Flathead County Coverage

Feb 17, 2013 9:28 PM by Tara Oster - KAJ News

Flathead residents rally to spotlight climate change

WHITEFISH - Tens of thousands of people surrounded the nation's capitol on Sunday for what organizers say is the biggest climate rally in U.S. history.

Montanans joined in from their local communities to spread the word and demand action from law makers.

"Several of us just volunteered to say, 'you know, we care about this issue and there are national rallies going on all over the country, why not do it in Whitefish'?" Whitefish rally organizer Steve Thompson said.

Dozens of local residents, including Keela Smith, took to the street in Whitefish, despite the snow, to spread the message about climate change.

"I think it's huge. You know the more people we can get just shows that people do care."

The main issues concerning these Montanans are proposed open-pit coal mines and the Keystone XL Pipeline, which they say shouldn't be built.

Whitefish residents also expressed concern there's much less ice covering Whitefish Lake than in previous years - which is believed to be a direct result of climate change.

Thompson says it's time to act now. "The science is very clear on this. The threats of inaction are very real and pretty daunting, but fortunately the solutions are feasible."

Retired Director of the Climate Change Research Division of the US Department of Energy, and featured speaker, Jerry Elwood says acting means reaching out to politicians and demanding a change.

"There are a lot of policy makers who deny that there's even a problem that has to be faced. And those that recognize there's a problem have had problems deciding on an effective policy that won't damage the economy."

Elwood also says there's a tough reality Americans need to face in order to effectively deal with climate change.

"It may cost us more economically in order to avoid passing on to future generations, a climate that they'll have to pay for in terms of damages."

Even in a small town such as Whitefish, Smith says it doesn't hurt to try and do what you can to make a small difference.

"Even if it's one little thing at a time, like riding your bike or walking or something, it all helps."

Similar rallies were also held in Bigfork, Kalispell and Missoula on Sunday.

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