Overlooking the Gallatin River from Storm Castle


I’ve been thinking a lot about climate and culture this week, because I live in southwestern Montana. As you may have seen on national news, my region has dealt with catastrophic flooding. My town, Bozeman, is fine, but neighboring communities like Livingston, Gardiner, Cooke City, Red Lodge, and many more, have been decimated. You may have seen viral videos like this one of Gardiner.

Or this one of the road to the park

Or this one of Red Lodge

In a perfect example of how the climate crisis tends us toward extremes, Red Lodge just dealt with a wildfire last year. Now, they are underwater. It’s heartbreaking. This is exactly what we expect under the climate crisis.

The one hopeful thing, as it always is in natural disasters, is seeing how communities come together. Our communities are resilient, and Southwestern Montana is pulling together. If you are interested in supporting local communities, you can donate to these relief funds.

Something that I have been thinking about a lot, though, is how the resilience of these communities is despite an oppressive and extractive system. As with many rural areas of the country, the towns that were hit worst by this flood do not have economies that support the people who live and work there. For the most part, these towns are dependent on outside tourists to survive. While everyone should be able to visit the outdoors, we also need to be able to find ways for gateway communities to have the self-determination and resources to build a home for themselves.

Since we’re talking about pop culture, it is important to note that one of the things driving this extractive system is in this case is the tv show, Yellowstone.

This “neo-western” has great reviews and ratings… I’ll admit I’ve never seen it. Unfortunately, it’s popularity has also helped contribute to the rise of the uber-wealthy buying Montana land, driving up prices, and making it next to impossible for working people to live here.

I’ll give Yellowstone a small bit of credit — they are helping fundraise for the communities dealing with these floods. Plus, no show can be perfect, and no show can address every issue. However, pop culture still needs to reflect the world we live in. We need a tv show about Yellowstone that recognizes that Montana is not always idyllic, but rather, increasingly volatile and subject to climate disasters. We also need pop culture that is not made in ways that increase the vulnerabilities of communities already in harms way. We need a “Yellowstone” done by and for the people who actually live there.

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