words:: Brooke Jackson photos:: Bruno Long
Imagine Canada without winter—bleak mountainscapes with no trace of snow, abandoned ski lodges, and winter enthusiasts in withdrawal from never-again powder days. Snowboarder and two-time Olympian Elena Hight doesn’t have to imagine. She says, “Spending so much time in nature, I see the effects of climate change firsthand, year after year, getting more dramatic and more detrimental. I truly believe that climate change is the apex issue of our generation.”
On a global scale, receding winters produce a dangerous aftermath; hurricanes, floods, heat waves, droughts, and wildfires—all related to the global climate crisis. And according to Hight (and almost all the world’s top scientists) the time to act is now.
To create a dedicated platform for positive climate action within the snow sports world, professional snowboarder Jeremy Jones organized the non-profit Protect Our Winters (POW) in 2007. POW’s mission is to turn passionate outdoors people into climate activists. As an involved member of POW, Hight says, “Taking a stance on climate change is about more than just saving winter, it’s about saving our planet as we know it today.”
Lower snowfall ultimately leads to a melting industry, too. With the aim to reach a broader audience beyond those involved in outdoor sports–and to translate just how large an impact losing winter would have economically in the United States, POW and the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) commissioned a study to uncover cold (or should we say warming), hard facts. Summarizing the findings, which were released in February 2018, the study discovered an average increase in winter temperatures of roughly 1.22 degrees Celsius between December and February since 1970, with the strongest warming trends occurring in the northern regions. According to this study, higher temperatures and low snowfalls have resulted in losses of 1.07 billion dollars in the downhill ski resort industry over the past 11 years.
What about the effects in Canada? That’s where a small group of athletes and outdoor adventure devotees come in—including Mike Douglas, Marie-France Roy, Dr. Daniel Scott and Dave Erb. Led by Erb, a longtime supporter of Jones’s POW organization, the group has furthered the climate activism platform by starting an independent Canadian POW chapter. The new organization launched this fall, seeking to rally outdoor recreationalists and give them a voice for positive climate action on Canadian soil. Erb says the newly-formed chapter shares the same mission and vision as POW US, but will operate ‘independently’ from Jones’s original organization with resources staying within Canadian borders.
To determine the large-scale effects of climate change in Canada, a key goal for the new POW chapter is to perform an economic study similar to the one summarized above and performed by the US organization. Joining the newly-formed POW chapter board is Dr. Scott, Executive Director of the Interdisciplinary Centre on Climate Change. Erb says performing the study is an “easy way to depoliticize” the conversation around the effects of climate change on the country, because “although 98% of the global science community agrees that climate change is real and caused by humans, it’s still a hot button issue in politics, in part because it’s a complex issue… but talking about the economy is safe and familiar territory.” The translation of how climate change affects how many dollar bills are landing in people’s pockets is a powerful first step toward communicating to the large scale policymakers the necessity to get on board with positive environmental initiatives.
The prominent message of Jones and his warrior tribe of activists, whether Canadian or international, is simple: we all need winter. Warmer winters have ripple effects—whether skier or kayaker, hiker or fisher–and Erb urges that if the call for climate policies isn’t addressed, “We won’t be worried about powder days, tourism or having fun. We’ll be worried about the stability of our environment, our jobs and our economy.” With guidelines provided by the newly-launched Canada POW’s website, here is the climate activist roadmap for getting involved in the stand for positive action:
Knowledge is power. Stay up to date on the latest climate change policies, initiatives and impacts. Recommended by POW, the Climate Atlas of Canada is a great place to start. Learn more about the research-driven website which translates the global issue to a localized scale by visiting: climateatlas.ca
Change Your Ways
Actions speak louder than words. Reducing your carbon footprint by 20% each year can be achieved by eating less red meat, taking public transportation and minimizing energy consumption at home. Hight says, “I always carry reusable cups, water bottles and cutlery. I avoid single-use plastics and I recycle. I purchase carbon offsets for all my airline travel. Most importantly though, I get out to vote.”
Lead Others to Do the Same
Every voice counts in making change. From sharing credible research on your social media channels to joining a local march, or talking with friends and family members about climate activism—it all makes a difference. Ways to get your community involved can be writing a letter to the editor of the local newspaper or organizing a POW night. The more people who know, the stronger the impact becomes.
The best way people can help is to get involved. Erb describes the new Canadian POW chapter as “A grassroots organization—and we need support.”
POW Canada is seeking to engage local communities and create regional chapters. With a focus on building a strong membership base, POW Canada hopes to gather enough voices to become an influential organization and to get research in front of the right people to make impactful change.
If you are this far into this magazine it’s highly likely you too enjoy, winter, snow and fun. So it’s on you to help save these things! Here are a few ways to get involved with POW Canada:
Become a member! Sign up at protectourwinters.ca and follow along for events at protectourwinters.ca/programs-events.-ML
The Climate Activists Road Map appeared in the first issue of our newest publication, Below Zero. Head over to our shop to purchase the magazine, and plenty more goodies.