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This Week in Freudenfreude: Hot Fun in the Summertime

Actually, more like "not fun in the summertime." Today's posting starts with "In the Year 2525," and the last verse of that song (the one that takes it into the tenth millennium) reads thusly:

In the year 9595
I'm kinda wonderin' if man is gonna be alive
He's taken everything this old earth can give
And he ain't put back nothing

That song is more than half a century old, and yet they already knew that Houston, there might just be a problem.

We had some eco-optimism in this space last week. And today we will have some more, with two news stories that speak to how (essential) change just might happen on the environmental front.

First up is an item brought to our attention by reader M.P. in Fort Worth, TX. Climate change is already doing enormous harm, of course, as folks in Hawaii, Canada, the American Southwest, etc. can particularly attest right now. But the folks who are going to really bear the brunt of it are those who are currently in their teens or twenties, and who may have 50-70 years left on the planet. If there's anything left of the planet, that is.

Undoubtedly, many young people are frustrated that their elders don't see a crisis, and are either doing nothing to help, or are in denial. The frustration is surely increased in cities, counties and states where the only climate-change-denying major political party in the world holds power. States like, say, Montana, which is not only quite red, but also has an economy built on fossil fuel extraction.

There is one fly in the Big Sky ointment, however. For a very long time, Montana was run by environmentalists, following in the tradition of Theodore Roosevelt. And when the current constitution was adopted, it included this clause: "The state and each person shall maintain and improve a clean and healthful environment in Montana for present and future generations." The emphasis is ours.

A dozen young Montanans, none of them old enough to have graduated college yet, took note of this passage. Recognizing they weren't going to get anywhere with the politicians, they joined with environmental groups to file suit in Montana's First District Court. And this week, Judge Kathy Seeley ruled in the plaintiffs' favor. Specifically, the decision strikes down a new Montana law forbidding consideration of global warming when permitting new fuel extraction projects.

Politicians in the thrall of Big Oil are pretty good at finding ways to serve the needs of their masters, by hook or by crook. So, this presumably isn't over yet. And while the ruling may slow the implementation of new extraction projects, it won't shut down those that already exist. Still, the ruling is surely a step in the right direction, and, as the first-ever "constitutional climate" verdict, is expected to inspire similar suits in other (mostly Western) states that have similar passages in their state constitutions.

Moving along, there is also this story out of Central California. That's large-scale agriculture territory, which means it's large-scale water use territory, and also that it's pretty red, politically. For quite a few years, however, there hasn't been enough water. Donald Trump campaigned very little in California, but when he did, he promised to bring the water back. He didn't do that any more than he built the wall or brought coal mining jobs back.

After years of this, the Central Valley is in a state of crisis, and a generational gap has emerged. Older farming interests want to find a way to replace the lost water, whatever it takes. Californians do have a long history of stealing water from other people, including from other Californians, so you can see why they think this way. Younger folks, however, are resigned to drought-level water supply as the new normal. And so, at their instigation, roughly 100,000 acres of Central Valley land are going to be converted to solar farms. That's only one-third of the 300,000 acres that have lain fallow for years; the thinking is "better to get something out of the land as opposed to getting nothing."

The whole situation is fraught with tension, and with maneuvering and counter-maneuvering. But the fact is that the younger faction is eventually going to win out; the only question is how long it will take, and ultimately how much land will be given over to power generation. At the same time, the pro-solar forces can't help but notice that Trump and other Republicans have done little for them, while Joe Biden and the Democrats have facilitated investment in green technology. So, over the next 10-15 years, it's possible that one of the last remaining red portions of the California map (an area that includes the home district of Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-CA) will turn purple, or even blue.

Tomorrow, we'll have readers' thoughts on the climate crisis, and what can be done, if anything. Some of those letters are optimistic, others definitely aren't. So, tune in tomorrow if you want a broader variety of opinion. But for today, well, this feature is not about pessimism. And so, we share the good news.

Have a good weekend, all! (Z)

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