As I await the release of Neil Young’s new album, “The Monsanto Years,” I have been listening to the two songs that are on early release. He’s not one to mince words (the best kind). And this is part of the reason why I am so excited about the launch of the album, the other part being that I love his words and music so much, he makes me wish I had more ears. He’s maintained a sense of honesty in his music over the years that is refreshing and rare. Neil is echoing how I feel about the few who are in control of our systems in this country—whether it be food and agriculture or energy or healthcare… A mega-corporation decides whether or not to pollute and decides to pay the fine in lieu of better business practices (as Neil sings: too big to fail, too rich for jail).
I want my food to be made by real people, preferably my neighbors. I want it to be grown with the environment, not against it. It goes without saying that I’m not the only one AND it’s not an impossible task. In fact, in a study about the capacity of local foods, Montana has the potential to grow 72.8% of its food locally, making it one of the highest local food capacity states in the country. And the local food momentum is working in our favor.
AERO was founded during the energy crisis of the 1970s to promote local alternatives to non-renewable energy sources. In the early 1980s, AERO began addressing the need to protect renewable resources, especially the natural and human resources on which agriculture and rural communities depend. AERO’s members share a commitment to facing the challenges brought by change. By bringing people together, AERO offers a vehicle for collective action and a sense of common purpose for citizens within their communities to shape a more sustainable future. AERO’s programming is grounded in the conviction that communities are the best place to create the kind of change we envision. We believe, and our programs reflect, that the best way to effect change is by empowering people in their own communities to work towards sustainable solutions.
As I travel around the state this summer, I will be visiting with AERO members and their communities about living sustainably. I want to learn what folks are doing with sustainable agriculture and how they are changing how we use energy and power the machines in our lives. I want to know how Montanans are working to create sustainable communities, I will share their stories and talk about their needs to keep living their values in their daily lives. These members of our communities are not asking for a new way of life, they want to work with what we have and keep it going for a future. True sustainability works with the land and doesn’t destroy it. These Montana farmer and ranchers who feed their communities, and our energy champions who work tirelessly to provide alternatives to fossil fuels, are living their lives and showing people that working with the land, rather than against it, is a viable and accessible reality. It is not impossible to live our values in our daily lives and AERO members show how that is possible by telling their stories. In the words of Wendell Berry: what we need is here.
Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye,
clear. What we need is here.