The kids aren't alright

Montana turns its back on its children
Kian Tanner fishes the Missouri River with his father
Kian Tanner fishes the Missouri River with his father (photo: Jeremy Roberts / Conservation Media).

I can’t claim to understand love. Is it an intimate emotional connection that binds us together? A chemical reaction surging through our cerebral cortex? A genetic adaptation that helps ensure the propagation of our species? The sublime gift of some greater power? I honestly don’t know. I can’t even tell you if those explanations are mutually exclusive or whether two, or perhaps more, might be true at the same time.

Love is a mystery. All I know is that it’s real.

Love, of course, takes many different forms. Perhaps the fiercest is the love of a parent for his or her child. Most of us would do anything to protect our children. We’d offer up our lives for them. Our children are both the distillation of our personal dreams and the light that illuminates our future. We would — and do — sacrifice for them without hesitation, regret or conscious thought; not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because the love coursing through our veins demands it.

Yet at the same time, our kids are just kids. We should never put them in a position where they’re forced to shoulder overwhelming burdens before they’re ready to do so. They lack the skills that come with age and experience. Asking them to step up because we’re too lazy or inept to deal with the issues of the day is unforgivable.

Which brings us to climate change. As the NY Times reported back on March 24th, 16 young Montanans are suing the State of Montana for prioritizing fossil fuels over human health and well-being. The kids have a point. The State of Montana has long ignored the existential threat posed by our changing climate, and it has done so in spite of Montana’s constitution, which guarantees “a clean and healthful environment in Montana for present and future generations.”

My son Kian, who grew up hiking in Montana’s mountains and fly fishing its rivers, is one of the lawsuit’s plaintiffs. And while I see the necessity for the lawsuit, and I love and admire Kian all the more because he’s accepted responsibility for a situation he neither created nor condoned, I have to admit that I’m saddened beyond words that we’re relying on his voice, and the voices of other Montana youth, to make up for our failures.

Make no mistake. Older generations, including my own, have failed. We’ve placed so much value on the comfort and convenience provided by internal combustion engines and fossil fuel- powered electricity that we’ve lost sight of our obligation to provide the "clean and healthful environment” our kids and grandkids deserve — and that Montana’s constitution guarantees.

I woke a couple of weeks ago to a thick envelope of smoke cascading down from Canadian wildfires and filling our valley. We live down the road from Glacier National Park and instead of the clear skies and fresh air of a traditional Montana spring, we were inundated with noxious wildfire smoke. And this happened at a time of year when cool temperatures and abundant moisture should make northern wildfires a distant concern rather than an in-your-face reality.

I can’t explain why, with the signs of a changing climate so real and the portents so dire, Montana is ignoring its duty to our children. Why would our government decide to prioritize profits over people? Shouldn’t our love for our kids, and our responsibility to future generations, trump our more selfish instincts?

Earlier this spring, the Montana legislature passed, and the governor signed, a bill making it even harder to address anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change. A news report characterized it as perhaps the nation’s most aggressive anti-climate law and stated the bill “bars state agencies from considering climate change when permitting large projects that require environmental reviews, including coal mines and power plants.”

Kian, who just finished his senior year in high school, asked me a couple of weeks ago whether it was indeed wildfire smoke obscuring our mountains. While it looked like smoke, and acted like smoke, it was hard to fathom that Montana’s smoke season had arrived in May, with our landscapes still green, lush and bursting with the promise of spring.

And yet smoke it was, pouring down across the border from far-too-early Canadian wildfires and filling our valleys with a malignant miasma that leeched the color from the air at the same time it endangered our health.

I don’t blame our kids for seeing what’s happening and feeling like they need to step up. Their future is at risk and the politicians tasked with addressing the problem have proved time and again that they’re in over their heads. Is it too much to ask, though, for our elected officials to fulfill their constitutional obligations? Do we really have to sacrifice our children and grandchildren on the altar of avarice?

It’s time for us to accept responsibility for the ongoing climate crisis. Our planet is growing hotter because we continue to burn fossil fuels, and that excess heat is having a negative impact on our health, our economy and the natural world we cherish. Addressing climate should not be a partisan issue. Nor should our children, who deserve clean air and healthy landscapes — the "clean and healthful environment” guaranteed in Montana’s constitution — be the only adults in the room.


Thank God someone is finally telling it like it is. It's so sad to know that management of the once abundant environmental resources for the Great State of Montana have been left to people who think it is ok to "bar state agencies from considering climate change when permitting large projects that require environmental reviews, including coal mines and power plants.” WHAT ARE THEY THINKING ? And who do they work for? Then again, it's we the people who have elected this batch of ill informed politicians to the position of caretaker of our environmental resources so I guess you get what you pay for… except in this case the only people who are really getting what they pay for are the lobbyist and the industries they work for as they continue to influence our politicians to do harm to our environment and its people... including our children and grandchildren EVERY SINGLE DAY. It's time for a change !

In the similar way that you describe not fully understanding love, I would admit that I don’t fully understand climate change. It’s clear that changes are occurring. What’s not clear is why. My belief is that these changes occur naturally over time. That is not to say that the actions of man are not exacerbating these changes. But let’s not forget that merely 10,000 years ago, which I’m sure we can all agree is the blink of an eye in geologic time, the valley you live in was covered with a sheet of ice a mile thick. I believe that ice melted not because of internal combustion engines or fossil fuel powered anything. I believe it melted because the earth naturally goes through cycles of warming and cooling.

But let’s say for a moment that the actions of man are, in fact, the cause of climate change.
What would your son, and the other 15 plaintiffs, in the case against the State of Montana want mankind to do instead of burning fossil fuels and using internal combustion engines? There is a great deal of talk about what NOT to do. But little in the way of a clear solution.
We are all well aware of several options. But check the math.
Wind… non-recyclable plastic for turbines, lithium mining for batteries for power storage, ecological problems caused when non-reusable and non-recyclable batteries wear out. Math doesn’t work.
Electric vehicles… same concerns as above for battery creation and disposal. There are literally piles of used electric car batteries waiting for technology to figure out what to do with them. Additionally, 90% of electric vehicles are charged by electricity produced by fossil fuels. Does it really matter if we burn the fossil fuel in the vehicle itself or if we burn it at the power plant??? Again, the math doesn’t add up.
Solar… solar panels present many of the same risks to the environment as batteries both in creation and disposal.
Water… not too many of us reading Hatch magazine think dams and hydroelectric power are a great solution.
Nuclear… likely our best opportunity. Although the technology is still very new. The math does likely add up on this option but we certainly aren’t quite ready for nuclear powered vehicles just yet.

One only has to look at a stream restoration project to see that mankind can have an impact on the world in which we live.
It’s also difficult to refute that the earth goes through warming and cooling cycles on its own.
The difficulty really seems to be determining how much the planet is actually affected by our actions. And, if in fact, our actions really do affect the climate significantly, what should we do about it.

David Miholer
Silver Lake, OH

Hi David,

A couple of things to think about:

Our planet is warming rapidly, with all the resultant problems, because we burn fossil fuels and inject billions and billions of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere on an annual basis. There’s nothing new, or controversial, about that statement. It’s been validated time and again by scientists the world over. You can visit NASA’s website, or NOAA’s, or the NAS and read about the science. Here’s the link to NASA’s info:

With regard to the math of renewable energy … you might want to actually do a little due diligence. Check out Mark Z. Jacobson’s work on renewable energy. Mark is the director of the Atmosphere/Energy Program at Stanford University and his detailed research shows that we can indeed power our civilization using clean, renewable energy. Here’s a recent article to get you started:

Long story short, we’re in a world of hurt with regard to climate, yet far too many people lack a basic understanding of our situation, or of the solutions. It’s always a good idea to educate ourselves about what’s happening and what options make the most sense.



Thank you so much for this piece, and all you do at Conservation Hawks. Your reply to a brainwashed climate change denier was extremely polite...That these people still spout their Exxon-financed, Manchin/GOP-supported nonsense in the avalanche of hard scientific data is a testament to the criminal temptation of short-term greed. I have lost my patience with these people; my grandchildren will be growing up on a planet I wouldn't recognize, and with half its species. I am heartsick, and your commenter's friends are lining their pockets with filthy money.