Leticia Romero is a local Missoula activist, runner, and mom. She has been a committed community member, working on behalf of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, volunteering with LINC (an indigenous support network in Missoula), and supporting a wide range of community causes. Leticia has also been a long time climate activist, most recently with the local chapter of the Sunrise Movement, where she helps organize local climate marches and advocating for the health of our planet and fighting against pipeline projects.
As a trail runner, she crushes, getting up before dark and cruising by the bros on the upslopes. She’s an impassioned speaker and community leader and Climate Ride is proud to have her joining us as a Sponsored Runner on our second Climate Run on the Rogue River. You can support her fundraising here.
Climate Ride: Why are you participating in Climate Run Rogue River?
Leticia Romero: I’ve been running for over 20 years now–since I was 13 years old. I’ve run cross country and track, and since I’ve moved to Montana I’ve been trail running. I wanted to put my running to more of a purpose and I’ve never ran to raise money.
We are facing impending climate collapse, there’s a climate emergency, and any opportunity that comes my way where I can do something on that, I’ll take it.
CR: Where does your motivation to act on climate change come from?
LR: Being outdoors when I run I’ve noticed how much the climate and environment have been changing. The climate emergency should be front-page news all the time. But people still think its a conspiracy. If you present the facts you would think people are going to act. But, just like with COVID, the facts are there, and lots of people are just looking for any way to ignore them.
I’ve realized since I was a kid that we need to look out for our planet. If we don’t have a planet we can’t have life. I like living. I don’t understand why we aren’t talking about the climate more.
CR: How else has climate change impacted you? Do you see any other changes around Missoula?
LR: I’m running in shorts all year long now. If it drops below 18 degrees, I’ll wear tights. I’ve noticed the snow is choppy here in the valley where I live, and it melts quickly. The snowpack is getting less and less every year. You notice it when you’re out on the trails. Mount Sentinel used to have snow in June when I moved here but not anymore.
Also, there are more grasshoppers when it’s dry and I see them more in the forests than I used to. When it’s dry, they grow larger. The more stressed the land gets, the less water it gets, the bigger the grasshoppers get. It initiates their growth hormones. And right now if you go on a run even in the forests they are everywhere.
CR: According to Inside Climate News, climate change is having sweeping effects on insect populations. Overall, it seems that climate change may be reducing grasshopper populations by decreasing the nutritional content in grass. But it’s also increasing the range of many insects, whose populations used to be kept in check in Montana by winter temperatures. The shorter freezes are likely increasing the overall population of grasshoppers and letting them move further into forests in Northern areas. Do you know all this about grasshoppers because you work in entomology?
LR: I work at UPS. I get paid there. But I have another job, being an active community member in Missoula. That one pays me in friends, community, and a sense of purpose. In that job I try to advocate for–be a voice for–things that aren’t spoken up for. Our planet, the underdogs, and friends that need support in their campaigns.
And being a mom, that’s a job too. You have to raise a responsible community member. I’m teaching her that you have to care, be a good steward, be good to the animals that pass through our yard. We have to give back. We’re not just here to buy things.
Sometimes we go to City Council meetings together. We need to speak up. A couple of weeks ago she spoke on the city budget. I try to lead by example. She’ll see me talking or speaking up, and she asks if she can do that too. A lot of things I show her, kids working in mines to get the metal to make the electronics we use, for example, other people keep from their kids. I want her to be educated, to show her the reality of what is happening in this world. Being a good community member means being educated and knowing how your actions affect the world.
CR: So why did you decide to support Soil Cycle as your Climate Ride beneficiary?
LR: I love Soil Cycle. It’s women-led. When I was one of their cyclists, we were all women, which I thought was cool.
You pick up food scraps by bike. You use your own power to do things. It’s so awesome. Soil Cycle is so simple, a simple idea, but so important. Imagine if we had a whole army of cyclists, powering the community by pedal power. You’d have more people connected to the outside world, noticing the weather.
Once, when I was doing my pickups, there was a wild wind I thought was going to blow the roof off. But it was cool, there is something about being outdoors and in the elements and learning how to immerse yourself in those elements. Safely, with the right gear. You learn how to survive it, and there’s something rewarding about that. There’s a human need being met.
Soil Cycle is saving food scraps from being thrown in the trash. You’re not paying someone to come in their trucks. You’re paying someone to come on a bike and quietly pick up your stuff. I think it’s genius. The whole idea of substituting truck pickups for pedal-powered is revolutionary. Imagine if our whole society would make that switch. And Caitlyn, the director of Soil Cycle, is super awesome, finding ways to pay back employees. She does it with passion and love and she’s super smart and knows a lot about composting.
CR: Are there any personal challenges you’ve confronted or foresee in preparing for the run?
LR: Making the time to get out running has been my biggest challenge. I have a daughter, I have to do so much stuff with her before I can go out on a run. So lately, my training is bare minimum to keep me in shape.
Also, because of COVID, I don’t have a running buddy. I choose not to go out really far without a buddy. I like to run with someone if I go more than 6 or 7 miles. And my dog Amigo is a pitbull but he has arthritis on his shoulder and he gets stiff if he goes out more than a few miles. My challenge is trying to make time and get the miles in solo.
With the pandemic, I’ve had to work more hours with UPS because people are ordering more. I have to work 10 more hours a week and it’s cutting into my sleep and running time. I’d love to run early in the morning for sunrise, but instead, I’m working loading boxes for six hours straight during that time. All the UPS trucks you see, I loaded those. 600-800 boxes a day.
CR: Has preparing for and participating in this event spurred you to take any action on climate?
LR: I’ve been invested in the climate movement for a long time. But, I’m always looking for ways to do more. And now, knowing more about Climate Ride, I can get the word out more. I know more about another non-profit here in Missoula who is trying to do a good thing and place I can point people to take more action.
CR: Is there anything else you think we should know about?
LR: September 28th is the hearing for Keystone XL water crossing permits for the pipeline through Montana. They’re holding public hearings so I’m sad to miss it while I’m on the run. I’m working on a public campaign to try and get people to call in and make comments. But I’m going to try and take pictures on the run to help get the word out.