The Bozeman Daily Chronicle is our local news paper for the Gallatin Valley and surrounding communities. This past summer I submitted a selection of Op Ed pieces to be considered as a columnist. Nice things happen and I earned the right and responsibility to be one of the three rotating Friday writers. The following is from my first column published on Friday the 23rd of October.
These articles will show up every three weeks. While not directly relating to climbing, adventure, the outdoors and nature they have a big picture view and hopefully will mean something to you. Thanks for reading.
Education, Energy and the Environment
As I look to the east, with the sun welcoming a fine Montana morning, I realize how lucky we are. The mighty Missouri river originates in the peaks surrounding the Madison, Paradise and Gallatin valleys. We hunt, fish and play in these ranges, rejuvenating us for the work that supports our communities we so dearly cherish. Seldom is the person that doesn’t see how fortunate we are to live in this corner of our planet.
Part of being a citizen of Montana and the United States is knowing how we have shaped the current state of the world. We are the beacon for democracy, opportunity and knowledge. These three attributes have created a quality of life equal to none. With this privilege and right of citizenship comes responsibility.
One of life’s aims is to leave the world we inhabit a better place than when we inherited it. The generations preceding us have lived by this axiom and given us much to be grateful for. If we are make the world a better place there are three areas that we as citizens of Montana can make a difference.
These subjects are: education, energy and environment. These three topics are tied to our well-being and will define our future.
Education: The United States has been at the forefront of technology for over a century. Aviation, communications, nuclear physics, lunar exploration are four examples of our “can do” spirit and the worlds greatest collection of research based universities. In the Academic Ranking of World Universities for 2008, 17 of the top 20 universities are in the United States. Montana State University receives research funding, which creates innovation, which in turn leads to commerce. The technology companies that support our communities with employee payroll and tax payments benefit from the university environment. To succeed as a university we need quality schools for our children. Our economic growth is dependant on having bright minds designing the future.
Energy: We are first in national coal reserves with 119 billion tons and fifth in annual production at 43 million tons. Coal is part of who we are as a state. Similarly, wind defines the Big Sky. A breeze over 5 MPH is an untapped source of energy. Our state is second in the nation with a potential 4700 terawatts of electricity. This is 3700 times what we currently consume. Yet both of these resources have their challenges. Coal is the largest source of CO2; wind is reliable only 40 % of the time and is limited by transmission capability. Hence energy circles back to education. Our children are the engineers and scientists that will find solutions to coal emissions, carbon sequestration and efficient energy use.
Environment: The mountains that we enjoy are the water towers for the Mississippi and the Columbia watersheds. Water is the lifeblood of agriculture and our communities. How the water is used is of vital importance to our well-being. Hydro electricity is a source of energy and loops back to the education equation. Our fair vale is on the verge of unacceptable levels of air pollution. If we address this before federal government mandates change we will be much better off.
These three topics are of national and regional importance. Our community is poised to be the leader by creating the next generation of scientists with our exemplary education system, addressing the needs of our national energy needs and fostering a healthy environment. By being part of the solution we will grant future generations the quality of life we cherish.