College Credit: Energy and Climate Change in Montana

Courses are not the same routine classroom experiences you may associate with College.  The Wild Rockies Field Instituteis offering seven courses for college credit this year, including Cycle the Rockies: Energy and Climate Change in Montana course, which runs from May 17 – June 12.

"Students on this course will explore Montana by bicycle while studying the ecological, social, and economic issues associated with energy production and use. We will traverse rolling plains and beautiful mountains, enjoying the changing landscapes and meeting with people deeply involved in energy and climate issues. Traveling by bicycle will give us a unique perspective and an appropriate pace for examining the past, present and future of energy and climate change in the West.
Montana offers prime examples of current energy production facilities, from traditional fossil fuel energy sites to exciting alternative technologies for producing power. Our route begins in eastern Montana at oil refineries and a coal-fired power plant in the industrial core of Billings. Then we will pedal north and west through grasslands and island mountain ranges on the central plains, visiting energy-efficient buildings and production sites for biofuels, and wind, solar, geothermal and hydroelectric power along the way.
After meetings with energy and climate policy experts at the state capitol in Helena, we will turn north along the impressive Rocky Mountain Front to Glacier National Park. We’ll cycle over the Continental Divide, spending time with climate scientists and park managers in Glacier before ending in Whitefish with a public presentation.
Among the things we will do along the way:

  • Visit facilities using or producing biodiesel, wind energy, solar power, geothermal heating, and biofuels.
  • Examine fossil fuel technologies and impacts at coalfields, power plants, and oil refineries.
  • Tour a hydroelectric dam.
  • Visit ranchers, land managers, and farmers who are facing the impacts of climate change along with various opportunities for energy production.
  • Meet local and state officials working on state energy and climate policy.
  • Explore "green" energy-efficient buildings in Billings and Central Montana.
  • Talk with Glacier National Park scientists about the regional impacts of global warming.
  • Read and discuss a wide selection of current articles on energy issues and climate change.
  • Complete academic assignments designed to integrate our experiences and learning.
  • Present experiences and learning in open forums using electronic media and public presentations.
  • Become competent bicycle travelers.

Our choices of energy sources and consumption are some of the most critical decisions we will make as a society over the coming decades. Montana has abundant quantities of coal, natural gas, and other hydrocarbon resources, which have the potential to accelerate global warming if developed. At the same time, Montana, with vast agricultural plains and abundant wind, sun, and geothermal resources, is well positioned to produce clean, renewable energy. At course end, students will be armed with the knowledge and experience needed to play a positive role in shaping our energy system and future climate for the state, and the Rocky Mountain region."

According to Adventure Cycling:

This is an amazing way to both expand your knowledge of energy options and learn or expand your knowledge of self-contained bicycle touring; the instructors and staff on this course are top-of-the-line. This is a truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. In the immortal words of Levar Burton, you don’t have to take our word for it — check out their great blog, written on the road by participants. Even if you don’t take their course, it makes for some wonderful reading! If you’re interested in finding out more information, it is all available on their website.

Don’t wait! If you or someone you know is looking for a great educational adventure this summer, take advantage of this amazing opportunity which is limited to only 10 spaces. As an added bonus, all of the participants will receive a free one-year membership to Adventure Cycling!

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