Jeremy Jones is a 9-time Big Mountain Snowboarder Rider of the Year and a climate change activist. He has snowboarded professionally for the past 15 years and has noticed big changes in his workplace: glaciers are receding at an alarming rate, winters are warmer and less predictable, and in the US, winter resorts have had to close as erratic snowfall decreases revenue. All because of climate change.
After seeing how fast our world is changing, he felt compelled to get involved in promoting climate change legislation. In 2007, he founded Protect Our Winters, a non-profit community of snow athletes, all with a vested interest in reducing our effect on the climate. The 25-member group organizes around climate legislation and clean energy and has taken their voices to legislators in DC and high schools throughout California, Nevada, Utah and Colorado. The group aims to involve the rest of the $67 billion snow sport community, among which 12 million are involved seriously in the US alone (some serious bargaining power!)
Jones notes that while environmental lobbyists target Congressional leaders to push legitimate change, the oil and gas industry spends infinitely more money on fueling climate change denial (Exxon Mobil alone contributed more money than the entire environmental community). The result is that half of Congresspersons (even those who know better) pretend climate change is a farce- and many of them (notably, the Republicans) are scared they will not be electable if they change their opinion. Jones’ brilliant solution is thus to engage more people power to convince these legislators that they will be supported and drown out the money being thrown at them (after all, what legislators want most is continued power). He compares the current climate of climate denial to listening to 1 doctor out of 100 that tells you you don’t have cancer or listening to the crazy guy who’s still convinced he can fall off the planet:
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.
Jones believes that “America’s political leadership has failed us” and that without extensive action by the government, our grandchildren won’t be able to enjoy pastimes such as skiing or snowboarding. A recent study of climate change’s effects on Aspen, Colorado, found that at current levels, the town will look like Amarillo, Texas by 2100. He says:
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.
One step Jones has taken to reduce his carbon footprint in the snow sport industry is to stop using helicopters and snowmobiles to get to the top of slopes. He’s found that backcountry hiking instead has greatly increased his connection to the environment and the thrill of his sport. He’s producing three documentary movies (Deeper, Further and Higher) that aim to show other athletes the value of this method. And overall, he urges more people to get outside:
I don’t think the problem on climate change is the guy going down the street and hopping on his local chairlift. That’s not ruining the environment. I mean, we gotta continue to live life. I’m a huge advocate of getting people outside. I think that this world in general would be a much better place with people experiencing the outdoors.
His Protect Our Winters website has an awesome pledge page, which identifies the 7 most effective actions he thinks everyone could take at least once a month:
- Get political
- Educate yourself
- Find your biggest lever
- Be vocal, bug your friends
- Talk to businesses
- Change your life and save money
- Join Protect Our Winters
Jones has also made some really cool videos about climate change’s effects on the mountains:
Mr Jones Goes to Washington:
Jeremy Jones is proof that we all can make a difference in our communities, whatever our profession!