As a snowboarder who spends more than 200 days in the mountains each year, I’ve developed an intimate relationship with the sacred spaces I call home and I’m in the unique and unfortunate position of seeing the impacts of climate change firsthand. I’ve witnessed a drastic change in snow and weather trends. Our world is getting hotter and I’ve committed myself to using the platform I have as an athlete to fight against climate change.
Just this fall, we were feeling confident about the progress we’d made on climate initiatives: The Clean Power Plan was in place and the Paris Agreement was signed, both of which committed to reducing carbon emissions significantly. But then, on November 8, things changed and now we’re facing an Administration that’s threatening to wipe out the Environmental Protection Agency, rescind our commitment to the Paris Agreement and drill on our public lands. The new cabinet is literally a who’s who of climate deniers.
But as grim as things are right now, what makes me excited is the climate movement that’s afoot. People are stepping off the sidelines and using their voices to let it be known that inaction on climate is unacceptable. It’s time for all of us to lead with our actions and voices because if we don’t, apparently nobody will. We all need to be setting good examples for others by doing what’s right and standing up for the issues we care about, now more than ever.
This is the new face of activism.
Recently, I showed up with fellow Patagonia ambassadors to a town hall meeting with Rep. Jason Chaffetz to express our furor over the public lands issue. As many of you may know, Utah’s elected leaders have threatened to sell our public lands to fossil fuel companies wanting to drill. I don’t have to explain how bad of an idea this is, and Utah’s $13 billion outdoor recreation community has already sent a clear message. Just a year ago, attending such events would have been something that only the hard-core environmentalists would do. But people are starting to show up by the hundreds.
In a new age of citizenry, this is the hard work that needs to be done. Showing up, being part of the political process and leveraging the democratic platform we have to solve the issues we all care so deeply about.
On April 29, I joined Patagonia, Protect Our Winters and over 200,000 people from all walks of life in Washington, D.C. for the People’s Climate March. One of the goals of the march was to demonstrate our opposition to Trump’s anti-environment agenda on his 100th day in office. The resistance is working together, getting stronger, and as long as we have a president who wants to reverse all the progress we’ve made with climate and energy initiatives, the resistance is here to stay.
“Carrying the ‘We Resist, We Build, We Rise’ banner through the packed streets of D.C. was the most effective expression of my civic duty to date. The single vote I cast each November fades when compared to coming together with over 200,000 people to chant slogans, convey art as activism and to motivate our politicians to enact laws that protect and preserve the Earth and all its inhabitants.
“It felt like we were a river of life, one composed of innumerable, individual water droplets yet collectively producing a profound force. And like a spring-fed waterfall, we will bring forth a cascade of ‘endless pressure, endlessly applied’ to the issues we know are effecting the well-being of planet Earth and the longevity of not only the human race but of every living being in the complete biota. The People’s Climate March further powered my mind and heart to continue to live my life as if it’s the solution to the problems that I perceive in the world.”
“As a climber, I have an intimate relationship with the climate. The fact that it is in jeopardy has both terrified and overwhelmed me to the point of ignoring it. Thank you Patagonia for encouraging me to take the first step, which is to just show up. Coming to the climate march made me realize that it’s not futile to fight for something. That my previous, “I’m just one small person, there’s nothing I can do” excuse is bull****. Hundreds of thousands of people have stopped making that same excuse, and so have I.”
“It was a crazy turnout given the heat. And while we may have felt like a hot mess, the effort was incredibly well organized and executed. On the 100th day of the Trump administration, we marched to send a powerful message to our elected officials: we want strong climate legislation now, we will not tolerate drilling in the Arctic or the sale of our public lands to the highest bidders for fossil fuel development, and we want our political leadership to invest in renewable energy. It was also a march about social justice: creating new jobs and support for coal workers and other people who are affected by the transition to renewable energy. And to demand a fair living wage for everyone. It’s not just about responsibility to our planet, it’s about responsibility to people. That’s what this movement is all about.”
Climate change is the most important issue of our time. This past weekend, I marched for many reasons. I marched because I wanted to add to the collective voice of those who want to defend the planet. I also marched because our climate crisis doesn’t just impact our planet, it negatively impacts every single living creature on Earth. I have created a life around snow and mountains and I’m worried about the fact that I’m already seeing winters change at an alarmingly fast rate. Snow and seasons are less predictable and it is frightening to imagine what it might be like for the next generations. What would this world be without winter?
At this point, we all need to be activists and turn our engagement level up to 11. The first thing we can all do is stand up for the Paris Agreement, a historic agreement signed by 175 nations to reduce carbon emissions. Call your elected officials, ask them to support the Paris Agreement and a strong climate policy. Let them know that, as a constituent, you want to support them because they represent your values, but if they won’t act somebody else will during the next election. Be bold. Make it a habit to get involved. Make a call a week, at least.
We can also support groups that are working to mitigate climate change by volunteering our time or making donations. I work with Protect Our Winters because they provide a platform for me and many other concerned athletes and business leaders to speak out against climate change and protect the future of our sports, our communities and our economy.
Starting now, let’s commit to changing our ways on climate change. Let’s become true citizen activists. How brash, bold and impactful can we be? Let’s do this: commit to becoming a citizen activist. We can change the world together.