HI! I’m Sula Duncan, and I just recently participated in a town hall with Governor Bullock. The town hall was based around Bullock’s new climate Executive Order. This signed Montana onto the U.S. Climate Alliance and created a climate committee for Montana. Overall, it was an incredible experience, and it definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone.

I’ve been passionate about climate change for a while, partially for its pure simplicity. Not that it’s easy to find a solution (not one bit!), but it’s one issue in life that can be clearly backed with science and is undoubtedly real. It’s also something that affects the entire world.  I 100% support eradicating social inequality issues, but climate change is a no brainer for me to have a passion for. And hey, you have to have a society to fix, and climate change threatens the existence of society.  

One of my questions dealt with how the new executive order takes into account not only existing animals, but also new animals that are arriving in Montana as the climate shifts, since animals and national parks are a huge draw for tourists, and losing them would greatly affect our economy. I’ve already experienced how climate change can impact tourism. Three years ago, the Yellowstone River was closed for recreational use from Gardiner to Billings during peak tourism season. This was due to a parasite that was able to flourish in the warmer river temperatures that have been steadily increasing.

However, it still took me awhile to really get it. Climate change almost seemed like a far away concept to me, something that  only affected people living in big cities in California and New York. But, this year in particular, I really saw how it affected my own way of life in tiny ways. An example is the weather. I’m a runner, and I usually stop running outside when the snow drifts get to high for my clumsy feet to run through.I usually stop around December, sometimes November. This year, I was able to run all the way into February, with the bad weather hitting in mid March. Even now, all of the wildflowers are showing late. They’re little things, but it all ultimately adds up to one idea: Our world is changing. When answering this question, Bullock said part of fixing issues like the parasite was building in resilience, which was shown when everyone gathered to help fix the issue. He also said it would be important for Fish, Wildlife and Parks to be engaged in the new science that is showing up. 

My other question dealt with how to make climate change an easier topic to have meaningful conversations. It seems so rare to me to actually have a conversation like this town hall, where questions lead to discussion and doesn’t turn into “Who can come up with the harshest insult?” I also find that if a discussion does come up, people don’t really know the terminology, including yours truly. How can we expect change if we can’t discuss? Bullock said that a lot of resistance to fixing climate change comes from fear. Fear of change. He said it is crucial to make his plan, including the council, to be an opportunity and not a threat. It’s an opportunity to employ people from all different areas of Montana and to invest in technology. 

Why wait?- It’s easy for all of us to think of a reason to not do something, but especially for young people, there’s this idea of “I’m only 16!”, but in reality, none of us have another five or ten years to get involved. Climate change is now!! There is no extra time. We are already behind, but not far enough behind to not give it our all to fix this. This is shaping our present and future world. As a young person, the decisions that are made now directly affect my world that I’m supposed to live in. They affect where I will live, who I will meet, what jobs I can do, how long I will live and so much more. Why wouldn’t I want to be involved in the decision making process? It can be intimidating to speak alongside powerful, educated people and even more intimidating to speak to elected officials, but it’s like taking a run. You always feel much better afterwards. Plus, people want to know what young people think! It also looks good for them to take an interest in younger generations, so they are invested. IT MATTERS. YOU MATTER.

I would just like to thank everyone that helped make this happen, and for helping me step out of my public speaking box. Thank you to Governor Bullock for signing this executive order and taking a stand to show that climate change matters.Thanks to Kiah for inviting me and having lunch with me afterwards. Thanks to Valan and Avery for their incredible questions and kindness. Thanks to Montana, for being a state that acknowledges the hurdles we face, and instead of cowering in fear, attacking it head on. Keep up the good work.

Sula Duncan (Livingston, MT) is a junior at Park High School, musician, and outdoors enthusiast.