“Perhaps you notice how the denial is so often the preface to the justification.”
-Christopher Hitchens, author
“The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”
-Donald Trump, President of the United States
“I have been described as the grandfather of climate change. In fact, I am just a grandfather and I do not want my grandchildren to say that grandpa understood what was happening but didn’t make it clear.”
James Hansen, leading climate scientist and author of “Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last chance to Save Humanity
“Skiers did not create climate change, but we are among a few populations who will be hit by it hardest. It’s time to stand up and save our snow. Forget about fear. Get serious about advocacy and put candidates into office who will do the right thing and lead us into a cold, snowy future.”
Porter Fox, author
If you, esteemed reader, are among those who share Donald Trump’s values and purposeful (and, perhaps, real) ignorance in denying human caused global climate change, please read no further. Turn on your TV to Fox News or your radio to Rush Limbaugh, relax and enjoy the show. My intention here is not to insult or offend those who have been politely and clearly alerted to read no further, but, rather, to encourage everyone (including skiers) to, among other things personal, civic and environmental, getseriousabout advocacy. There is no time for relaxation in the face of our last chance. The show is getting less and less enjoyable and by the time our grandchildren reach our ages it will be a shit show for skiers/mountaineers and a worse one for those less privileged.
In the spirit of James Hansen, to be clear, the current and coming climate catastrophe is caused entirely by humans and can only be averted or even softened by them; but while Porter Fox is mostly correct skiers did and do contribute to climate change. We, fellow skiers, are complicit and the onlyway to start saving humanity (as well as the rest of Earth’s biota) is by getting serious about advocacy and putting candidates into office who will do the right thing and lead us into a cold, snowy future. Don’t let your grandkids have to say that grandpa and grandma understood what was happening but didn’t care enough to make it clear and did nothing about it. Lao Tzu said it best: “From caring comes courage,” and many years later Mahatma Gandhi said, “A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave.”
Skiing has always seemed to me a metaphor for larger aspects of life, including cowardice and bravery, courage and love, care and greed; and the industry of skiing, as well as many of its citizen practitioners, have been reluctant advocates of seriously and effectively addressing climate change. Every life-long skier old enough to be a parent has noted decreased snowfall and shorter winters since their own childhood. Everywhere in American ski country winters are shorter and warmer than they were 50 years ago, and every skier old enough to be a grandparent has changed skiing habits and patterns because of it. Every skier my age (80) or more (and several years less) realizes that skiing isn’t quite the disaster it is going to become without action, but it is certainly more and more an artificial snow show. When I was a boy I had the good fortune to live at Lake Tahoe, including the winter of 1951-52, (which recorded the second highest Sierra snowfall since records have been kept) when more than 65 feet of snow fell on nearby Donner Summit. Since then the amount of precipitation falling on the Sierra and elsewhere has dropped about 1.2% a year and more and more of that precipitation is falling as rain rather than snow. Porter Fox points out that “By 2050, snowpack in the Sierra Nevada is projected to decrease 40 to 70 percent. If we do not slow or stop burning fossil fuels, we will be looking at brown mountain ranges all winter long as soon as 80 years from now.” The artificiality of man-made snow is in some ways in the short view good for the business and practice of lift-serviced skiing: among other things, so long as it continues to be cold enough it is controlled by man without relying on nature, is more manageable and can be groomed into surfaces smooth enough that an 80 year old experienced skier as well as first year skiers can more easily be enticed to buy a lift ticket and slide upon it. But artificial snow is part of the problem of global warming, sort of like putting an infected band aid on a self-inflicted open wound and then again stabbing the wound through the infected band aid with a dirty knife. Over the last 200 years mankind has slowly crippled nature’s natural processes by releasing CO2 and other air pollutants and greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and creating the Greenhouse Effect. The process of making artificial snow contributes to the Greenhouse Effect and adds to global warming, as, of course, does all the automobile and airplane miles each of us travels to our favorite mountain and its retreating snowpack. In many places, before too long it will not be cold enough to consistently rely on even artificial snow.