Eco-Athlete’s Journey: Stacey Cook, Olympic Skier, Climate Activist

One of GreenSportsBlog’s major initiatives this year is to feature “eco-athletes” whenever we can. They are a small but growing breed and they need the oxygen to share their views and passions when it comes to the climate change fight and other environmental issues.

Winter sports athletes make up a big percentage of the eco-athlete”population. That is no surprise since their playing fields — snowy mountains or valleys — are at high risk due to the effects of climate change. It is great to see alpine and nordic skiers, snowboarders, and more, go outside of their comfort zones by lobbying for climate action in Washington and in state capitols. One such athlete is the recently retired U.S. Olympic downhiller, Stacey Cook.

GreenSportsBlog chatted with Stacey about her journey from tagging along on ski outings with her big brother to developing her own talents on the slopes to discovering her voice beyond skiing through climate change.

 

GreenSportsBlog: Stacey, I am so heartened to see so many elite winter sports athletes getting involved with the climate change issue. And that’s why I am happy to talk with you, an Olympic alpine skier who went way beyond her comfort zone to get involved with climate activism. My guess is you’ve been skiing your whole life. Is that right?

Stacey Cook: Right you are, Lew. I grew up in the Lake Tahoe area of California in a tiny town called Truckee. Snow was a constant so I got into winter sports, skiing in particular, from the time I was four years old. Dad taught my older brother and me — that was the only thing to do in winter — and I had a raw passion for it almost from the get go. And I grew up with great skiers — Julia Mancuso, an Olympic gold medalist in giant slalom, is a lifelong friend.

GSB: Did you go for the alpine events from the beginning — downhill, giant slalom, and slalom — or did you try cross country?

Stacey: Alpine all the way! I loved it. It was total freedom. I was on a team with my older brother and his friends — I was on the slopes from 9-to-5, basically.

 

Cook_Stacey

Stacey Cook (Photo credit: US Ski Team)

 

GSB: Did you know you were good? Were you kicking your brother’s backside?

Stacey: No clue. I did some recreational racing when I was a kid, nothing serious. But I really owe a lot of my success to my older brother Gary — a very strong skier who ended up focusing on football, playing at UNLV plus one season with the Oakland Raiders — I spent so much time chasing him around that I had to get good just to keep up. Someone told my dad he should enter me into a race when I was ten. He did and, you know what? I won!

GSB: WOW!! Did that get you into the competitive youth skiing circuit?

Stacey: Not really. Tell you the truth, I was oblivious to all that. Really, I was passionate but I wasn’t on a travel ski team at all. But what happened was that, in my teens, people I used to beat started to beat me. They were on a team and took it more seriously than I did. And you know what? It pissed me off! So I committed, when I was 16, to make myself a real skier.

GSB: How did you do that?

Stacey: Well, I had a great coach who gave me confidence. So I made a presentation to my parents. I wanted to move to Mammoth Mountain three hours away. I went into the costs, the benefits…

GSB: …How old were you?

Stacey: I was going into my senior year in high school. I had enough credits to graduate after the fall. So after my fall soccer season, I moved to Mammoth on my own and lived with a host family along with other athletes from Washington. Mammoth Resort was founded by Dave McCoy (now 103 years old), who helped back me. It made things much cheaper for my family. So I could follow my passion and become a strong racer. I stayed there and two years later, I made the national team. And from there I went from being unranked to the 2006 Olympics in Torino.

GSB: What event?

Stacey: I was all about the speed events — downhill and Super G.

 

Cook_Stacey 2015

Stacey Cook in action at the 2015 Alpine World Championships in Vail, Colorado (Photo credit: Nathan Bilow, Getty Images)

 

GSB: Wow! A daredevil. High risk, high reward?

Stacey: You know what? I was abnormally healthy over my career — no surgeries — but unfortunately, my crashes came at the Olympics. I crashed in Vancouver in 2010, crashed in practice in Sochi in 2014 and then, in Pyeongchang this year, I got something called “compartment syndrome” in my legs two days before the Games.

GSB: Never heard of it. Sounds serious.

Stacey: It can be very serious. It cuts blood flow to the nerves and muscles. I did 12 hours of rehab a day to try to compete but I couldn’t even do a training run. I was in tears but I was able to make it to the Opening Ceremonies. Which was huge because that was my last Olympics.

GSB: So what to do next? And where does the environment and climate change come in to the mix?

Stacey: Well, I’ve been outside in nature basically my whole life. And my dad was a water fowl hunter, the California Waterfowl Association has a great wetlands and species preservation program. That was my introduction of sorts into environmentalism. But it was traveling all over the world over the many years of my career that really drew my attention to climate change. I saw firsthand how ski communities were being impacted by snow shortages and how that problem was increasing over time.

GSB: That is something I’ve heard from talking to a number of your friends-competitors. So what spurred you to action?

Stacey: I really have to thank Clif Bar, which sponsored me. They were the impetus. Clif makes it easy for athletes to join the climate conversation. I mean, we live in our own bubbles and to take on a complicated issue like climate change is not easy at all. That’s why their resources allowed me to expand my horizons. Plus they have many other athletes in similar situations.

GSB: When did your relationship with Clif, the company with a quintuple bottom line ethos, start?

Stacey: I met folks from the company back in 2008 and loved what they were all about. But Nature Valley was still the US Ski Team sponsor in that category at the time. But when Nature Valley dropped out and Clif replaced them, the door opened and I walked through.

GSB: They are an incredible company.

Stacey: They really are. I spent a lot of time at their headquarters, talking with sports marketing and other folks. They actually listen to your concerns.

GSB: What a concept!

Stacey: Right?? Clif really educated me on climate change. So I was ready this spring when I went to Washington with Protect Our Winters (POW) for the first time to lobby Members of Congress on climate change from a snow sports perspective.

GSB: How did that go?

Stacey: I hate to say it but I was scared. I’m from a tiny town and I’d never done anything like this. I mean, talking to congressmen and women? Senators? Are you kidding?

GSB: I can understand that to a point. I mean you’ve been in the Olympic downhill. THAT’S scary…

Stacey: To you, maybe. But I’ve been skiing my whole life. No, talking to congress members about climate change was much scarier.

GSB: So how did you do?

Stacey: I was a little shaky at first but became energetic by the end. What turned it around was simply telling stories — stories about the changes we’ve seen to the environment. This turned out to be easy. I mean I’ve seen glaciers recede past chair lifts in some areas. And that change happened within the time span of my career. In the end, winter sports athletes are canaries in the coal mine when it comes to climate change. We see its effects first.

 

Cook_Stacey CCL

Stacey Cook (center), alongside four other U.S. Winter Olympians for their lobbying day on Capitol Hill this spring. From left, it’s Maddie Phaneuf (biathlon), David Wise (halfpipe), Stacey Cook, Arielle Gold (snowboard) and Jessie Diggins (cross-country skiing). Protect Our Winters and CLIF helped organize and fund their trip (Photo credit: Citizens’ Climate Lobby)

 

GSB: With whom did you meet?

Stacey: Senators and House members from states with big winter sports industries. We met Dean Heller, Republican senator from Nevada…

GSB:  …He will soon be an ex-senator as he lost his race to Democrat Jacky Rosen…

Stacey: True. We also met with House members from Colorado, Minnesota and New York. We impressed upon them the economic costs of climate change on their economies. We weren’t making any hard asks but I believe we get them and their staffs more engaged on climate than.

GSB: That’s a great start and then I heard you followed it up by lobbying for the bill in the California state legislature in Sacramento that the state be powered 100 percent by renewable energy by 2045.

Stacey: It really was incredible. Ceres, the nonprofit that is helping to transform the economy to build a sustainable future, led the lobbying effort. Clif, Target and Kleiner Perkins

GSB: …The venture capital firm?

Stacey: Yes…They were all involved. I got to learn what big companies are doing around climate change, which was fascinating and impressive. Thing is, Ceres had never used an athlete to help lobby.

GSB: So you were the first? That is SO GREAT!

Stacey: I know! We created a bit of a stir. Having an athlete as part of the team perhaps allowed us to catch the ear of more Assembly members than would have otherwise been the case. And the bill passed the Assembly in late August.

GSB: The California State Senate had already passed its version of the bill back in May 2017 so the Assembly’s passage meant that outgoing Governor Jerry Brown had something to sign. And he did! Congratulations for your role in all this.

 

California SB100

 

Stacey: Thank you, Lew! I can’t wait to see the great things this new law does for the climate, environment and business in my home state.

GSB: What’s up next for you? Running for office?

Stacey: No way! My plans are in flux a bit. For now, I’m continuing to work with Clif, in particular working with other Clif athletes on the environment, helping them get their voices out there. And I will do more with POW. I do know that, whatever my work turns out to be, the environment will be part of it.

 


 

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A Look at U.S. Midterm Election Results Through Green and Green-Sports Lenses

To borrow from Mick Jagger and The Rolling Stones, results from last week’s U.S. midterm elections from environmental and climate change points of view, were a bit of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want, But If You Try Sometime, You Get What You Need.”

What was needed is what happened: The Democrats won control of the House of Representatives. This will end one party rule in Washington come January, providing a seat at the table for pro-climate action forces where they had none before.

But the best the House can do, given control of the Senate and White House by climate change deniers and skeptics, will be to serve as a crucial check on the anti-environmental instincts of the Trump Administration. Those hoping for positive climate action from Washington will likely have to wait awhile.

Green-Sports largely fared well on Election Day. The efforts of Protect Our Winters (POW), a group of elite active and retired winter sports athletes who lobby elected officials at the federal and state level for pro-climate legislation, and its Action Fund, were more successful than not, especially in key winter sports states. 

Today’s GreenSportsBlog post looks at the election wins and losses, through both Green and Green-Sports lenses. 

 

THE WINS

Climate of Hope In The Newly Democratic House

That the Democrats won control of the House of Representatives is a good thing for the environment and the climate change fight. 

“The elections were definitely good news,” declared Allen Hershkowitz, co-founder of Sport and Sustainability International (SandSI). “Many people who support and respect sound climate science were elected. And many who stymied increased governmental action on climate were thrown out.”

At a minimum, the new Democratic majority will use House congressional committees to investigate and slow President Trump’s environmental deregulatory agenda. “Scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency have been ignored,” noted Hershkowitz. “That will certainly be explored.”

When the new Congress convenes in January, climate change skeptic Andy Biggs (R-AZ), who currently chairs the House Subcommittee on the Environment, will hand the gavel over to Democrat Suzanne Bonamici. She represents Oregon’s first district, which covers the suburbs west of Portland. Bonamici has a lifetime score of 98 (100 is perfect) from the League of Conservation Voters (LCV), which rates Members of Congress based on their votes on environmental issues. That’s a big improvement vs. Biggs, whose LCV score is a paltry 6.

 

Suzanne Bonamici

Suzanne Bonamici (OR-1), likely to be the new chair of the House Subcommittee on the Environment (Photo credit: Michael Lloyd, The Oregonian)

 

And, if this week is any guide, the young cadre of new Democratic House members is going to push party establishment to move faster and stronger on climate than was the case in 2009-11, the last time the party was in control. 

On Tuesday, close to 200 climate activists, including incoming high-profile Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), jammed into the offices of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA-12), who hopes to re-assume the position of House speaker. Per David Roberts, writing in Wednesday’s edition of Voxthey called on Pelosi to lead the Democrats “in developing an ambitious, comprehensive plan to address climate change — a Green New Deal.” 

 

 

 

Protect Our Winters (POW) and its Action Fund Helped Push Climate-Friendly Candidates and Issues Across the Finish Line in Snow Sports States

The POW Action Fund, which “supports [candidates and] elected officials who will take legitimate action on climate,” saw their get-out-the-vote efforts pay off in three important races in mountain west states with big winter sports industries.

 

Alex Deibold, Gretchen Bleiler, Kaitlyn Farrington on POW_s September 2017 Lobby Trip to Washington DC Forest Woodward Athletes

Protect Our Winters athletes, including from left to right, snowboarders Alex Deibold, Kaitlyn Farrington and Gretchen Bleiler, helped support climate-friendly clients at the federal and state levels (Photo credit: Forest Woodward)

 

  • Jared Polis, who pushed for the nation’s most ambitious renewable energy goal — 100 percent by 2040 — became governor-elect of Colorado.
  • In Montana, Democratic Senator Jon Tester won re-election with a narrow 15,000 vote win. The POW Action Fund gave Tester one of its first endorsements based on his support of Montana’s growing renewable energy industry and its strong outdoor recreation economy.
  • Steve Sisolak rode a strong protect-public lands and renewable energy platform to the governor’s mansion in Nevada. Voters in the Silver State also approved a ballot measure that requires electric utilities to get 50 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2030, up from around 25 percent today.

 

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Montana Democrat Jon Tester won re-election to the U.S. Senate thanks in part to the efforts of the POW Action Fund (Photo credit: Alex Wong, Getty Images)

 

THE LOSSES

New Republican Senators Have Weaker Environmental Records Than Their Democratic Predecessors

Republicans flipped at least three senate seats, with a fourth more likely than not going their way (Florida GOP Governor Rick Scott has a 12,000~ vote lead over incumbent senator Bill Nelson pending a hand recount). Each of the incoming senate rookies look to be significant downgrades on the environment and climate than their Democratic predecessors. 

FLORIDA: Bill Nelson has a solid LCV lifetime scorecard rating of 71. Rick Scott, as a two-term governor of Florida, does not have a LCV scorecard (they only score senators and house members). But, according to Kevin Clark, executive director of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), “Governor Scott regularly put the wishes of corporate polluters above the needs of Florida’s environment and families. He’s sided with a fringe movement of climate change deniers, defunded popular and bipartisan conservation programs, and undermined the enforcement of air, water, and climate protections.” 

INDIANA: Democrat Joe Donnelly will exit the senate with a middlin’ 59 LCV score. His Republican successor, businessman Mike Braun, has no environmental record. But he did answer “strongly disagree” to the question “Are additional regulations necessary to prevent climate change?” 

MISSOURI: Claire McCaskill, outgoing Democratic Senator from the Show Me State, had a strong 74 lifetime LCV score. Her replacement, Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, cheered President Trump’s decision to scuttle the Obama-era Clean Power Plan.

NORTH DAKOTA: North Dakota has been dubbed the “Saudi Arabia of Fracked Natural Gas.” Thus it is no surprise that Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp often sided with the extractive industries. Still, she was able to earn a 52 lifetime LCV score. Incoming GOP Senator Kevin Cramer? During his tenure in the House, he compiled a 1 LCV score. You read that right. 

 

Kevin Cramer

North Dakota’s Kevin Cramer brings a lowly score of 1 (out of 100) the League of Conservation Voters to his new job in the U.S. Senate (Photo credit: Rick Abbott, Forum News Service)

 

Climate Bipartisanship Weakened

Carlos Curbelo (FL-26), the most vocal Republican in Congress calling for action to address climate change, narrowly lost his South Florida seat to Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who accused him of not going far enough on the environment.

Curbelo was the co-founder of the bi-partisan House Climate Solutions Caucus, along with Democrat Ted Deutsch (FL-22). It was set up to explore policy options that address the impacts, causes, and challenges of climate change. To join the Caucus, a Democratic House member must bring along a Republican partner in a Noah’s Ark sort of way. The election was a bloodbath for GOP caucus members — 21 will not be returning in January (13 lost and 8 retired).

 

Carlos Curbelo

Carlos Curbelo (FL-26), co-founder of the bipartisan House Climate Solutions Caucus, lost his re-election bid (Photo credit: Tom Williams, AP)

 

Carbon Pricing Ballot Initiative Defeated in Washington

In Washington State, voters rejected an initiative that would have imposed the country’s first tax on carbon dioxide. Economists have long said that carbon taxes would be an important tool for fighting climate change. Make it more expensive to pollute, the theory goes, and companies will quickly find ways to reduce their emissions. The YES vote was ahead in the polls by a significant margin in early October. Then fossil fuel industry groups pumped more than $31 million into the campaign and the proposal went down. 

 

THE UPSHOT

I see three key outcomes from last week’s election regarding the environment and climate:

  1. Positive governmental action on climate will likely continue to come from the states and not Washington for at least the next two years. New governors in Colorado and Nevada, assisted in their victories by Protect Our Winters Action Fund, will play important roles.
  2. The states will remain the most effective climate policy laboratories because, despite the Democrats winning control of the House, short-term gains on climate in Washington are unlikely. Republicans, whose leadership remains solidly in the climate denial/skeptic camp, still run the Senate and, of course, the White House. A smaller Climate Solutions Caucus in the House will need be a beacon of bipartisan leadership.
  3. With Congress gridlocked on climate and the President heading in the wrong direction, Green-Sports’ role will become more important. “The opposition from the White House on positive climate action will stall any movement at the federal level,” asserted Allen Hershowitz. “That is why work and progress on climate from the high profile sports sector is more important than ever.”

 


 

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Sports World Affected By California Wildfires, Offers Help

The wildfires that have ravaged Paradise (north of Sacramento) and areas in Ventura and Los Angeles counties, are among the most devastating in California history — and that’s saying something. While trivial compared to the loss of life and property, the sports world has also felt the wildfire’s effects. While dealing with their own safety and property, athletes are stepping up to help those in need. And one, Kyle Kuzma of the LA Lakers, mentioned climate change as a potential cause of the fires.

 

SACRAMENTO SPORTS FEELING THE EFFECTS OF “CAMP FIRE” WILDFIRE 85 MILES TO THE NORTH

If these were normal times in Sacramento, LeBron James’ first game as a Los Angeles Laker vs. the Kings at the Golden 1 Center would have been the #1 story in California’s capital city.

These are far from normal times.

Smoke from the “Camp Fire” wildfire raging since Thursday in Paradise — about 85 miles north of downtown Sacramento — quickly wafted towards and then inside the arena. It was visible above the court before and during Saturday night’s Kings-Lakers contest. Several members of the Lakers told ESPN that they could see the fire burning from the plane on their approach to Sacramento on Friday.

“You can smell it,” LeBron James told ESPN’s Dave McMenamin before the game. “We haven’t really gotten up and down [running] like that to the point where you can tell it affects you or not, but anytime smoke is around, you know it can affect all of us. Not only us as athletes but everyone. Everyone gets affected by pollution.”

 

LeBron

LeBron James of the LA Lakers surveys the scene at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento during Saturday’s game vs. the Kings. Smoke from the Camp Fire wildfire 85 miles north in Butte County, entered the arena and was noticeable to James and his teammates (Photo credit: Sergio Estrada)

 

Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma linked the Camp Fire — as well as the Woolsey Fire that has consumed over 70,000 acres of land in Ventura and Los Angeles counties — to climate change, telling ESPN, “Climate change, or I don’t know what it is, but there’s a lot [wildfires] coming.”

There were no reports of smoke-related problems at Golden 1 Center before or during Monday’s San Antonio Spurs-Kings game. That was likely due, at least in part, to arena management’s decision to keep the entrance doors closed as much as possible during the pre-game window.

 

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS HOST PARADISE HIGH SCHOOL TEAM AT MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL

After watching the deadly Camp Fire lay waste to their town last week, the Paradise High football squad found a smidge of relief Monday night with a road trip, courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers.

At 11 AM, players, cheerleaders and coaches boarded a bus provided by the Niners for the 200 mile journey to Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. The Paradise team, who had to forfeit its playoff game due to the fire, stood on the sideline with their NFL counterparts during the playing of the national anthem. Then they watched the home team fall in the last minute to the New York Giants, 27-23.

 

Niners Paradise

San Francisco 49ers players stand alongside members of the Paradise High football team during the playing of the national anthem at Monday’s game between the Niners and the New York Giants at Levi’s Stadium (Photo credit: Kyle Terada, USA Today)

 

But the bus trip itself might have been an even bigger deal than going on the field.

“I think the biggest reaction was on the bus ride here when they all slept,” coach Rick Prinz told ESPN’s Nick Wagoner. “They’re exhausted. They’re all displaced. [Almost] all of their homes have burned down. They’ve lost everything.”

More than 6,400 homes have been destroyed, according to the Butte County Sheriff’s Department. While the school survived the fire, about 90 percent of the players’ homes did not. Like most of the Paradise community, the coaches, players and cheerleaders spent the past few days living elsewhere and seeking updates on the status of their houses.

49ers’ assistant strength and conditioning coach Shane Wallen grew up in Paradise and decided to take action.  Per Wagoner, he “started a GoFundMe page in efforts to offer support for his hometown. The fire destroyed Wallen’s father’s home in Magalia, California. Thanks to multiple Niners players making donations and posting on their social media platforms, Wallen had already raised more than $19,000 of the $50,000 goal as of early Monday evening.”

 

John Sullivan

While Paradise High School survived the Camp Fire, about 90 percent of its football players’ homes did not (Photo credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

 

After Monday’s game, the Paradise contingent took the long ride back to Butte County. Instead of going home, they dispersed to various points — some to hotels, some with relatives and some to evacuation shelters.

 

LA RAMS ANDREW WHITWORTH, IMPACTED BY WOOLSEY FIRE AND BORDERLINE BAR SHOOTING, STEPS UP

“Pretty amazing, to be able to win a football game in circumstances like this.”

Los Angeles Rams offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth offered that observation to NBC Sports’ Peter King after his team held off the Green Bay Packers, 36-31 in a thriller at the LA Memorial Coliseum Sunday afternoon.

The circumstances to which Whitworth referred are the horrific Borderline Bar shooting, where at least 12 people were killed, and the Woolsey Fire, now the largest ever recorded in Los Angeles county. The tragedies overlapped each other in an apocalyptic Thursday-Friday in Thousand Oaks.

 

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Andrew Whitworth of the LA Rams (Photo credit: Kirby Lee, USA Today Sports)

 

Whitworth quickly sprung into action.

The shooting took place in the wee hours of Thursday morning. By 1 PM, the LSU product and his wife agreed that he would donate his game check from the Packers game — about $60,000 after taxes, according to King — to a fund established to help the victims of the shootings, and their families.

By 3 PM, the Rams, who practice in Thousand Oaks, could clearly see two massive fires that were only about three miles from the facility.

 

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Firefighters from various departments work to protect structures Friday as the Woolsey Fire moves through Agoura Hills, which is where the Rams’ business headquarters are located. The team trains in nearby Thousand Oaks (Photo credit: Matthew Simmons, Getty Images)

 

Eleven hours later, at 2 AM, King reported that Whitworth “woke up in his bedroom, the smell of acrid smoke everywhere. ‘We need to go,’ he told his wife. His friend [and fellow offensive lineman] John Sullivan lives in the same neighborhood. ‘We can’t leave them,’ Whitworth said, and he went to bang on the Sullivans’ door. The two families quickly packed. The Whitworths piled their kids in one of their cars and headed south, to Los Angeles.” Whitworth and Sullivan became 2 of 90 Rams players and staffers who had evacuated their homes.

 

PHILLIES MANAGER GABE KAPLER’S MALIBU HOME DESTROYED BY WOOLSEY FIRE

Meanwhile, the Malibu home of Philadelphia Phillies manager Gabe Kapler was reduced to a steel staircase by the Woolsey Fire. ESPN reported that his two sons and ex-wife were living there but escaped unharmed.

 

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Philadelphia Phillies manager Gabe Kapler (Photo credit: Matt Rourke, AP)

 

Kapler, who lives in Philadelphia, wants to raise awareness of those who are less fortunate. “Keep talking about it,” Kapler told The Athletic. “When you’re out in your community, talk about it with other people. Use it as a way to come together. I sent this text message back to people: Talk about it. Shine light on it. Raise awareness. Feel it.”

 


 

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GSB News and Notes, Milwaukee Edition: Brewers Pitcher Steps Up to Plate on Climate Change; Bucks Open First Bird-Friendly Arena

Milwaukee is best known for being America’s beer capital. But, as today’s GSB News & Notes demonstrates, Wisconsin’s largest city is also an up-and-coming Green-Sports hub.

Brewers’ pitcher Brent Suter recently showed himself to be an eco-athlete to be reckoned with. He wrote an OpEd in Fast Company, urging Americans to unify around finding solutions to climate change. And Fiserv Arena, the brand new home of the NBA’s Bucks, opened its doors as the world’s first bird-friendly arena.

 

BREWERS PITCHER BRENT SUTER: SPORTS UNITES US, CLIMATE CHANGE SHOULD DO THE SAME

Brent Suter is a busy man this offseason.

The 29 year-old lefty pitcher for the Milwaukee Brewers is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery^ in August that repaired a torn ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in his elbow. Since recovery from this procedure takes a full year, the hope is that Suter will be able to rejoin his teammates for their stretch run to the playoffs next summer.

And, during breaks from his rehab regimen, Suter penned a thoughtful OpEd that ran in Fast Company’s October 31st issue.

In “Fighting climate change should make Americans come together to find solutions,” Suter noted that, while his Brewers failed in their bid to reach the World Series*, “There’s a bigger test ahead for us. It requires that we come together, just like we do with sports, to address the very real threats from climate change.”

He first went local, pointing out how climate change is very relevant to Milwaukee, citing a recent study that showed drought, heatwaves, and extreme weather associated with climate change will drastically reduce crop yields of barley, a key ingredient in beer.

Suter then widened his lens beyond Milwaukee and beer: “Flooding is on the rise throughout our entire state due to torrential rains, threatening our neighborhoods and infrastructure…These threats are becoming more frequent and formidable for all of America… [Last] month, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that we’ve got only 12 years to avert total climate catastrophe. And each week, it seems, new scientific and economic reports highlight the growing threats to industries and regions from climate change. Amidst these dire reports, communities around the country continue to bear the brunt of climate change in the form of hurricanes, storm surges, wild fires, and flooding.”

 

Brent Suter (Photo credit: John Fischer/CSM/Shutterstock)

 

In no uncertain terms, Suter said the world needs to aggressively take on climate change…yesterday: “We can’t keep kicking the climate action can down the road. We need to come together to acknowledge climate change and work together to take real action…We know that the excessive use of fossil fuels is making the climate change at a faster and faster rate that harms our way of life and negatively impacts our health, our economy, and our security. Reducing our overall energy use, making everything more energy efficient, and transitioning to renewable energy, then, are necessary steps for us to take.”

The Brewers southpaw offered three top-line climate change solutions that go beyond renewable energy and electric vehicles:

  1. Improved urban resiliency: Invest in cities and towns so they’re “better prepared to respond to the health, economic, and security risks from floods, storms, and heat waves. They’re getting hit hard now and need our help.”
  2. Transition to sustainable agriculture: Equip farmers and ranchers “With the most sustainable practices, so they can continue to feed the world in ways that are less water, pesticide, and carbon intensive.”
  3. Wise stewardship of natural capital: “Our forests are the lungs that allow us to breathe by absorbing and storing carbon dioxide, and indiscriminate deforestation is just making the planet hotter, drier, and less inhabitable. Protecting and restoring this asset, then, should be our number-one priority.”

 

GSB’s Take: I’ve often heard that the complexity of the climate change issue is main reason there are few athletes who speak out about it. With this OpEd, Brent Suter clearly knocked the complexity canard out of the ballpark. I have no idea what Suter’s post-career plans are, but perhaps he should consider transitioning from eco-athlete to eco-politician.

 

FISERV FORUM, NEW HOME OF THE MILWAUKEE BUCKS, IS WORLD’S FIRST BIRD-SAFE ARENA

Here’s something that hasn’t been said in, oh, 40 years or so: It is an exciting time to be a Milwaukee Bucks fan!

Most of that energy stems from the nightly, “Holy Cow, did you see THAT?!” highlight reel moments delivered by Giannis Antetokounmpo, aka the Greek Freak. If you don’t believe me, check this out:

 

 

And now that management has provided the Greek Freak with a young, athletic, hungry supporting cast that includes sharpshooter Khris Middleton and point guard and eco-athlete Malcolm Brogdon, Bucks fans are downright giddy about one of the NBA’s most exciting and surprising teams this season. I know, I know — it’s early, but still…

The most recent example of the Bucks’ emergence? Last night’s 134-111 rout of the two-time defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors in Oakland. Milwaukee is 9-2 and in second place in the Eastern Conference.

 

Greek Freak

Giannis Antetokounmpo, aka the Greek Freak, takes a free throw (with Steph Curry in the background) on the way to scoring 24 points in last night’s Bucks 134-111 road win over the Warriors (Photo credit: KABC TV San Francisco)

 

To top that off, Bucks fans get to watch their squad in the brand new Fiserv Forum, which is on track to receive LEED Silver certification. And thanks to a forward-thinking collaboration between the Bucks and Bird City Wisconsin, it is also a good time to be a bird in downtown Milwaukee.

That is because Fiserv Forum will be the world’s first bird-friendly sports and entertainment venue.

The 17,500-seat arena was designed to achieve the U.S. Green Building Council’s new LEED Bird Collision Deterrence credit, which was created in partnership with American Bird Conservancy (ABC). To earn the credit, a building must address the primary reasons that birds collide with buildings: reflective and see-through glass and lighting that disorients birds during their nocturnal spring and fall migrations.

 

Fiserv Forum

Fiserv Forum, the new, bird-friendly home of the Milwaukee Bucks (Photo credit: Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty Images)

 

Bird-friendliness was built in to Fiserv’s Forum’s design in mid-2015, when Bird City Wisconsin — a program of the Milwaukee Audubon Society — first approached the Bucks.

“Bird City Wisconsin came to us three years ago to educate us on migration and best practices,” said Milwaukee Bucks President Peter Feigin. “We were able to integrate many of their suggestions in the design phase of the project.”

Populous, the award-winning architectural firm that designed Fiserv Forum, was also on board, according to Senior Associate Heather Stewart: “When glass or other glass-like materials are employed in venue design, it’s vital to balance insulation and reflectivity to create an ideal environment both inside and out, for people and for local wildlife. We are proud to hear that other sports venues are looking toward Fiserv Forum as the new standard for bird-friendly design around the globe.”

Why does this matter? Because up to one billion birds die annually after colliding with glass in the United States. Scientists estimate that this likely accounts for five to ten percent of all birds in the U.S. and is a contributor to significant declines in bird populations across North America.

“The Milwaukee Bucks’ bold decision to build the world’s first bird-friendly arena speaks volumes about the ownerships’ character, concern for the environment, and desire to be a part of a green community,” said Bird City Wisconsin’s former director Bryan Lenz, who recently joined ABC as its Collisions Campaign Manager. “The Bucks stepped up for birds in a way that no sports franchise ever has.”

 

GSB’s Take: That the Bucks and Fiserv Arena stepped up on bird conservation casts in sharp relief the failure of the Minnesota Vikings to do the same. Bird conservation advocates and architects let team owner Zygi Wilf know, during the planning phase of what would become US Bank Stadium, that the building as designed would be hazardous for birds. Sadly, the team decided not to make the investment in bird collision deterrence. Not surprisingly, the stadium, which opened in 2016 and is located in a highly-trafficked portion of the Mississippi Flyway, has a significant collision problem. Click here for a link to a December, 2017 GreenSportsBlog story on the US Bank Stadium-bird collision issue.

 

 

 

^ Tommy John surgery is a procedure in which a healthy tendon extracted from an arm (or sometimes a leg) is used to replace an arm’s torn ligament. The healthy tendon is threaded through holes drilled into the bone above and below the elbow.
*  The Brewers reached the National League Championship Series where they lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

 


 

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Election Day GSB Reprise: The POWer of Protect Our Winters

The Winter Sports world plays an outsized role in the Green-Sports movement. This makes sense, when one considers climate change is responsible for shortened outdoor pond hockey seasons, canceled ski races, and more. 

Thus with today being Election Day, I decided to reprise excerpts from a GreenSportsBlog post from last December about Protect Our Winters. POW is an amazing organization made up of elite winter sports athletes who advocate and lobby for substantive political action on climate change, especially as it relates to mountain and snow sports. We spoke with Lindsay Bourgoine, the organization’s manager of advocacy and campaigns, and senior brand manager Barbara Weber, to delve into the POWer of POW. You will note some updates below in red that reflect where things stand as of today regarding climate change and the elections 

Enjoy…and, if you haven’t done so already, please VOTE! And, if you vote in Washington State, please vote YES on Initiative 1631, which would be the first carbon tax in the U.S.

 

Protect Our Winters (POW) is, without doubt, one of the most impactful organizations in the Green-Sports world.

It may also be the most important athlete activist group in the world.

The only climate change action advocacy group led by athletes, POW’s Riders Alliance is made up over 100 current and retired professional skiers, snowboarders and more. They give talks on climate change to student groups and take part in climate marches. Most importantly, it says here, POW lobbies members of Congress and other elected officials on climate change-related legislation.

Are there other like groups of activist athletes in other sports? I don’t know of any.

We dug into the POW story with Lindsay Bourgoine, the organization’s manager of advocacy and campaigns, and senior brand manager Barbara Weber.

 


 

GreenSportsBlog: Lindsay and Barbara, how did you end up at POW?

Lindsay Bourgoine: Well, I come from Maine and grew up outdoors, climbing mountains and skiing — I love downhill and back country. I got into policy end of things and worked in that arena for the Appalachian Mountain Club and the Outdoor Industry Association. I’ve always strived to find opportunities as the intersection of environmental advocacy and the outdoor industry. We have such an incredible opportunity to leverage our impact to better the planet. Once I found out about POW, I fell in love with it. I mean, the impact of our athletes is so authentic and effective.

 

Lindsay Bourgoine POW

Lindsay Bourgoine, Protect Our Winters’ manager of advocacy and campaigns for (Photo credit: Protect Our Winters)

 

Barbara Weber: I’m from Northern Michigan and started skiing when I was three; we got a ton of lake effect snow. At 12, I went to the “dark side,” aka snowboarding. Eventually, I went to Michigan State…Eventually, I found myself in Vail, Colorado working in a Patagonia shop while I “figured things out.” Then I worked in a marketing position with Ski.com. I left there in 2013 and after a bit of travel, a series of fateful events led me to landing my current role with POW when they were based in Los Angeles. I’ve been with POW since June 2014.

 

Barbara Weber POW

Barbara Weber, POW’s senior brand manager (Photo credit: Protect Our Winters)

 

GSB: An odd place for something called Protect Our Winters but, OK…What was it like?

Barbara: Part of my job involves working with our incredible group of professional athletes…

GSB: Including many Olympians like silver medal winning snow boarder Gretchen Bleiler and cross country skier Andy Newell

Barbara: And many more. Getting to know them over the years has been something I’ll always be grateful for. This group is so passionate, so thoughtful, insightful, and genuine. I think from the outside it can be easy to look and them and find ways to be critical, but they really work hard to become knowledgeable about climate change, both from the science and political sides, and leverage their influence as pros to inspire other people to get involved in this fight.

GSB: These are world class athletes, Olympians…and they’re knowledgeably lobbying members of Congress on climate change? How do they have the time? Where do they get the inspiration?

Barbara: I can’t speak for each Riders Alliance member but, in general, it seems as though winter sports athletes — POW athletes — spend so much time outside, in nature…it’s natural they would appreciate it. I mean, they have an intimate interaction with the outdoors.

GSB: That makes sense, but what motivates them to speak up about climate change? Don’t they worry that being “political” could put their sponsorship relationships at risk?

Barbara: Well, snowboarders, skiers and the rest are already outside the traditional athlete world to a certain extent. There’s a natural rebelliousness to this community, particularly the snowboarders. They’ve found a way to make a living most of us could only dream of, and are often rewarded for thinking unconventionally and for taking risks. So many of them are OK with going outside their comfort zones. What is really great is that POW athletes do their homework on climate and know their stuff. In fact, our athletes who go to Washington often report that members of Congress are slack-jawed at their knowledge and expertise.

GSB: As someone who has presented to Congress on climate issues with Citizens’ Climate Lobby, I can tell you that house members and senators are hard to impress. That holds true with their staffers. So getting a slack-jawed reaction is a big deal. Also a big deal is POW’s Riders Alliance Summit…

Barbara: Absolutely. It’s our biggest event of the year that we do with the athletes. We use it as our opportunity to bring them up to speed on the latest climate science, how to effectively communicate climate facts and information, provide them with social media and public speaking training, and other meaningful ways to engage in advocacy. To me, though, I think one of the biggest takeaways is the sense of community and camaraderie the summit evokes. It’s good for these athletes to see each other in person, commiserate on their experiences, become friends and supporters of each other.

 

POW Riders Alliance Credit Krystle Wright

POW athletes enjoying the 2017 Riders Alliance (Photo credit: Protect Our Winters)

 

GSB: The camaraderie is so great to hear about, especially given that some of these athletes compete against each other. Now, speaking of lobbying, talk to us about POW’s lobby days on Capitol Hill and elsewhere…

Lindsay: Well, there were 13 POW athletes at our most recent lobbying effort on the Hill a few months back. This was our biggest contingent to date; with partners and staff, we had 25 total. One of our goals this time was to work on forming relationships with Republican lawmakers, which we did by focusing on our passion for, and love of the outdoors. Sometimes, this bill and that endorsement and that policy get in the way. We need to remember we’re all people, and for the most part, we can all connect over our mutual love of the outdoors. Climate change threatens that. So, we went into offices, talked about who we are and what we do, reflected on the changes we see in the field, and then asked how they could help us address the issue. If they asked for more specifics, or if they were more amenable to our cause, we talked about our priority issues: carbon pricing, solar energy, and electrifying transportation.

GSB: …That’s great about meeting with Republicans; otherwise, POW would simply be preaching to the converted…How many members of Congress did you get to meet with this time around?

Lindsay: We met with 22 members, half of whom are part of the bipartisan House Climate Solutions Caucus, which includes an equal number of Republicans and Democrats. In addition to Gretchen Bleiler, pro fly fisherman Hilary Hutcheson, as well as our board chair and VP of Aspen Skiing Company, Auden Schendler spoke on behalf of POW. Gretchen talked about how impactful the cancellation of competitions can be, especially on rural mountain towns at the beginning of the season — for example, if Birds of Prey at Beaver Creek (CO) is cancelled, that’s $4-6 million gone from the local economy, just in a weekend. Hilary recounted how her insurance adjuster told her if she kept working as a fly fishing guide outside of Glacier National Park in Montana with the poor air quality from nearby forest fires, he would cancel her policy. She literally couldn’t guide — and earn an income — because the air quality from fire smoke was so dangerous. The environment is impacting her way of life. And Auden spoke about how ski resorts lose money in low snowfall years and the snowball effect that has on the economy. It was very powerful to speak to this bipartisan group – very uplifting to see lawmakers on both sides of the aisle really listen and come together to educate themselves on these issues and impacts. This hearing was definitely the highlight of the trip.

 

Alex Deibold, Gretchen Bleiler, Kaitlyn Farrington on POW_s September 2017 Lobby Trip to Washington DC Forest Woodward Athletes

POW takes Washington by storm: From left to right, snowboarders Alex Deibold, Kaitlyn Farrington and Gretchen Bleiler on the steps of the Capitol (Photo credit: Forest Woodward)

 

Hilary Hutcheson TDN

Hilary Hutcheson, pro fly fisherman (Photo credit: TDN)

 

Auden Schendler ClimateCon 2018

Auden Schendler, Aspen Skiing Company (Photo credit: ClimateCon2018)

 

GSB: I hope the GOPers with whom you spoke vote in a POW-like manner sooner rather than later.  Now, one thing I’ve noticed as a Citizens’ Climate Lobby volunteer is that the number of volunteers skyrocketed after Trump’s election. Have you seen something similar at POW? Also has Trump’s election had any effects on the issues POW takes on, the tone and aggressiveness with which it does so, etc.

Lindsay: People can no longer afford to be apathetic as our climate is under attack day after day. Now, more than ever, our community is asking us “how can we help” over and over. Our community is stepping up to the challenge. In a way, this is a silver lining of Trump’s election. Now, does it make it harder when there is an unfriendly administration? Yes. That just means we have to work harder to fight the fights that need to be fought and to get creative to see if there are any places we can potentially work with Republicans. Note: Unfortunately, since this interview was conducted in December, not many GOP House members have voted in a pro-environment, pro-climate change fight fashion.

I would say one way the results of Trump’s election is that we are looking opportunistically at actions in state legislatures. There is a ton of progress being made there, especially on carbon pricing in winter sports states like Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington. The first carbon tax in the US, Initiative 1631, is on the ballot in Washington today. Retired skier, current POW member, and Central Washington resident Ingrid Backstrom penned this OpEd in favor of Initiative 1631.

GSB: Are there Trump-supporting POW athletes? If so, how is that working out?

Lindsay: I can’t speak to that specifically, but we do have Republican athletes. We have always worked to be bipartisan and if anything, put even more of an effort into that this year in our DC lobbying. We know climate is deeply politicized, but we don’t believe it should be. The Republican party is the only conservative party in the world that denies climate change. We just need to get to a place where it is safe for Republicans to talk about climate. You’d be surprised; many of them understand and agree, they just care about being re-elected, too. It’s tough. Our goal is to elect climate friendly officials, regardless of what party.

GSB: That’s all very important…so good luck. Turning to 2018, what are POW’s main goals as far as the midterms are concerned?

Lindsay: Our main goal in 2018 is to get down and dirty in the midterm elections in November, [especially in races where there is an opportunity to] elect climate-friendly leaders, whether Democrat or Republican. Now, I want to be clear that we are not working to help the Democrats take the House. We will execute all of our programs in those [states and districts] — whether going into schools for Hot Planet Cool Athletes assemblies to get kids talking about the importance of climate change, or hosting educational events. Our objective is to make people more aware of their role in elections, help them understand the importance of electing climate friendly leaders, and push the conversation in each election to cover climate change.

 

GSB’s Take: In 2019, it would be great to see athletes from other sports — especially warm weather, outdoor sports like cycling, running and more — partner with POW to lobby members of Congress, Governors and more. But that’s for 2019. Regarding today’s voting, here are links to two terrific articles about climate and the election:

  1. Five Midterm Votes That Could Have an Outsize Impact on Climate Change from the great Coral Davenport at The New York Times. 
  2. Clean Energy’s Future Could Rise or Fall with These Governor’s Races by Marianne Lavelle and Dan Gearino at Inside Climate News, a must-read for those interested in the climate change fight

 


 

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GSB Eco-Scorecard #7: Catching Up with Green-Sports Leaders On The Field

GreenSportsBlog focuses mainly on the Green side of the equation, telling the stories of the great environmental work being done by teams, venues and athletes.

But the Sports angle is important, too. Why? Because if the athletes and teams leading the Green-Sports movement do well, their green messaging will gain a wider audience.

And if they struggle? Well, those of us engaged in the climate change fight know what a long, hard slog is all about. We can relate.

GSB created the Eco-Scorecard: Catching Up with Green-Sports Leaders on the Field to give the sports side of the equation. It is an occasional series that highlights recent on-field/court results of the greenest teams and athletes.

With that in mind, please enjoy our seventh Eco-Scorecard.

 

JOSH ROSEN, CLIMATE CHANGE-MINDED ROOKIE QB, TAKES OVER AS THE STARTER WITH THE ARIZONA CARDINALS, LEADS TEAM TO LAST-MINUTE COMEBACK WIN

Josh Rosen has two unique qualities among the five rookie quarterbacks chosen in the first round — a record — of this spring’s NFL Draft.

  1. The UCLA product is the only one of the group to go on record about his concerns about climate change. “One cause I’ll champion is the environment. It touches everything,” declared Rosen in a pre-draft interview with ESPN’s Sam Alipour. “I mean, the war in Syria started because of the drought and famine that destabilized the country and led the population to revolt against the government. I know global warming is a partisan issue for some stupid reason, but it touches everything.”
  2. Chosen by the Arizona Cardinals, Rosen became the first of his four fellow quarterback draftees (Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns; Sam Darnold, New York Jets; Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills; and Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens are the others) to engineer a last minute, come-from-behind, game winning drive. He turned that trick on Sunday, leading his team back from a 15-3 deficit to a dramatic 18-15 home win over the San Francisco 49ers.

 

Josh Rosen

Arizona Cardinals rookie QB Josh Rosen gets off a pass in the first quarter of the Arizona Cardinals-San Francisco 49ers game on Sunday in Glendale, AZ. Rosen led the Redbirds to a dramatic 18-15 comeback win (Photo credit: Art Foxall/UPI)

 

Rosen and the Cardinals were down 15-10 and had the ball on their own 22 yard line with only 1:42 left in the game. They needed a touchdown to win. The rookie displayed the poise of the veteran as he moved his team down to the 49ers 9 yard line with 39 seconds left, hitting several clutch passes in the process.

And then THIS happened …

 

Rosen found fellow rookie Christian Kirk in the back of the end zone in between two defenders for the touchdown, and that, as they say, was that!

To be clear, his rookie season has not been a bed of roses for Rosen, nor for his fellow first round quarterback draftees. They all have shown promise at times while, at the same time, also going through the sometimes ugly growing pains that are typical of rookie signal callers. Just last week, Rosen looked dreadful for much of the game as the Denver Broncos devoured the Cardinals, 45-10.

It sounds (and is) cliche but what a difference a week makes! Rosen has his first comeback win and an even bigger platform on which to (hopefully) spread his climate change message.

 

CHRIS LONG, FOUNDER OF WATERBOYS, COMES UP BIG FOR PHILADELPHIA EAGLES IN BIG GAME VS. JAGUARS

The Philadelphia Eagles are dealing with the dreaded Super Bowl Hangover this season.

Going into last Sunday’s game in London against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the defending Super Bowl champions had a sluggish 3-4 record. It was not a stretch to say their season was on the line across the pond, especially with the surprising start of their division rivals, the Washington Redskins.

The Eagles emerged from Wembley Stadium with a hard fought, 24-18 win over the Jags, thanks in part to two quarterback sacks registered by defensive end and eco-athlete Chris Long.

 

Chris Long Bortles

Chris Long (#56) of the Philadelphia Eagles sacking Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback in Sunday’s 24-18 win at London’s Wembley Stadium (Photo credit: Young Kim, Philly.com staff photographer)

 

Long has been on the winning team in the last two Super Bowls, earning those gaudy, oversized rings in 2017 with the New England Patriots and, this February, with the Eagles (against the Pats). And he has played at a consistently high level over his 11 year career, notching 66 sacks.

But the University of Virginia product’s greatest legacy may be his strong commitment to a variety of pro-social causes:

  • This season, Long is donating a quarter of his salary to launch First Quarter for Literacy, a program meant to “put more books into the hands of children in underserved neighborhoods” and “build excitement and awareness around the role parents and caregivers play in raising leaders.”
  • Last year, he gave his entire base salary, worth $1 million, to charity. Long said he was inspired to donate after seeing the violent protests held by white nationalists in Charlottesville, the home of his alma mater.

On the environment, Long saw the water crisis in East Africa when he climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in 2013. He resolved that he didn’t want to just be a tourist and had to do something. 

That something was the creation of Waterboys, a non-profit that funds the digging of wells (and training the locals how to do the digging and maintenance). Relying on 20 current and former players, Waterboys has raised more $2.6 million that will fund the digging of 49 wells and provide water to over 193,000 people.

 

FOREST GREEN ROVERS, GREENEST TEAM IN SPORTS, MAY CONTEND FOR PROMOTION TO THIRD TIER OF ENGLISH SOCCER

GreenSportsBlog readers know Forest Green Rovers (FGR) as the Greenest Team in Sports — from its solar powered “Mow-Bots” used to manicure the organic pitch at The New Lawn stadium to all vegan-only concession stands to much, much more.

Even though only about one third of the season’s matches have been played, English soccer’s League Two (aka the 4th tier^) standings are beginning to take shape. And Forest Green are showing early signs of being able to compete for promotion to 3rd tier League One, which would be a first for the 127-year-old club.

After winning two matches in a four day stretch last week, FGR finds itself sitting in 6th place in the 24 team league and only two points from 3rd place. The top three teams at the end of the season earn automatic promotion to League One. And the teams finishing in 4th-7th enter a playoff, with the winner also going up.

Riding first half goals from Reece Brown and Liam Shepherd, Forest Green knocked off visiting Tranmere 3-1 last Tuesday. Then on Saturday at third place Exeter City, Brown and Shepherd waited until the second half to each find the back of the net to power FGRs 2-1 win.

 

Screen Shot 2018-11-01 at 4.36.38 PM

Forest Green Rovers’ Reece Brown attacks Exeter City’s defense (Photo credit: Forest Green Rovers)

 

Saturday, FGR steps up in class with a clash at first place Lincoln City.

With two important caveats — 1) there are many, many matches until the season ends in May and, 2) things like injuries, bad luck and more can happen — the Lincoln City match will be an important early-season measuring stick for Forest Green Rovers in its quest to be a legitimate promotion threat.

 

^ The pecking order of the top five tiers of English Soccer/Football goes like this: 1st tier: Premier League, 2nd tier: Championship, 3rd tier: League One, 4th tier: League Two, 5th tier: National

 


 

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GSB News and Notes: Climate Change Threatens World Beer Supply, NBA’s Malcolm Brogdon Launches Hoops2O to Bring H2O to East Africa, Japanese Repurpose Broken Bats into Chopsticks

The sports world has not engaged strongly enough on climate change yet, at least as not as far as I’m concerned. Maybe that will change now that a new report shows climate change will negatively impact the world barley crop, thus threatening…BEER! The Milwaukee Bucks’ Malcolm Brogdon and four other NBA players just launched Hoops2O to help bring fresh water to East Africa by funding the digging of wells. And Japan, a country which has long embraced recycling, turns its broken baseball bats into chopsticks. All in a “Spanning the Globe” GSB News & Notes.

 

DROUGHT AND HEAT COULD IMPERIL WORLD’S BEER SUPPLY; WILL SPORTS INDUSTRY GET MORE ENGAGED ON CLIMATE CHANGE?

Beer and sports go together like Minneapolis and St. Paul.

So maybe, just maybe, a potential beer shortage might spur the sports industry to take faster, more meaningful action on climate change.

A new report in Nature, by an international team of scientists, considered how climate change might affect the barley crop over the next 80 years. Barley is the most widely used grain in beer making^.

 

Screen Shot 2018-10-29 at 10.03.35 PM

Barley, the most widely used grain in beer making, will be under threat from climate change (Photo credit: Beer Smith)

 

Researchers in China, Britain and the United States say that by the end of the century, drought and heat could hurt barley crops enough to cause significant beer shortages.

Given the potentially catastrophic effects of climate change, a beer shortage might seem trivial.

That’s why, according to one of the report’s authors, Dabo Guan, of Tsinghua University in Beijing and the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England, the report was directed at readers in the developed world — to suggest that climate change will hit everyone, not just the poor.

 

Screen Shot 2018-10-29 at 10.07.59 PM

Dabo Guan (Photo credit: University of East Anglia)

 

“We will suffer less,” Guan told James Gorman of The New York Times. “but we will still suffer. [Climate change] may not affect our bread but it will affect our beer.”

Guan and his team merged mathematical models of the impact of climate change on barley crops with models of international trade.

The results revealed that, China and the United States, which drink the most beer of all countries, would experience the most drastic effects. “Under the worst scenario,” Guan told Gorman, “China would lose 10 percent of its beer supply and the United States 15 to 20 percent.”

In models that include high numbers of severe droughts, the price of a bottle of beer in Ireland might double. In the Czech Republic, it could be six or seven times as expensive.

Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s largest brewing company, has taken notice. Jess Newman, the company’s director of agronomy in the United States, told Gorman for his Times piece, “We take climate uncertainty very seriously.”

 

GSB’s Take: I’ve been trying to find the “magic bullet” that would get sports teams, leagues and mega-events to engage fans on climate change in a meaningful way. Could a potential beer shortage do the trick? If that shortage would come down the pike in the next three to five years, maybe. But, since this report’s time frame is 80 years, I doubt the sports industry will take much notice.

 

NBA’S MALCOLM BROGDON’S HOOPS₂O JOINS NFL’S CHRIS LONG’S WATERBOYS IN BRINGING WELLS AND FRESH WATER TO EAST AFRICA

Milwaukee Bucks point guard Malcolm Brogdon and four other NBA players announced the launch of Hoops₂Ojoining the fight for access to clean water in East Africa. Rounding out the Hoops₂O “Starting 5” are Justin Anderson (Atlanta Hawks), Joe Harris, (Brooklyn Nets), Garrett Temple (Memphis Grizzlies), and Anthony Tolliver (Minnesota Timberwolves).

 

Brogdon Bucks

Malcolm Brogdon, Milwaukee Bucks point guard (Photo credit: Stacy Revere, Getty Images)

 

Traveling to Ghana and Malawi as a child and seeing the effects of extreme poverty in those countries gave the former University of Virginia star the drive to use his platform as an NBA player to make a difference in Africa.  “I saw from a very young age the value of clean water in communities in Africa,” said Brogdon. “I made a promise to myself that once I reached a time and place in my career where I could do more, I would.

Hoops₂O looks to build upon the successful Waterboys program midwifed and led by Chris Long, a fellow UVa alum, and a two-time Super Bowl Champion defensive end, now with the Philadelphia Eagles. Waterboys, with support from more than 20 current and retired NFL players, funds the digging of wells in the area and teaches the locals how to do the digging and maintaining. To date, Waterboys has raised more $2.6 million to fund 49 wells that will provide water to over 193,000 people.

Brogdon took notice: “When I learned about Chris’ Waterboys initiative and saw their accomplishments by working as a team of players to inspire action, I knew I wanted to expand his vision into the NBA and address our ultimate shared goal to save more lives faster and transform communities.”

 

Brogdon 2

Malcolm Brogdon, founder of Hoops₂o at a Waterboys well site in East Africa (Photo credit: Clay Cook Photography)

 

To get Hoops₂O off the ground, the Starting 5 are asking fans to get involved by participating in the “Ballin’ for Buckets” campaign. Fans are encouraged to pledge a dollar amount per stat line (i.e. points Brogdon will score, the number of 3-pointers Tolliver will hit) for one of the Starting 5 players for the month of November.

Brogdon and each of his Starting 5 teammates also made financial pledges to support Ballin’ for Buckets. Player stat tracking will begin on November 1, but fans can make a pledge now. To learn more and make a pledge, fans are encouraged to visit www.hoops2o.org.

The Starting 5’s goal is to raise $45,000 — the cost of building one solar paneled, sustainable, deep borehole well — by the end of November. Brogdon and friends hope to raise $225,000 to fund five wells by the end of the NBA season next spring.

“I’m honored that our work is expanding into the NBA,” added Waterboys Founder Chris Long. “I couldn’t be more excited about what this will mean for our neighbors who lack access to a fundamental resource. I’m confident that working together as a united front, the NFL’s Waterboys and the NBA’s Starting 5 will bring us one step closer to providing water to one million people.”

 

Chris Long

Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Chris Long, co-founder of Waterboys (Photo credit: WPVI-TV Philadelphia)

 

GSB’s Take: Kudos to Brogdon and his mates for getting involved in the water crisis in East Africa. Basketball and the NBA are very popular across Africa so it’s a natural connection. Could NBA partner Coca-Cola should provide financial and other support that could help scale Hoops₂O. Why not?

 

JAPAN BASEBALL: BROKEN BASEBALL BATS MORPH INTO CHOPSTICKS

When batters from the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks and the Hiroshima Toyo Carp come to the plate in the Japan Series, which started on Saturday, they will be carrying bats made overseas from white ash and maple, like their major league counterparts. But up until about 15 years ago, most Japanese professionals, including future big leaguers stars Hideki Matsui and Ichiro Suzuki used bats made from wood from the aodamo, a species of ash tree native to Japan.

Since bat makers did not replant the trees as they were cut, aodamo is no longer economically feasible to log on the northern island of Hokkaido, the capital of Japanese bat production. It can take 50 to 70 years for an aodamo tree to grow to a height and thickness needed to make bats. The hope is that if a comprehensive reforestation project is successful, aodamo will again become feasible for baseball towards the latter part of the century.

To make that a reality, conservationists and aodamo bat enthusiasts need to drum up interest in restoring the tree population now.

That is where turning broken bats into chopsticks comes in.

The germ for this idea was born in 2000. According to Jeré Longman of The New York Times, “An article in The Nikkei financial newspaper and other Japanese publications first sounded alarms about the decreased availability of aodamo wood. The Nikkei article was read by officials at the Hyozaemon chopsticks company [and its] chief executive [and former high school baseball player], Hyogoo Uratani.”

At that time, broken bats were mostly given away or burned in barrels to keep players warm during spring training. Uratani and his friend Takeo Minatoya, who had been a general manager in the Japanese Central League, conjured the bats-into-chopsticks program to publicize the aodamo wood problem.

Only the barrel of the bat is thick enough to make chopsticks.^ The barrel is sawed from the handle, sliced vertically into thin blocks then sanded by craftsmen into the shape of chopsticks. Hyozaemon officials told Longman, “the barrel of one bat can yield five or six pairs of chopsticks.”

 

Chopsticks

Broken baseball bats used to be burned in Japan. Now they become chopsticks. (Photo credit; Shiho Fukada/The New York Times)

 

Today, all 12 teams in Japan’s Central and Pacific Leagues take part in the bats-to-chopsticks initiative. The company  collects an average of 10,000 broken bats each season.

Per Longman, “Hyozaemon pays a licensing fee to put team logos on its chopsticks. In turn, Nippon Professional Baseball, Japan’s equivalent of Major League Baseball, makes an annual contribution of 3.5 million yen, or about $31,000, to the nonprofit Aodamo Preservation Society. The money is used to plant aodamo seedlings on Hokkaido.”

More than aodamo 10,000 trees have been planted so far with many more to come.

 

Chopsticks 2

Chopsticks from broken bats display logos from Japan’s Central and Pacific League teams (Photo credit: Shiho Fukada/The New York Times)
^ In addition to the barrel being used for chopsticks, the tapered portion toward the handle can be repurposed into shoehorns and handles for forks and spoons. The cap of the bat can be made into a drinking cup.

 


 

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