I’ll admit it. Watching the Olympics sometimes makes me cry. I am moved by the athletes’ commitment to give their all, to be their best possible selves. And with the abundance of negative role models today, I treasure the positive example these athletes offer children. This is all the more true for me because my youngest son lives for skiing and one day hopes to be a professional athlete.
Of course, when the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games begin this Friday, I could find a few less happy reasons to cry—though I will have even more reasons to be hopeful. But before I get to the reasons for hope, consider some recent developments.
Skiing, Water, and Wolverines
The New York Times reported last month that by 2050, nine former Winter Olympics sites may not be reliably cold enough to host the Games again. (California’s Squaw Valley, home of my son’s ski team, is one of them.)
Many members of Team USA for the first time this fall had to travel outside our country to find glaciers that would allow them to practice. This threatens to make an exclusive sport even more so, and make it harder for many athletes to be prepared to compete.
Meanwhile, from California to Colorado, it has been a dismal season for snow. The first Tahoe big mountain ski competition of the season was scheduled for this past weekend; it was cancelled due to warm weather and poor conditions.
But clearly, it is not just love of the sport, or the ski industry, that is threatened by the declining snow pack caused by climate change. A declining snow pack has put animals, such as lynx, wolverines, and snowshoe hares, in peril, according to the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.
Drought, with its implications for drinking water and agriculture, is also a serious concern. More than 60 percent of California’s water supply originates in the Sierra Nevada region that includes Tahoe; and this year, we are at only 30 percent of average snow pack.
None of this sounds particularly cheerful. And none of it is, to be sure, good news. So what reasons are there to be hopeful?
Five Reasons to Feel Hopeful—and Act
- We need to be hopeful because our children need us to be hopeful. It’s their future that is most at stake from climate change. And we must never, ever stop showing them that we believe in that future and are committed to doing everything we can to make it as good as it can be.
- We have a choice. While what is happening today, and predicted for years ahead, shows negative impacts from climate change, the degree of those impacts are up to us. In commenting on a 2017 study released on the future of skiing in the United States, Auden Schendler, Vice President of Sustainability at Aspen Skiing Company and Chair of the Board of Protect Our Winters, said: “It’s important that the study points out that this is still a choice, in the sense that we can determine our future based on how aggressively we as a society choose to cut emissions.”
- Many people from many walks of life are taking positive action. Because the news focuses us on what is going wrong (and there is so much of that these days) it can be difficult to know about, let alone be inspired by, all the good climate action that is happening today. But happening it is. A few examples:
- Nearly 1,200 companies are working to align their emissions reduction plans with the Paris Climate Accord by next year, according to We Mean Business.
- To date, 123 companies have made a commitment to transition off fossil fuels and go 100 percent renewable energy—including Bank of America, Citibank, Facebook, GM, Johnson & Johnson, Kellogg’s, Microsoft, Nestle, Nike, Starbucks, and Walmart, according to RE 100.
- Amazon and Google have already become the nation’s top clean energy buyers; and Apple already powers 96 percent of its worldwide operations through renewable energy.
- At the local level, 391 mayors representing 69 million Americans, have committed to uphold the emission reduction goals of the Paris Accord.
- Moms are on the case. Not only are one million Moms part of Moms Clean Air Force, you are making your voices heard. In the past month alone, Moms shared our concerns with EPA Administrator Scott Priutt; were a visible presence when he addressed the Senate Environment Committee; shared our concerns about Toyota’s efforts to weaken tailpipe standards after a Senate field hearing at the Washington Auto Show—and showed up at women’s marches across the country. As I’ve written previously: Never underestimate the power and passion of a parent.
- This story is not over. Sometimes people talk about climate change as if it is too late, as if we (or, rather, our children and grandchildren) are doomed, as if nothing we can do now will really make a difference. But that simply is not true. Science may tell us what changes are expected in our environment based on information now available but only life itself will reveal how we respond.
And this I know for certain: How we respond to climate change is a profound chance to teach our children about everything that matters most in life by modeling compassion, courage, love, and a never-ending commitment to them, to others, and to what is healthy, good and just.
In other words, through our engagement in this issue, we have the chance to do what every athlete at the 2018 Winter Olympics will strive to do: to give our all and be our best possible selves.