In many ways, U.S. Sen. Tester and I have a lot in common. We both grew up on farms. I spent my childhood on both an educational farm and a family homestead. On the senator’s website, his biography emphasizes how important “hard work, responsibility, and accountability” are to him. As a farm girl myself, I don’t doubt it. Hard work is stacking hay bales under a blazing summer sun. Responsibility is knowing that if you shirk chores, animals will die. Accountability is showing up, even when it is 30 degrees below zero. Incidentally, these same values are the ones needed now to respond to the climate crisis.
That is why I was shocked to learn that Exxon Mobil thinks Tester is “crucial” to their strategy to fight meaningful climate action. Last week, an undercover Greenpeace investigation showed an Exxon lobbyist, who thought he was at a job interview, revealing that both Tester and U.S. Sen. Steve Daines of Montana are central to Exxon’s anti-climate lobbying. Although disappointing, it was unsurprising to see Daines, a known science denier, on the list. But Tester? Why would Exxon think a farmer would side with them? On a farm, climate change is easy to see. Why would Exxon think someone who prizes hard work, responsibility and accountability side with them? Exxon has worked against the public, denied responsibility and refused to be held accountable.
The situation is outrageous. Right now, Exxon Mobil is plotting how to get our senators to sell us out. Take a minute to remember — as we’ve all been struggling through unending heat, Exxon has been in Tester’s office, delaying the climate action that will transform the future we will die in into one in which we will thrive. Corporations are not people, and Exxon is not a constituent. I am. You are.
When I reflect on why Exxon thinks that Tester might choose them — climate killers — over you and me, I realize it must be because he has not made it clear whether he believes climate action is important to the infrastructure package being hashed out right now in D.C. He has championed a bipartisan version that lacks any substantive climate action. To be accountable to his constituents, rather than to Exxon, the senator must find a way to pass climate action this summer.
Perhaps the senator is having trouble deciding whose side he’s on because of the ways in which our lives are different. I am only 23 years old. Unlike Tester, I cannot dream of anything but climate action, because without climate action, my future will be a nightmare. The good news? I am ready to work hard for this planet.
That is why we need the Civilian Climate Corps. The CCC is the perfect climate measure for Tester to champion. It can pass this summer and would put 1.5 million people to work by 2025 responding to the climate crisis and revitalizing our infrastructure. Montana needs good-paying union jobs. Montana needs climate action. In short, we need the CCC.
Tester has the opportunity to stand up to corporate pressure, look to the future and dedicate himself to the people who elected him. I believe he wants to fight for the CCC and people like you and me. But if he stays silent, if he does not do what this moment demands, then we must hold fast to our farming values. We must work hard for our future, take responsibility and hold Exxon and our leaders accountable by raising our voices together. Our dreams depend on it.
Lucy Hochschartner is an elite biathlete based in Bozeman and a climate activist with the Gallatin Valley Sunrise Movement.