As a crowd estimated at 40,000 converged on Washington, D.C., Sunday for the Forward on Climate Rally, upwards of 100 climate-minded Gallatin Valley residents met at the Bozeman Public Library for the same cause.
According to organizers, the rally was held at the nation's capitol and at satellite locations across the country to urge President Obama to take the first steps needed to reduce CO2 emissions globally by rejecting export of carbon intensive tar sands oil through the Keystone XL pipeline.
Here in Bozeman, attendees were looking to the state Legislature to initiate bills to curb climate change.
Montana Sen. Mike Phillips Williams, a Bozeman Democrat and member of the Senate Natural Resources Committee, addressed the rally's attendees to discuss the challenges that face those fighting against climate change.
"You'll hear people, like my colleagues in the Legislature, who argue climate change is hooey," Phillips told the crowd. "But they couldn't be more wrong. We're the first-ever human population to be living in an atmosphere with 390 parts per million of CO2. I say to my colleagues who claim it's all hooey, that these levels might be a big deal."
Phillips detailed some of the current bills set for hearings, including SB 281, a bill he's sponsored that would allow the Department of Environmental Quality to work with the University of Montana to prepare a Montana Climate Assessment and Adaptation Report. The bill will be heard on Monday at 3 p.m. by the Senate Natural Resources Committee.
Phillips, though, said he believes will not survive past Monday's hearing. Despite that sentiment, he did add that citizens who want to influence their legislators should not throw in the towel.
"You've got to be a squeaky wheel that demands grease," Phillips said. "I promise you can make a difference, but it won't be easy. You are pushing up against a status quo that's entrenched."
Other speakers at the rally offered their opinions and advice, including organizer Kristen Walser, a former teacher turned-climate-change advocate who now works for the Bozeman Climate Alliance, the organization that initiated Sunday's rally at the library.
"In Montana we have a quarter of the country's coal reserves," Walser said. "We're on the path of the Keystone XL pipeline, and we have a huge part to play. Our Legislature influences climate by its decisions, so we can hopefully influence Legislature. And now is the time to do it."
Kristi Chester Vance, Bozeman resident and deputy director of ForestEthics, an organization that works to move corporations toward environmentally friendly practices, also addressed Sunday's crowd. With her were her daughters, Stella, 7, and Zoey, 5. The young girls carried signs that read, "I'm worth fighting for," and "Keep it snowing."
"We want our kids to thrive, with clean air, fresh water, and a stable climate. We need that," Chester Vance told the crowd. "Thousands of people are standing up and demanding a future where our economy and environment thrive. We are a country of innovators. We can do this. It's time."