Garbage trucks fueled by french fry grease, parking ticket immunity for drivers of hybrid cars, and a commuter rail line down the Bitterroot. The ideas range from the strange to the infeasible, but some Missoulians think they’re worth exploring.
From the simple to the complex, the practical to the goofy, Missoula City Councilman Jim McGrath heard it all from the 40 or so individuals who attended the city’s Subcommittee on Greenhouse Gas Reduction and Energy Conservation roundtable. McGrath, who chairs the committee, sponsored the forum so citizens could take a look at a draft of the committee’s local action plan for cleaning up Missoula’s air.
For the first hour of the Wednesday, Dec. 11 discussion, council chambers had an unusual air of informality and positivity, but as in all creative brainstorming sessions, the voice of reason—or as some participants saw it, the voice of treason—eventually surfaced.
“I’m no expert in global warming, but I do have a question,” said Smurfit-Stone’s Leif Griffin, approaching the microphone. “What is going to be the benefit of CO2 reductions to global warming? My understanding is that if we can’t get the rest of Montana or the United States or certainly the world to buy into the concept of CO2 emissions reductions, is there anything that the city of Missoula can do with a net benefit?”
As Griffin spoke, some listened thoughtfully, some rolled their eyes, and others searched for the justifications underscoring their particular beliefs.
“It understand completely that it’s a global problem,” retorted McGrath. “But cities around the world know that they can play a positive role, and if we were the only city, then we would be the only city taking a positive role. But there are several hundred cities in the planet protection program, so we’re not the only one.”
In 1996, the Missoula City Council passed a resolution to join the Cities for Climate Protection Campaign, with the Greenhouse subcommittee formed in the wake of the resolution.
Picking up where McGrath left off, subcommittee member Dave Harmon explained to Griffin how he saw global warming effecting Missoula and Montana.
“Drought is severe to extreme in 80 percent of the American west, 1,100 Montana grain farmers have gone belly up in the past three years due to drought, the glaciers in Glacier National Park will be gone by 2030, West Nile virus, that killed horses here this summer, is here in part because of global warming,” Harmon told Griffin.
“There are real live effects of global warming happening right here in Missoula.”
While many of the citizen advocates present concurred with Griffin’s belief that changes need to come, but not at the expense of low-income Missoulians, those advocates want the public to understand that nothing is set in stone. This was just the first in an ongoing series of dialogues.
“And by the way,” McGrath told Smurfit-Stone’s Griffin with a smile. “We’ll want your help when we pick up with the industrial sector.”