Headed for the Hills

Angela Kirkpatrick, Energy Corps member with the National Center for Appropriate Technology in Butte, shares her experience of moving to Montana.

The hills near Butte

I’ve always wanted to visit Montana, ever since I did a report about it in the 4th grade. So, when cruising AmeriCorps job listings I came across Energy Corps in Montana, I jumped at the chance to move here. I slowly packed, gave away livestock (chickens), and harvested the remaining food (mainly sunflower seeds) from my bio-intensive gardens and yard. I had much to do but strangely was in no hurry, which I would later come to regret as I frantically packed at the last minute. I’d been in the Shawnee National Forest area of Southern Illinois for about twenty years, so I had many people, trees, and creatures to say farewell to. Alas, two weeks passed by quickly and I was headed out of my hot, humid jungle- like forests in search of new adventures and a better me.

After three days of driving, I finally arrived in Butte, Montana. I felt like the breath had been knocked out of me. The vastness of the Berkeley Pit, brown everywhere, houses upon houses. I wasn’t sure I could live in a town, so close to people, without the shelter of my forests. I reassured myself it would be okay, took a deep breath, and dove in with a smile. There wasn’t much time for contemplation as I unpacked and Energy Corps orientation started. Everyone I met was friendly and I have already made some lasting friendships.

I enjoy Montana and my work at Energy Corps. I’ve spent many afternoons hiking and letting my eyes feast upon the mountains and tranquil pines. The wide open spaces! I’ve already been exposed to the coldest temperatures I’ve ever experienced (nearly died), soaked in hot springs (revived), and went ice skating (discovered I am more of a hockey player than a figure skater, hmmph). I am working on two main projects at the National Center for Appropriate Technology. The first is helping to build a learning institution that will among other things offer workshops based on living sustainably. My second project concerns recycling and sustainability for the city of Butte. On the first Monday of every month, recycling meetings are held, which have morphed into sustainability meetings. Of primary concern is getting glass recycling back for the community and implementing sustainability measures such as more bike/walking paths, more bulk foods available, less consumption of goods, biodiesel fuel availability, and education geared towards helping people become more independent (producers instead of consumers).

My Energy Corps projects suit me because they are concerned with the whole, meaning the roots of the problems that face the Earth, our environment, and societies. I think most of our societal problems stem from our separation from nature and the resulting loss of respect for living things, including each other. I was JUST FINE living on my little farm surrounded by thick forests, sharply rising bluffs and familiar creatures, but I knew the time was due for me to get OUT there in the world of people and do my part to help turn the tide. And I am not sorry that I did and hope that I am, respectively.

member_angela_kirkpatrickAngela Kirkpatrick is developing programs and assisting with training and education for renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, and recycling. She has a BA in Plant Biology with specialization in Ecology from Southern Illinois University, and also an Associate’s in Biological Science. She has worked as a Wilderness Ranger for the Forest Service, worked at a State Park, and an Ecology Lab.

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