I recently returned from the Paris climate talks, where nearly 200 nations hammered out a historic climate agreement on December 4. I attended as a skier, concerned citizen of Earth and representative of Protect Our Winters, the climate advocacy group that mobilizes the snowsports community to reckon with climate change.
After the agreement, Pope Francis said something especially applicable to skiers: “Putting [the agreement] into practice,” he said, “will need a concerted commitment and a generous dedication on the part of all.”
Why should skiers listen to some Argentine in long white robes who doesn’t even ski? Because he’s right: The future of our sport and lifestyle depends on working together to address global warming, and skiers are on the front lines of the battle. We can commit to the fight by creating change in our own lives and mountain playgrounds, and by becoming politically active.
My pictures this week probably won’t set any Like records. But the intention here, as is the consistent theme of my feed, isn’t to get the most Likes. Instead, it’s to share my perspective and learn from yours. To utilize Instagram for something beyond eye candy. I’m at the #COP21 climate conference in Paris. Why? Because like all industries, snowsports, of which I am a stakeholder, is so at risk. And I care. You probably care, too. I care for our sake. For your grandchildren's sake, who may never know what it feels like to slide down snow on skis from the top of a mountain to the bottom. Or who may not have sufficient fresh water to live in a mountain community, or far downstream. And because our economy, health, and future depend on so much of this. Today, from the Stade de France, I am live-tweeting from the Sustainable Innovation in Sports forum. Follow @gretchenbleiler and me on Twitter for our first-person experience here for @protectwinters. We'd be psyched to hear from you. You can see some of the presenters that we are watching via the livestream in my profile.
In my adopted state of Utah, home to some of the best skiing on the planet, an opportunity to make a difference is unfolding before us, and you don’t even have to live here to help.
The EPA just released a draft plan to address Utah’s air-pollution problems, which you’ve likely noticed if you’ve been lucky enough to ski in Utah or visit any of the state’s iconic national parks—Canyonlands, Arches, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, and Zion—with their glorious yet haze-shrouded distant views.
A direct contributor to Utah’s air-quality struggles is haze-causing coal pollution emanating from the state’s two dirtiest coal-fired power plants, the Hunter and Huntington plants in the central part of the state. Toxic pollution from these plants endangers Utah’s ski areas, local communities, and $12 billion outdoor tourism industry.
Despite these troubles, Utah is one of the last states in the country to require its coal plants to reduce these dangerous emissions, putting our health and the air we breathe at risk. According to the Clean Air Task Force, pollution from the plants contributes to 11 premature deaths and 233 asthma attacks every year. That negligence also kicks Utah’s cultural heritage to the curb—our ski areas, mountains, and national parks are a huge part of who we are.
The EPA’s plan contains two options, one of which could pave the way for cleaner air in Utah by requiring the Hunter and Huntington plants to install modern pollution controls, as more than 200 plants across the country already have. The other option, proposed by the state of Utah, would allow the plants to continue polluting without restriction.
As skiers, it will be up to us to provide public comment on the stronger, better option for Utah’s parks and communities—the one that requires pollution controls to be installed. Please join me in thanking the EPA for presenting that option and in urging the agency to stand up for Utah’s air, snow, health, and economy by enforcing its strong standards.
With the EPA facing a clear choice ahead of a June 1 deadline to finalize the standard, it’s time for us to voice our concerns to our government.
How you can help:
1. Send a letter to the EPA, here: sc.org/cleanair4utah.
2. Share an image of yourself skiing, and say why clean air matters to you. Be sure to use the hashtag #cleanair4utah and tag @epagov, @protectourwinters, and me, @brodyleven.
To read the latest press release from Protect Our Winters re: Utah’s Air Pollution, click here.
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