Big Sky

A friend was telling me recently how, even as Montana enjoys a reputation as a sort of great outdoors Shangra la, in actuality it has been methodically raped for its resources without concern or recourse for the environmental damage that has followed. Significant portions of the state are highly polluted from coal and gold mining, which until ten years ago utilized cyanide in the process and of course resulted in incidents of cyanide-tainted ground water. Push back on environmental issues in Montana has traditionally come from land-owners, though often their interests are as tainted as the ground they seek to protect.

So there are all kinds of fictions about the Big Sky state floating around, plus they’ve given us the wit and wisdom of Max Baucus to add to the healthcare debate. Actually, his wisdom knows no bounds, as Baucus steps up to pontificate on how we should go about dithering on global warming, too. via Grist, it seems that the beetles eating Montana’s trees don’t care if Baucus believes the planet is warming or not. cue munching sound:

One part of the media focused on the real story that Montanans are increasingly concerned about:  Climate change is already hitting their state hard now and is poised to devastate it utterly.  American Public Media’s Marketplace has be done a terrific multipart series on climate change, which can be accessed here, along with a map of how different regions of the country are being affected now and how they are likely to be hit in the future.

The first piece “Climate change in our own backyards,” tells the amazing story of the warming-driven bark beetle infestation around Helena.  And yes, this is the same exact story that the NYT screwed up in July (see “Signs of global warming are everywhere, but if the New York Times can’t tell the story (twice!), how will the public hear it?“).

The article is complete with pretty pictures and ‘sustainability reporters’. But this is a good reminder to watch out for the dueling rationales that pop up for the millions of acres of dying trees across the mountain west. Climate change denial is one thing – some people just choose to rather not believe it. And skepticism has its privileges. But what happens when actual people begin experiencing things like this? Will it get more difficult to concoct gymnastic reasons that place the blame on immigrants, or does Occam get a seat on the city council?