Skiing into Climate Change
Movement Monday 12/12/22
Most of us here at On the Level are pretty into cross-country skiing; indeed, it’s what originally pulled most of us together as we skied in the same college circuit for four years, and Lucy, Jackie, and I even skied for 2+ years after college. (Thankfully, we have Evie, who has a normal relationship with cross-country skiing, to balance us all out.)
Now, skiing has some obvious overlaps with climate change–namely that warming temperatures and lower snow amounts threaten to greatly diminish when and where skiing is possible. Ironically, as snow coverage shrinks, skiers also find themselves driving (and flying) more and more and skiing on energy-intensive man-made snow loops more and more, thus contributing at an ever accelerating pace to climate change. All in all, we arrive at a positive feedback loop of climate change → less snow → more emissions required to go skiing → more climate change. Tie it in with the eco-conscious skier’s mental spiral of feeling sad about limited-to-no snow, traveling to find snow to go skiing to fend off that sadness, then feeling guilty over personal consumption of fossil fuels for skiing, needing to go skiing more than ever after that thought, but now there’s less snow than when your brain started down this spiral, and you’ve got a real mess.
Ok, ok, so that was mostly an aside– What I really wanted to say was that cross-country skiing has some obvious subject-matter overlaps with climate change, but it’s not all that common that the world of climate activism and professional cross-country skiing collide (outside of the awesome folks at POW, of course). Collide, they certainly did, however, and in spectacular fashion, during one of the FIS World Cup races last weekend in Lillehammer, Norway.
As you can watch in the clip below, a group of anti-fossil-fuel protesters actually jumped in front of the lead men’s pack during a mass-start classic race with a banner declaring, “Stopp Oljeletinga,” or, Just Stop Oil in Norwegian. You can also watch the race organizers start to pull the protestors off the trail pretty quickly thereafter, which was understandable as there was a group of 50+ skiers bearing down on them at a world-class pace. What I do find disappointing has been the relative lack of coverage or chatter about the protest, particularly in the ski world.
As I laid out at the start of this post, skiing and climate change are intricately connected–messily so, in the physical realities of changing snow coverage and in the emotional realities of losing something we love to do as skiers. This all makes talking about skiing and climate change in the same breath difficult (here’s a great book on that!), but we’re at the point where we need to talk about difficult things. We need to talk, so then we can act to mitigate and adapt to climate change and save skiing as much as possible (along with the rest of the world!). As reported in an interview with the three activists who blocked the race, “If every famous skier in Norway came out against oil exploration it would have a massive political impact.”
Norway is a relatively small country and skiing is a relatively small sport, but skiing is huge in Norway and Norway is a huge oil exporter, so these protesters have a point– Skiers speaking out against the fossil fuel industry could really help.
To that end, I’ll give one of our American skiers a shoutout: Wunderkid Gus Schumacher highlighted the protest in his Strava post (a social media platform for nordorks and other endurance athlete enthusiasts), reporting that he was psyched to be “17th! Stoked to be feeling better and better, and for relaxing in a really chaotic pack race. Little environmental protest in the first lap was a little crazy but cool to see! Fighting a good fight, and sounded like it only broke one pole 🤷🏼♂️.” Atta way, Gus.
Cross-country skiers are not going to solve the climate change crisis alone–no one is. But we’ve certainly all got skin in the game and very solid reasons to talk about climate change and start figuring out ways to adapt to changing realities, so let’s keep the conversation going. Toques off to the Norwegian Just Stop Oil activists who jump-started this conversation (only briefly though, cause it’s cold out, for now).
And in other news, which is not quite news but will be tomorrow, there’s been a “major breakthrough” in nuclear fusion research that will be announced tomorrow (Tuesday), which brings us one step closer to a potentially game-changing method of producing carbon-free, radioactive-waste-free energy (as I understand it). More on that here and here.
And last but not least, some action opportunities: An opportunity to send holiday cards to bank CEOs with Third Act to wish for a fossil free future. Plus, Manchin is still up to no good with what People vs. Fossil Fuels is calling his Dirty Deal 3.0. Learn how to stop it again here.
Until next time!
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