Today, of course, is the 14th anniversary of the horrific 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, DC, and of the passenger-induced downing, in Shanksville, PA, of the hijacked plane destined for the Capitol. Because of the passage of time and because this is not a major (10th, 15th) anniversary, my sense is most Americans–other than those directly affected and those one or two degrees of separation away from those directly affected–will give the day a cursory mental nod and then go about their business. And that’s not a bad nor a good thing. It just is and it’s understandable. But it is because 9/11 #14 is somewhat blurry that I decided to share this reflection. Hopefully it adds a smidgen of sharpness to the day. I understand if you only want to read a Green-Sports column–not to worry if you choose to pass–we will be up with a post on Monday in our more traditional voice, so be on the lookout for that. If you decide to read on, thank you for doing so.
If you had told me on September 10, 2001, that, 14 years hence, I’d be writing a blog about the intersection of Green and Sports, I would’ve replied with two questions:
- What-the H-E-Double Hockey Sticks is a blog?, and…
- What-the-Yada-Yada-Yada is “the intersection of Green and Sports“?
But, the truth is, this blog is a direct result of the events of the next day, September 11, 2001. Let me explain.
Photo credit: Daily Mail
At the time, I worked in advertising sales and business development for Sports Illustrated Kids. Before that, I toiled in a similar capacity for Pro Sports Publications (PSP), the “Playbill of Sports” (meaning the game programs for most pro and major college sports teams). That I actually got paid to work in the sports world (and to go to the World Series, NBA Finals, World Cup, etc.) was a dream come true for this lifelong sports nut.
The environment? I would say I was a “lower case ‘e'” environmentalist as of 9/10: I was a cyclist and occasional hiker and so a clean, healthy environment was important to me; a candidate’s stand on environmental issues would positively animate my voting decisions. But, my interest in the environment paled mightily in comparison to my passion for sports.
But, by 9/12, things started to change. You see, I felt I needed to do something in response to the events of the day before. But what was that something?
Joining the military, as many did two generations earlier on 12/8/1941, was not an option, due to age, knees, and eyes, among other things. Given that the Upper West Side of Manhattan was home, I could have, like one of my good friends, volunteered down at Ground Zero to assist the rescue and recovery workers. Amazing work, that.
But, thanks in large part to the writings of Thomas L. Friedman, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and Foreign Affairs columnist for the New York Times, I went in a different direction.
You see, prior to 9/11, Friedman had written often about the need for the US to get off of its addiction to foreign oil, from geo-political as well as environmental perspectives. After 9/11, Friedman framed the issue as one of patriotism, saying that we in the US were “fueling the wars on terrorism we are fighting” by our insane energy use. His argument went something like this:
The US represents 4-5% of the world’s population and 24% of the world’s energy use*. We thus import most of our oil from bad actor-quasi allies in the Middle East like Saudi Arabia**. Those mega-purchases of Saudi oil which further enriches the Saudi elite. They then buy off their religious extremists with that money so they can safely remain in power. The religious extremists then fly planes into buildings.
Simplistic, yes. But it made powerful sense to me. It was like the Compact Fluorescent Ligthbulb (or now, LED) went on above my head. Americans, as by far the biggest energy hogs, per capita, on the planet, had to greatly reduce our profligate energy usage. Green was the “New Red, White & Blue,” as the title went of a 2007 Friedman-narrated documentary.
Thomas L. Friedman, Foreign Affairs columnist for The New York Times (Photo credit: Rolling Stone)
So, I “greened-up” my personal life: Bought a hybrid car (2002 Honda Civic Hybrid, stick shift, 50+ mpg in the summer time…LOVED that car^), changed out all my lightbulbs, etc. That felt good for about a couple months. So what was next? I decided I had to do something green-related with my work life. Especially since my interest in, and knowledge of things green had expanded from the geo-political to the existential threat of climate change.
But this was 2002-2003. There were no jobs for sales/biz-dev/marketing types in the green world. Green jobs, at the time, were largely of the technical variety (developing more efficient solar panels, smart grid, etc.) I was not of that world. But I figured the world would be greening, sooner or later, and that someone who could sell and strategically/powerfully story-tell would be in demand.
So, fast-forward to almost 10 years ago today, 9/16/05, I left SI Kids and formed Lewis Brand Solutions, Inc., “passion-based sales and marketing solutions for your brand”. Since then LBS, has helped greening companies and non-profits tell their sustainable stories more powerfully, sold sponsorships for green properties and non-profits, and “greened-up” events.
This wasn’t close to enough, though. I felt I needed to have more of an impact, per my 9/12/2001 “what can I do” moment. So I stepped things up by:
- Getting trained as a “Climate Reality Leader” by the Climate Reality Project, Al Gore’s non-profit that has prepared over 6,000 regular folk all over the world to give an updated version of the “An Inconvenient Truth” slide show. Since 2012 I’ve given that talk over 30 times to a variety of community groups, churches, businesses, schools, etc.
- Co-creating and hosting Green Gotham, a 1/2 hour interview show on Manhattan Neighborhood Network, YouTube, and Vimeo. We shine a light on the people responsible for the great green goings-on in the New York area.
- Joining Citizens’ Climate Lobby, a grassroots group of citizen lobbyists whose goal is to promote and ultimately win passage in Congress of a legislative proposal called “Carbon Fee & Dividend”. CF&D puts a price on carbon in a way that could/should be able to win Republican support. It might sound pie-in-the-sky, but when I went to Washington in June to lobby four House members and/or their staffs (CCL got meetings with virtually all Senate and House offices–almost unheard of for a citizens’ lobbying group), I was heartened by the openness of the one GOP rep (who shall not be named out of fear of a primary challenge) I met to the proposal.
While all this was happening, I was, of course, still as much a sports fan as ever. Long suffering (Jets, Knicks), hopeful (Rutgers football and our magical 2006 “Pandemonium in Piscataway” moment certainly engendered hope), complacent/smug (Yankees), and even evolving (soccer up, baseball down) in my sports-addled brain. Somewhere in that brain I thought there has to be a marriage of my lifelong passion–sports, and my galvanizing adult passion–sustainability/green/climate change.
Thus, about 4-5 years ago, I started poking around, looking for a Green-Sports intersection. I learned about LEED certified stadia and arenas. Game Day recycling and composting became more interesting to me than Game Day Media. I discovered the Green Sports Alliance. Yet, in 2012-2013, very few sports fans seemed to notice or care.
Being a glass-half-full sort, I saw opportunity. As Dr. Allen Hershkowitz, President of the Green Sports Alliance likes to say, “Sixteen percent of Americans follow science, seventy percent follow sports.” Despite never having been a writer, I thought I should start a blog to increase awareness of the Greening of Sports, to get fans to care, to find eco-athletes, and to push the industry faster/harder to use its powerful megaphone. Because, to paraphrase the Rolling Stones, climate change “waits for no one”.
That was 5/22/2013, 222 posts ago. And now you know this blog was inspired in large part by the events of 9/11/2001. I hope you’ve found or will find your own positive, 9/11 inspiration to action.
9/11 Memorial with 9/11 Museum in background (Photo credit: Travel Channel)