The One Where Madelynn and Mel Present

By Melissa Englund

On May 22nd, fellow Energy Corps member Madelynn Nelson and I hopped into an NCAT Prius and drove to the Butte Archives to present at the Brown Bag Lunch series.  Our presentation was on community sustainability and resilience, with a big chunk of that talk going over climate change and how Montana specifically will—and is—being affected.  With Butte being a mining town, we were curious (and a bit apprehensive) about 1) how the reactions would be and 2) how Q&A would go after.

The clock hit 12 and we began.  We cracked jokes throughout our presentation and of course poked fun at the fact that Madelynn and I talk about 5000 words a second yet we have the longest EC titles (fitting, very fitting).  We also made it serious, though, and talked about how farmers’ livelihoods will be affected by climate change; how bark beetles are wiping out our forests; how climate change will cause 13 million climate change refugees in the US alone.  When Madelynn was explaining bark beetles she asked for a raise of hands of who had heard of them and a majority of people raised their hand.  One woman with her hand raised closed her eyes and shook her head, almost as if in a moment of mourning. 

The importance of resilience planning and what it is was also covered.  We wanted to show the Butte community that resilience planning isn’t just for Missoula and Bozeman, but that other places (Red Lodge, Livingston, etc.) are tackling this too.  Resilience planning isn’t just about being ready for a disaster.  Resilience planning is knowing your neighbor, it’s healthy local businesses, it’s high community pride and activity, and so, so much more.  What place wouldn’t want those attributes? 

Ending our presentation, we talked about Sosten fest and the Great Pasty Throwdown, AKA how Butte is starting their resilience journey.  We want the conversations and inspirations that happen at the fest to spark change in our community.  We want to build a bigger, more resilient, and tougher Butte.  We quoted Nick Tilsen, Ogalala Lakota Nation and an executive director of a community development company, who said “[Resilience and regeneration] is as much about healing the human spirit as it is green buildings”.  (You can also watch his Ted Talk on Community Resilience here.  Highly recommend). 

Now was the moment of truth: The Q&A.  Hands popped up and we began taking questions, but the questions were not what we expected.  We had questions about the bark beetles and what is being done/how it can be fixed.  We had questions about AmeriCorps and about NCAT.  We even had a woman ask us, “Can you two travel to give this presentation?  My town really needs to hear this.” 

So, what if we had let our assumptions and apprehensions get the best of Madelynn and I?  We could have kept out talking about climate change, we could have kept everything light and easy, but how is that sparking change where you are?  We have 11 years to make drastic changes.  Better start yabbering ya’ll. 

[To watch our presentation go here]
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