Interpreting Missoula’s Climate Change Aspirations

by Travis Mateer

Missoula’s political braintrust likes to think of our community as a progressive island of blue enlightenment in a sea of ignorant rednecks. Nowhere is this more apparent than the issue of climate change, where Missoula’s political do-gooders have dedicated themselves to saving the planet.

On this final day of 2020, as local businesses continue getting destroyed to save us from the dreaded Covid, the Missoula Current is taking some time to talk about how Missoula’s deadline for carbon neutrality looms as climate change presses in.

This is such a fun article I’m going to break it down bit by bit to help interpret what is REALLY being said by the braintrust and their foot-soldiers. Here it goes.


Missoula put forth an ambitious plan to address climate change in 2013, setting the goal of carbon neutrality across the city by 2025. 

While progress has been made toward that goal, additional resources and effort are needed if the city hopes to attain its target in the five short years that remain. It was an ambitious plan to start, but with climate change pressing, city leaders feel there’s little time to waste.

Interpretation: Saving the planet is EXPENSIVE and we need MORE MONEY because WE ARE RUNNING OUT OF TIME AHHHH!!!!!


“We really debated at length over what the North Star should be. Even at that time, we recognized the 2025 date was aggressive,” said Missoula’s Mayor John Engen. “I think our plans and goals have to be aspirational and a little bit on the side of bold, otherwise we don’t make the kind of progress we can make.”

Interpretation: me and the rest of the smart people you should never question have already set our BOLD and ASPIRATIONAL goals to make PROGRESS because that’s what progressives do.


The formation of the plan ultimately came about in serendipitous fashion. A couple of years before it was formally adopted, one of the University of Montana’s environmental studies classes approached Engen with a proposal.

The class wanted to take a semester to calculate the city’s municipal energy use and carbon footprint for the first time. Engen was happy to engage the class – “we really kind of wanted to see what we were up against,” he said.

With that baseline data, a climate action task force made up of city officials and community members convened with the intention of moving from research to action.

Interpretation: I would normally pay a Florida consulting firm for this work, but when naive youngsters approached me, I thought, PERFECT, I can get the University students to do some free work for the city AND these youngsters will be good PR, since we are saving the planet for them, and anyone who disagrees with us therefore hates children and wants to destroy the world.

I’m going to skip over the next few paragraphs about setting targets and failing to hit those targets to get to this quote:

Considerable success has been paved in terms of creating a culture of sustainability among city employees. A bicycle fleet has been provided for city staff to use for running errands or going to meetings at other city offices.

The city has gone as far as providing helmets, lights and panniers for use with these bikes.

Interpretation: to cover for our failure in hitting our BOLD targets, we have consulted with our pubic relations wizards and they suggested we claim success at creating a CULTURE OF SUSTAINABILITY. Since no one will know what the hell a culture of sustainability is, we can define it however we want, like this: WE RIDE BICYCLES WITH PANNIERS AND LIGHTS!


A city program within the transportation division, Missoula in Motion, was also established before the implementation of the climate plan. However, its objective to promote the use of sustainable transportation methods through incentives programs and education plays into the plan’s goals.

Colin Woodrow works as the city’s neighborhoods coordinator within the Housing and Community Development Department. He said the city has been supportive of flexible work scheduling, which has manifested itself in different ways.

Managers encourage employees to use the bus and work around the bus’s schedule when that works for the employees. Incentives have been offered to promote carpooling.

As a byproduct of the coronavirus pandemic, city employees have been urged to work from home lately. The city also recently chose an energy services company to perform an energy performance contract, which will audit the city’s buildings and reveal where energy can be saved.

The energy performance contract will give much needed insight into how Missoula’s buildings can be more energy efficient. The city’s buildings account for the largest portion of its carbon footprint.

Interpretation: of course we have to study more stuff, and that means we have to pay an unnamed “energy services company” to do an “energy performance contract”. We are trying to save ENERGY and the PLANET, not MONEY, ok?


Strides have also been made pertaining to Missoula’s wastewater treatment plant, the city’s largest consumer of energy. Electrical generation equipment was installed to capture byproduct methane. The methane, in turn, is used to power the plant’s systems.

But the plan outlines notable recommendations that have not been addressed. For one, the plan calls for the purchase of all-electric or hybrid vehicles where appropriate when replacing fleet vehicles.

The city doesn’t yet have any full electric vehicles and only has a couple of hybrid vehicles.

Interpretation: WE WANT COOL NEW CARS!!!


The plan also calls for requests for approval to develop solar systems on the city’s municipal buildings, which has not panned out as well as it could so far.

Interpretation: no spouses of our elected braintrust have solar companies to financially benefit from this government work, so until we can find a way to throw money to one of our “progressive” friends or family members, this part of the plan will have to wait.


Benjamin Schmidt, an air quality specialist for the Missoula City-County Health Department, described some of the progress revolving around climate action as “glacial at times.”

“All this is doable. That has never really been a question for the last 20 years,” he said. “At the same time, when I say doable, I don’t mean there aren’t going to be setbacks.”

The major setback that Missoula faces for the plan’s implementation has, to a great extent, revolved around finances. As a growing community, Missoula has seen a corresponding increase in community needs.

Funds recently have been allocated to focus on addressing pressing issues such as affordable housing and mental health.

Interpretation: people in Missoula have started getting wise to our affordable housing scam, so we have had to focus more of our braintrust’s energy on smearing the most vocal ones.


Amy Cilimburg, the executive director at Climate Smart Missoula, said the city doesn’t get much help from the state to help fund these types of projects.

“We just don’t have that in Montana the way some of the other states do,” she said. “It’s really difficult for a local government to do what they want to do when they’re sort of living in a little bit of an island in a state like Montana.”

Interpretation: The ignorant rednecks who control the rest of Montana hate the earth and will not help the amazing do-gooders inside the enlightenment bubble to save it.


Federal funding has largely been absent as well, particularly under the current administration.

Interpretation: Uncle Sam has been held hostage by BAD ORANGE MAN for the last four years, and everything BAD ORANGE MAN did was terrible (except the opportunity zone our braintrust used to help gentrify West Broadway).


Missoula’s city council president, Bryan von Lossberg, played a large part in the plan’s development and his involvement helped propel him into his current position.

Beforehand, he was an engineer working on spaceships for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California and helped with the Mars Pathfinder Mission. During that work, the team he was involved with encountered a problem and had to alter their plan.

There was, however, no window to change the time of the launch. Lossberg feels this analogy is applicable to the implementation of the climate plan.

“I think everybody that understands what the science is telling us, realizes that we can’t just keep pushing out the date,” Lossberg said. “How we balance that recognition with the challenges of doing things that are really ambitious, that’s what makes it hard and important to do.”

Interpretation: the braintrust has a rocket scientist. Are you a rocket scientist? No, you aren’t a rocket scientist, so how about you just shut the fuck up and let the rocket scientists figure this shit out.


About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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2 Responses to Interpreting Missoula’s Climate Change Aspirations

  1. I should note that this satirical interpretation shouldn’t be misconstrued as climate change denial, or a critique of the many well-meaning people doing work they assume is good and helpful (and much of it is).

    real sustainability will come from decentralizing controlling power structures, not rubbing one’s hands together in anticipation of cashing in on the political climate change in DC.

  2. Pingback: Searching for the Montana Blogosphere – Cookies & Cowpies

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