deadly; wildfires scorched the earth and their smoke choked the sky; hurricanes destroyed homes that may never be rebuilt; and floodwaters drowned our families. This is the reality of the climate crisis, and without action, it will only get worse.

For me at 23, the pangs of worry are constant. Everywhere I go and in everything I do, this anxiety stays with me. Under a sinking sun turned scarlet or a dawn dimmed by smoke, I think — who will save us from calamity?

Sens. Steve Daines and Jon Tester have the opportunity to be heroes fighting for a reconciliation bill that improves our lives, the economy, and the climate. All indications suggest they will choose to let us down instead. Daines called the bill “reckless” and will almost certainly vote against it, and while Senator Tester at least understands climate change, he has recently hedged his support for the bill. These two senators are exhibiting a grievous dereliction of their responsibility to Montana and this nation, and we cannot accept it.

The fact remains that no one is coming to save us, but we can save each other. All summer, amidst the trauma of terrifying natural disasters, we’ve seen neighbors saving neighbors. Now, we need neighbors to fight for neighbors by advocating for the policies that prevent such disasters in the first place.

When I call a senator to ask for 100% clean electricity by 2035, the repeal of damaging fossil fuel subsidies, and investment in public transportation, I am doing it for the farmer whose fields are cracking with drought. I am doing it for the child who has asthma from coal pollution. I am doing it for the low-wage worker who can’t afford the ride to the doctor’s office. Will you make calls with me?

When I march for clean water, safe and efficient buildings, and a Civilian Climate Corps, I am doing it for the family whose tap is toxic from lead pipes. I am doing it for the elderly couple who doesn’t realize their gas line is leaking and could explode. I am doing it for the young person desperately seeking a career. Will you march with me?

There is still time to turn things around, but we must act now. Congress must invest in us, so that we can build a better future, together. That is why I am lobbying, marching, and writing this month. I am doing it both for you and for me — because I am your neighbor. Just as I would not let you down if your house were engulfed in flames or the floodwaters were pouring in, I won’t let you down in pushing for this budget bill. You can count on me. Can I count on you too?

Lucy Hochschartner is a 23-year-old organizer with the Sunrise Movement in Bozeman.

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