News » Opinion

Mountain High



Thinking about nature doesn’t just mean planning your next hike or float. Or it need not for the next 10 days at least, while The Center for Ethics at the University of Montana holds a slew of events centered on the topic “Exploring the Landscapes of Environmental Thought” from Tuesday, July 18, through Friday, July 28.

The Center’s choice of the landscapes metaphor is deliberate; environmental philosophy is a diverse discipline, encompassing not just questions about how to act (ethics) and what to value (aesthetics), but also how to understand human experience (epistemology) and existence (ontology) as part of a world that includes both other creatures and inorganic natural systems. There is not one landscape of environmental thought but many—each with different features and lessons for the traveler.

One segment of terrain they will be exploring that ought to be of particular interest in Missoula is a panel discussion on an essay titled “The Death of Environmentalism” taking place on Thursday, July 20, at 7:30 PM in room 106 of the Gallagher Business Building on the UM campus. The essay charges that environmentalists have failed to change policies encouraging carbon emissions, and thereby contributing to global warming, because enviros are focused on implementing technical policy solutions rather than creating a political dynamic that would facilitate better policy-making. Specifically, the authors charge that environmentalists have failed to frame their legislative efforts in such a way to build the strength of the movement even when they lose. (See Republican efforts to repeal the estate tax, ban flag burning or, really, just about anything for examples of how to do that.)

It’s an interesting argument with potentially serious implications for the strategic directions taken by environmentalists and their funders—both of which are groups with plenty of representation in Western Montana. So read the essay and head to the talk or just show up for the summary and discussion. And even if you can’t make it Thursday, check out the full schedule of events at

I could go on for the rest of the column about this stuff, but then how would you decide what to do with yourself for the next week? So here are some options, starting with the loosely hydrologic.

The weekly Wednesday releases of water into the Swan River’s Wild Mile kicked off this week and are planned to continue throughout the summer on Wednesdays from 5 to 9 PM. The water, it’s said, is warm, and the rapids it traverses are Class IV. Strap in if you got the goods.

If you’re thinking the Wild Mile might be a little too intense for you, perhaps that’s because you haven’t got the right gear. Try out a kayak that can help deliver you through the Wild Mile alive, or at least encourage you to develop the skills to help yourself, during Silver Moon Kayak Company’s July Demo Day, taking place from 10 AM to 4 PM on Saturday, July 13, at Somers Bay. Call 752-3794 to get your feet wet.

As for the landlubbers, I have hiking.

For instance, some foot-powered movement is sure to be required if you’re going to help the Great Burn Study Group monitor the roadless domain for which they’re named during their next trip, planned for Friday, July 21, through Sunday, July 23—technically beyond the scope of this week’s issue, but not if you’re going to get ready in time. Call 240-9901 for more information about this trip or others in store for subsequent weekends this summer.

Also, the New Rocky Mountaineers are headed to the Anaconda-Pintlers on Saturday, July 15, for an ascent of the northwest couloir of Warren Peak. A “couloir,” if you are not French-Canadian, is a place where big friggin’ piles of snow that don’t melt until much later than everything else on the mountain accumulate. Get up one with an ice axe and some help from your friends, who will be only too happy to hear from you at 549-4769.

For something more mellow, take a hike through Packer Meadows with the Lolo Trail Ranger at 2 PM on Saturday, July 15. It’s an easy hike, they say, and you’ll learn about plants, too. Get to the Lolo Pass Visitor Center, 33 miles west of Lolo, to join in the ambulatory education.

The great majority of road races do not take place in the withering heat of midsummer, but most races also don’t come with a free sundae either. Well, the Sundae Run, a one- or four-mile foot race that takes place Saturday, July 15, at 9 AM in Greenough Park, violates both of these conventions. If you want to join in the genre-bending fun, call 626-4012. Do it quick and they might still be able to find you a T-shirt.

If you feel totally unequipped to do anything in the outdoors, maybe a visit to Backpacker’s 2006 Get Out More Tour, which visits the Trail Head, at 221 E. Front St., and features gear demos and other information about the joys of outdoor adventure shopping, can give you a reason to trek beyond your backyard.

In this heat, I’ll be pretty content to kick back in mine.

Add a comment