Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Snowboarders Rescue Our Climate

Guest Blogger: Amanda Pace

Climate change is real. It is happening every day in our country, on every continent and it is affecting all walks of life. The article in the Sierra Magazine online entitled, “Dirtbag Snowboarders Rescue our Climate” (Jan/Feb 2016) tells the story of how even the simplest pleasure of skiing is being affected by warming temperatures. But the main point in the article describes how even the smallest, unlikeliest group of people can bring awareness and make a difference.

Bolivia once had a ski area called Chacaltaya. It was built in 1939 and boasted a 17,000 foot ski mountain. According to many who had the great pleasure of skiing there, it was amazing. By 2009, the snow cover of the mountain was gone, melted. The same is happening everywhere to other ski areas both large and small. This article states that over 80% of the U.S ski resorts rely on artificial snow to keep their slopes open. It also predicts that in 30 years up to half of those resorts could close due to warmer winters.

Jeremy Jones, who is a professional snowboarder and actor, began looking for a climate group to donate to. When he could not find what he was looking for, he founded his own in 2007. He named it Protect Our Winters, or POW for short. In 2012 POW partnered with Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and issued a report that stated the ski industry lost $1.7 billion to low-snow years.

Although Jones and his colleagues had never been to the White House and knew nothing about lobbying or law-making, they were passionate enough about this cause to give it a try. They quickly got the attention of Capitol Hill because now climate change was affected the economy at the ski resorts. Another big benefit of their organization was that it also brought awareness to a younger generation, which is always a good thing. POW has now partnered with the National Ski Area Association and Snow Industries America to further its cause.
Extreme skier POW board member Chris Davenport at Revelstoke Mountain Resort, British Columbia.
Photo: Christian Pondella, Sierra Magazine
This article proves that the idea of one can bring thousands together in order to make a change. I enjoyed this article because it gave a positive spin on an otherwise negative topic. After reading Carl Safina’s book (The View from Lazy Point) and this article, the concept of climate change is starting to make sense to me. When Safina visited Alaska he talked about the concrete proof that was proved beyond a shadow of doubt that our glaciers are shrinking and disappearing. Safina and the POW may have different reasons for bringing awareness of climate change, yet their commonality of protecting the world for now and the future resonates to everyone.

from James Hayes-Bohanan:

Amanda Pace was a student in the online version of an introductory course that shares its name with this blog: Environmental Geography. For the past several years, students have read the Carl Safina text she mentions above. For almost twenty years, students in this course have been asked to browse Sierra and to choose one article that they can connect to the themes of the course.

This essay does so particularly well, and I asked for Amanda to participate as a guest blogger because it resonates so well with other materials on this blog -- which include several posts about Carl Safina's work and more importantly the several articles I have posted about Cochabamba (a city in highland Bolivia) as a site that is at the forefront of conflict over climate and water. Frankly, as much thought as I have given to the snows of Bolivia, I never thought of it as a ski area until I read this essay.

One final note from me: the organizers of POW were wise to involve the snow-sports industry. If there were climate-change deniers in that industry before, there most certainly are none now.

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