As the winds died down, and the sun began to poke its head over the Eastern horizon, our group of eleven began to stir. Unzipping the rain fly, our eyes were met with a glistening landscape, scattered with droplets of water from the storm a few hours earlier. Thankfully, our group of eleven is full of observers. We took notice of the skies one night earlier and prepared our camp site by tightening the rain flys, double checking the tent stakes, and sleeping inside our newly established shelter on the Charter Ranch.

After the usual routine of boiling water, eating breakfast, and applying liberal amounts of sunscreen, we dove into a day full of ranch-home chores. Window washing, priming, and painting left us all with the Montana badge of pride: a wicked sunburn. I guess this was the perfect example of the Montana saying, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes.” Almost on cue, the wind began to pick up, skies began to darken, and we gathered inside to discuss the previous day and current readings on biofuels, ranching, and meat consumption.

The hour long discussion definitely highlighted our diversities, as well as synthesized several core concepts about climate change that are often times overlooked. Topics flowed from community trade, to carbon footprints, to the local movement, and beyond. With every day and with every class discussion, the interests and strengths of the students (as well as the teachers) become apparent. While one is concerned about atmospheric carbon, another is interested in kinetic energy or local agriculture. If there is one thing I have learned over the past three years as an environmental studies student, it is that the topic of climate change is literally infinite. This is also, perhaps, why so many people chose to avoid the subject all together; it is simply too large of a problem. How can one student make a difference?

After years of feeling suffocated by the pressure of “saving the world,” the feeling of calm finally hit me. Looking around the room, I can see other young minds, eager to do what they can to change the world for the better. It is not our job to save the world. Rather, it is our job to continue studying what we love, and focusing in the sectors that interest our individual minds. While one of us may work with the global trade system, another might develop a more sustainable way to capture energy from the wind or sun.

While the pressure of climate change looms over all of our heads, there is still the horizon of hope. What really counts is how well we prepare ourselves for this upcoming feat. How will we tighten the rain fly? Where will we place our stakes? The answer may not appear today, but as long as we are still willing to brace the storm that is inevitably going to appear, we will hopefully not get drenched. For now, it is time for sleep once more, as we prepare ourselves for yet another day of riding across the beautiful Rockies.

One Reply to “Ruth Crystal: Eyeing the Storm”

  • Ruth – So glad to have you out on the course and experiencing so much more of Montana and these issues than most people ever will. Great that actual contact with these places and people is calming in the face of challenge, and focuses your energies in useful ways. I wish I could have been there at the Charter’s with you all – have a great trip and I am looking forward to your next entry! – Dave Morris

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