With the winter of 2015/2016 closing fast, and El Niño (augmented by rising temperatures from climate change) causing heavy snows in California but leaving New England much drier than normal, it seemed a perfect time to talk shop with Protect Our Winters (POW), the leading climate action group in the winter sports industry. Mom’s Clean Air Force spoke with POW in 2013, and here’s the latest update on snow and climate change from POW’s executive director, Chris Steinkamp:
Where is the winter sports industry in terms of taking action on climate change?
Five years ago there was nobody really addressing climate change in the winter sports industry, but now, the industry is aware of what’s going on and they’re taking action on a lot of key issues. With the drought and all the extreme weather that’s happened in last few years, the industry has seen what the face of climate change looks like. (Tweet this) They understand the threat not just to the sports but to their business.
There’s a big difference between equipment manufacturers and resorts. We work with some of the biggest manufacturers out there, like North Face, Burton, Clif Bar, and Patagonia. Those guys understand the threat. There’s a direct link to their business revenue when it doesn’t snow. There are some resorts that are front and center on this, but there are lots that aren’t. When it doesn’t snow their business suffers, too, but the resorts are just focused on how they are going to stay in business when it doesn’t snow, taking their attention away from thinking 20 years down the road and acting on climate.
What do you think are the most important next steps for the industry?
A lot of the companies that we work with have really good sustainability practices in place already. The biggest thing they can do right now is flex their muscle on the advocacy side, because they are such an economic driver in the economy. The winter sports industry is a $67 billion industry. When we go to Washington D.C. and start presenting them with the numbers, it’s a real wake up call to lawmakers. When Burton, for example, talks about the revenue they’re generating — especially in the state of Vermont — it carries a lot of weight.
Can you talk a bit about Close The Loop?
The Close The Loop campaign is something that was brought to our attention a few months ago. It’s about the deals coal companies are getting on public lands, getting access at reduced rates. These coal companies, who are accelerating climate change, are also getting a deal to mine coal on our public lands. It’s a one-two punch. Not only are the companies not paying for their climate impact, today and in the future, but they’re not paying their fair share (for the mining). We want to get them to pay their fair share like anybody else would who want to lease that land. We hope, once they pay fair market value, the real cost of coal will emerge — and people will understand that renewables aren’t actually that expensive.
How can parents get involved?
Parents can play a huge role in talking to their kids about the future, their role in it, how they can be the next generation of climate leaders — to really start to prepare them for taking on this battle, because we’re going to be leaving this problem to them, unfortunately. Parents can also get involved by making sure their kids are tuned in to what’s going on, not just with climate change, but with the environment more broadly.
Parents have a big responsibility to do what we can to make sure we leave our kids with the best possible planet when we go. We’ve got a big vote that’s coming up in November. We have to make sure people get out and vote. In our community, we know there are about 15 million self-identified outdoors enthusiasts who didn’t vote in 2012. That’s a lot. If we can somehow get this message to people to say,
“Look, we complain a lot about the environment, we complain a lot about these policies that are taking place or aren’t taking place, but we have no one to blame but ourselves if we don’t vote.”
That’s one of the big things we’re pushing this year is making sure people take the time to go and vote.