Welcome to HeadSpace, a new column where we dig deep inside the heads of shredding's luminaries to find out what really goes on behind those goggles. No "What's your favorite color?" here, folks...
The November mid-term elections saw a changing of the guard, politically, with Republicans gaining control of the House. The House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming was summarily scrapped and, as newly elected officials began to take their seats, many of us noticed that -- whether you were listening to NPR or Rush Limbaugh -- the has been increased skepticism whenever talk turns to climate change. With the influx of new blood in DC comes the potentially very snow-centric question of what all these new congresspersons might mean for climate policy in 2011-12 and beyond.
Naturally, we turned to big mountain maestro Jeremy Jones to help make sense of the current climate debacle. His non-profit, Protect Our Winters (POW), is the winter sports' community's number one voice in this area. Jones recently co-authored an opinion piece with Olympic halfpipe medalist Gretchen Bleiler on the subject, so we figured he could help snowboarders out there to make a little more sense of what they see and hear regarding climate change:
ESPN:Amidst all the scary stats regarding climate change in 2010-11, the most frightening one is political: Up to half of the new congresspersons deny that manmade climate change is real. How might the mid-term election influence work at POW moving forward?
Jeremy Jones: The mid-terms were a good barometer on where we stand on climate change as a nation. It highlights how far off we are as a country from making real change. Climate change is a real problem, proven by science, and there are so many deniers spreading misinformation. It made me realize we have a ton of work to do and that we, as an organization, need to put more resources toward the political battle on Capitol Hill, using our collective voice to counteract those spending so much money to keep clean energy down.
On a purely personal level, do you think that believing in human-caused climate change/global warming -- or NOT believing in it -- is now primarily a political stance rather than a strictly scientific one?
Yes, it is weird, because this is science, not politics or religion. When I go get a physical from my doctor, that's not political. But what's happened with climate is as if the doctor were to say: "You have cancer. We need to treat it." And you say: "Ok, but I'm getting a second opinion." And you get not one but 98 second opinions that agree with the first, and finally one doc says: "You're fine, relax" -- and you follow his advice. That's exactly what's happening with the science on climate. It's crazy.
When you went to DC recently, what was your goal and have you had any success on it/has anything changed with the new influx of Republican climate change deniers?
If 98-percent of scientists agree that climate change is real and human caused, don't give equal time ... to the one guy who thinks differently. We don't do that for people who think the earth is flat.
They were very excited to see an organized group fighting for climate policy because they're constantly being inundated with lobbyists from big oil and coal. In fact, last year, Exxon Mobil alone spent more than what the entire environmental lobby spends annually.
How do you think the rest of the developed countries of the world view the USA now when it comes to progressive climate stances and legislation?
They must think we don't care. In Copenhagen you had leaders of island nations begging for action. The US has an opportunity to step up and be a leader in the clean tech industry and we're not taking that step. There is a very small percentage of the population that benefits with business and our energy sources not changing: the oil companies. They have a lot of money and are not afraid to spend it to keep things status quo.
What frustrates you the most on this front?
What frustrates me the most is that we are already seeing climate change. Glaciers are shrinking in front of our eyes, ski resorts are closing because of lack of snow, and each year seems to be getting warmer than the last. 2010 was tied for the hottest year on record (with 2005). Australia is being devastated by floods, fires, droughts on an epic scale. These are all things we have already seen in our generation and you have to wonder what the changes the next generation will see.
If 98-percent of scientists agree that climate change is real and human caused, don't give equal time in the press, and on congressional panels, to the one guy who thinks differently. We don't do that for people who think the earth is flat.
What are three significant and doable steps snowboarders can take to lessen their own impact on the climate change front?
The most important thing a snowboarder can do is write a letter to their elected officials and urge them to support climate action and clean energy legislation -- use your voice and demand change. The second is to vote and become involved in local politics. Change happens locally and you can have a very big part in creating the change we need. Thirdly, become as knowledgeable as you can about the science behind climate change to offset the misinformation out there. And fourth, be smart about your carbon footprint -- measure it now, and reduce it wherever you can.
What advice would you give snowboarders out there who wither at talk of climate change, preferring to endure the deniers rather than to engage them?
Having heated discussions on the topic is a good thing. But you're right, it's going to be nearly impossible for a snowboarder to counter the hundreds of denier talking points out there. So you have to speak from personal experience: "Look, I'm no climate scientist, but here's what I'm seeing..."
A simple, humble approach is to say: "Hey, when I don't know something, I consult the best source. The National Academy of Science says we have a problem. And so does every other respected scientific body. Who am I to dispute that?"
But also, that's why POW was started -- to unite the voice of the winter sports community to have a much larger impact. There are 12 million of us in the US alone, so if we can have a single voice, that's pretty powerful.