Do Something

Be conscious and conscientious, and be the change you want to see in the world

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I get hundreds of RSS feeds, newsletters, petitions, magazines and other media in my inbox and my mailbox every week. I read them, browse them, register them in some dusty corner of my brain, or sometimes in my notebook, for further pondering, research, blogging.

Today, after a powdery morning skiing thigh deep powder in the backcountry, I read two articles (one mag, one blog) that made me stop and think about the changes I’ve made, and where I can go from here, as well as about my own responsibility to the rest of the world.

The first article was about Alaska’s “First Dude,” Todd Palin, who recently completed the Iron Dog Snowmobile Race from Bog Lake to Fairbanks Alaska, a total of 1972 miles. He rode a two stroke engine Arctic Cat snowmobile, which, according to the Huffington Post article Sarah Palin’s 159,050 Conflict of Interest, dumps about 25% of its fuel, unburned, into the environment. His trip pumped the same number of some pollutants into the environment as driving a Chevy Malibu 28 times around the earth at the equator, as many flurocarbons as driving that same car 150 times round trip from San Francisco to Chicago. Why? Because he could.

Reading that story somehow really made me think about personal responsibility, how we’re all contributing to the worldwide carbon crisis, some of us because we’re not thinking, and others of us because we don’t care.

This particular story hit home because I was skiing today. I live in Vermont, and we’ve had a thin winter. The January thaw came in December and we’ve had spotty snow since then. Vermont isn’t an avalanche prone state, but in other popular winter destinations, like Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Utah’s Wasatch Mountains, and even in Washington State, winter sports have been hit hard with a record number of avalanches. There have been in-bounds deaths at ski resorts in Jackson (WY), Squaw (CA), and Snowbird (UT), and according to a front page article in the New York Times, 23 people died in avalanches in North America in the month between December 14, 2008 and January 9, 2009. Some were snowmobilers, others skiers, snowboarders, and civilians.

Do you like snow? Skiing? Snowshoeing? Sledding? If you answered yes, then you’ll appreciate Tim Fowler’s letter to the editor on page 16 of Backcountry Magazine’s March 2009 issue. Fowler, who is from Santa Fe, NM , submitted his climate responsibility code for skiers and snowboarders, based on the skiers responsibility code. I’d argue it’s a code for anyone who likes snow, not just skiers and riders. Fowler’s guidelines are not new, groundbreaking or earth shattering, just a really good reminder that even if gas prices have fallen, Obama is steering the ship, Congress passed a stimulus package with a green energy component, it’s not time to get lazy, stop being vigilant about our own actions or assume that climate change is under control or somehow not a pressing issue. We each need to do our part, remember to take public transportation to the local trailhead if available, be conscious of our consumption and make choices that reflect our values as people who love the outdoors. So, quoting Mr. Fowler, I challenge you to adopt what we will call here the Climate Responsibility code for people who love snow. We’d link, but it’s not on-line. Here it is:

Your Responsibility Code

Because I love winter and sliding [or walking] on snow covered mountains:

1. I will do everything I can to stop climate change and preserve snowy winters.

2. I am responsible for my use of fossil fuels and their effect on the environment.

3. I will reduce my net CO2 emissions towards zero.

4. I will use energy efficient transportation when I travel.

5. I will encourage my friends and family to reduce their CO2 emissions

6. I will urge the ski areas I visit and the gear manufacturers I support to operate sustainably.

7. I will tell other skiers, snowboarders [and lovers of snow] about Your Climate Responsibility Code

Are you willing to take this code as yours and share it with your friends? I am. Starting with you. Have any general principles you’d like to add? Actions you’ve taken in your own home/life? What’s your own most carbon intensive activity and what have you done to reduce your impact? Please share your answers in the comments below.

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