Climate Change Fight Is a Marathon Citizens’ Climate Lobby Aims to Win

Please indulge me this rare sports-free post. Green-Sports-themed posts will return next week!

I had the good fortune to spend Monday and Tuesday in Washington D.C. among an amazing group of 1,400 volunteers at the Citizens’ Climate Lobby National Conference. The 10-year old grassroots organization exists “to create the political will for climate solutions by enabling individual breakthroughs in the exercise of personal and political power.”

Though the group is very diverse — volunteers come from all corners of the United States, there are high schoolers and octogenarians, lefties and conservatives (a growing number, in fact) — CCLers have three things in common.

We…  

1. Are passionate about solving the climate crisis,

2. Believe in CCL’s market-based Carbon Fee & Dividend legislative proposal that would place a price on carbon and that would share the dividends equally with every household in the country. This would grow the economy, in particular the lower and middle classes, and clean energy technologies would scale at the pace needed to avert the worst effects of climate change.

3. Know that getting to meaningful climate solutions is a marathon and we are in the race until it is won.

Are we closer to the start or the finish of the climate change marathon? No one really knows. But, Tuesday’s lobby-thon — CCLers met with almost each of the 535 House and Senate offices — showed that Citizens’ Climate Lobby definitely picked up the pace.

 

For those of us engaged in the climate change fight in the United States, it is very easy to get dispirited.

  • We have a climate change denier in the White House.
  • Congress is controlled by the only major political party in the world — at least as far as I know — which casts significant doubt on the veracity of climate change.
  • Daily political discourse is much, much, much more focused on Russia, Stormy Daniels, witch hunts, Robert Mueller, etc., etc., etc.
  • Even the environment, when it gets covered, centers on Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt’s many scandals, rather than the virulently anti-climate policies he, his boss, and their Administration are enacting.

All of this is happening as the climate change news becomes more dire. In Wednesday’s Washington Post, this headline blared: “Antarctic ice loss has tripled in a decade. If that continues, we are in serious trouble.” If you are reading this, you know there are a legion of such stories out there.

 

Crevasses

Pine Island Glacier in Antarctica, a site of significant ice loss.  (Photo credit: Ian Joughin/University of Washington)

 

So it is understandable that many people would rather do something — anything — else other than get and stay involved with climate change activism.

These people need to meet Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) volunteers.

 

WHERE MANY SEE DESPAIR, CCL’ERS SEE A TANGIBLE WAY FORWARD…AND THUS, HOPE

Are CCLers naive? Just the opposite.

CCLers know that we humans have put our climate in critical condition and that we need to quickly change the course we are on, energy production- and usage-wise.

We also know that the solutions that exist now (wind, solar, efficiency, storage, etc.) can get us where we need to go in time to avert the worst effects of climate change, if we have the political will.

As far as CCL is concerned, building that political will to critical mass means finding a legislative solution in Congress.

The hopeful news is that CCL has a transformative policy measure — designed to appeal to both sides of the political aisle — that, once signed into law and implemented — will grow the economy, benefit mostly those in the lower and middle income stratas, and will reduce emissions at the scale and pace necessary.

Do the italicized parts sound a bit Kumbaya-ish?

Your skepticism is understandable — I just ask you to put it aside, at least until you’ve read the CCL policy prescription and how its 1,400-member volunteer army, moved it forward this week.

 

THE POLICY: CARBON FEE & DIVIDEND

Carbon fee and dividend sounds like something a gaggle of accountants would get giddy about…but a climate crisis game-changer? Really?

Really.

Here’s the slightly wonkish gist:

CARBON FEE

To account for the many societal costs (climate change, medical costs due to pollution, climate refugees, etc.) of burning fossil fuels, CCL proposes a fee^ — which would escalate yearly —be established on the emissions of fossil fuels. It will be imposed where the fuels are extracted (at the mine or well) or, if we are importing it, at the port of entry.

This fee accounts for the true cost of fossil fuel emissions, creates a level-playing field for all sources of energy, and informs consumers of the true cost comparison of various fuels when making purchase decisions.

THE DIVIDEND

All fees collected minus administrative costs will be returned to households as a monthly energy dividend that is divided evenly per household, based on size. If you have a social security number, you get the dividend.

WHO BENEFITS

You and Me

In year one, about 2/3 of households — the lowest 2/3 on the income scale — will break even or receive more in the dividend than they would pay in higher prices.

Why?

The people who make the least tend to also use the lowest amount of carbon — they likely don’t live lavish, carbon-intense lifestyles. But they’re getting the same dividend as everyone else.

And, since the lower income groups will likely spend most of the dividend, billions will be injected into the economy.

As families see they can do better financially simply by using less carbon, they will likely make smarter choices about their energy usage, meaning their net financial benefit will increase over time. This will spur innovation and build aggregate demand for low-carbon products at the consumer level.

The environment and the economy

In just 20 years, independent studies show that this system could reduce carbon emissions to 50 percent of 1990 levels while adding 2.1 million jobs above baseline to the American economy.

If you need a bit more clarity, check out this two minute video about CF&D:

 

 

THE POLITICS: BIPARTISAN APPROACH; SOME GOP MOVEMENT IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION

There have been a number carbon pricing bills brought forth in Congress over the years but none have passed. Most have been structured as taxes, meaning the revenues go to the federal government for the Congress to disburse, not to the citizenry, as with CF&D. These bills have only garnered support from Democrats.

CCL leadership says they won’t push to introduce Carbon Fee & Dividend as a bill (i.e. to have it considered and voted on) until it has a Republican co-sponsor. They believe that for a carbon pricing law to have staying power, getting there has to be a bipartisan project. Since any number of Democrats in both chambers would likely sponsor CF&D, finding Republicans to co-sponsor is crucial.

But, you may ask, why would any GOP senator or representative sponsor a carbon pricing, given the climate change denial from the President and Congressional leadership and the party’s lockstep opposition to anything that looks like a tax?

It is a valid question, and, so far, not one Republican has stepped up.

But while the climate change fight is a marathon, one that has been run against fierce headwinds since November, 2016, something is impossible until it isn’t.

And there are, largely below the radar, some changes brewing on the GOP side.

  • Most notably, a group of esteemed Republican leaders of yore like George Schultz and James Baker, along with ex-New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, economist Greg Mankiw, the late, great Steven Hawking, and others, formed the Climate Leadership Council (CLC). They published a market-style, dividend-based carbon pricing proposal that is similar to CF&D.
  • And, thanks in good measure to the efforts of CCL volunteers, the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus was formed in the House in 2016. Members explore policy options addressing the impacts, causes, and challenges of climate change. For a Democrat to join, she or he must bring a Republican “dance partner” along. As of this week, the Caucus numbers 78 (39 from each party), representing 18 percent of total House members. Over the past 18 months or so, there have been a few climate/environmentally-related votes in the House in which some Republican Caucus members broke with party leadership.

Now, many Democrats fear that GOPers who join the Caucus do so as a “Greenwash”. This means they’re not interested in doing anything meaningful on climate change, but they want to appear like they do, so they sign up. And that may well be true in some cases. It also must be said, sadly, there have been some votes in which Caucus GOP members voted with the President.

So I’m skeptical.

 

But, I’m much more interested in getting a price on carbon than giving in to my skepticism.

And so I am more than willing to support the market-based, CF&D approach if it can gain Republican support.

What about other issues, you may ask?

From healthcare to immigration to gun safety to income inequality to basic decency to stopping the insanity that began when we woke up on 11/9/16 to [FILL IN THE BLANK], I line up firmly on the Democratic side. Thus I hope a Blue Wave washes ashore in November. And, if that means we have to start in January, 2019 with a smaller Caucus — and a longer marathon to run — so be it.

 

THE CONFERENCE: YOUNG CONSERVATIVES OFFER HOPE

Despite the above, my climate change fighting batteries got recharged, big time, at Monday’s CCL National Conference/lobbying training and Tuesday’s Lobby Day on Capitol Hill. This was my third conference/lobby day in the past four years.

Monday’s highlight was a terrific talk by Ted Halstead, founder, Chairman and CEO of the Climate Leadership Council (the GOPers eminences grises group I mentioned earlier). His main thrust is that a dividend-based carbon pricing scheme will be a transformational “grand bargain” between right and left. In Halstead’s eyes, the left gets a carbon pricing scheme that benefits the lower 70 percent of families, the right gets regulatory simplification*, and carbon pollution starts to wane.

If you want to really get Halstead’s approach, please watch/listen to his 13 minute Ted Talk.

 

 

 

Halstead then brought on to the stage leaders from Students for Carbon Dividends (SC4D), a new group of college and university organizations — 23 Republican clubs and 6 Democratic clubs so far — that are supporting dividend-based carbon pricing. “This is the first time College Republican groups are publicly supporting a national climate solution,” said Alex Posner of Yale, the President of SC4D. “Young conservatives are very much interested in climate solutions. And liberals on campus are looking for something to move the needle.”

SC4D Vice President Kiera O’Brien of Harvard added, “According to a Pew Research study, 75 percent of young republicans want action on climate but have no outlet. We feel like we’ve been given a false choice: Conservation or the economy. We believe that, a dividend approach will result in conservation, economic growth and less regulation.”

Hopefully, many more young conservatives will follow Alex’ and Kiera’s lead on climate, and FAST!

 

LOBBY DAY: THE MARATHON CONTINUES

Kudos to the CCL staff! They were able to schedule lobbying meetings for 1,400 people with with over 500 congressional offices on Capitol Hill — and those took place on one day!

 

CCL

Citizens Climate Lobby volunteers pause for a photo in front of the U.S. Capitol before heading to over 500 Congressional offices to advocate for its Carbon Fee & Dividend legislative proposal (Photo credit: Citizens Climate Lobby)

 

And, it is my great honor to lobby with my CCL colleagues.

If you want to learn how to run an organized, strategic meeting — lobbying, business or otherwise — join a CCL lobbying meeting. Respectful and meticulously well-planned, they feature open-ended questions that get the member and/or staff talking, fact-based discussions, clear asks and tangible next steps.

I took part in three meetings, two with staff from Democratic House members (José Serrano from the Bronx and Joe Crowley from the Bronx and Queens) and with a staffer for an upstate New York Republican (Tom Reed, Ithaca to Jamestown).

CCL has been calling on these offices for years so much of our pitch isn’t new. Some of the objections and questions raised by staffers were similar to those I heard in 2015-16: “We need to promote conservation without hurting the economy,” “How does the dividend get allocated?”

But the staffers’ body language was more positive, more forward leaning. And their questions showed that some, small bits of progress had been made. There was a deeper understanding of the power of the dividend and interest in a “Grand Bargain.”

Leaving Capitol Hill, I felt energized, looking forward to the next phase of the climate change marathon, but also wondering how fast people like Halstead, Posner and O’Brien can rally their conservative friends to join in.

The marathon continues and I have yet to hit “the wall.”

 

JOINING CCL

The more I do this work with CCL, the more I am convinced that its  bipartisan approach to carbon pricing is ultimately going to be successful. If you would like to be a part of Citizens’ Climate Lobby, click here.

 

^ $15/metric ton on the CO2 equivalent emissions of fossil fuels, escalating by $10/metric ton each year,
* It is important to note Halstead’s/CLC’s plan eliminates carbon-based regulations like the Clean Power Plan in exchange for the carbon fee while CCL’s program does not remove regulations

 


 

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NY Times Runs 2nd Its Green-Sports Story in as Many Weeks: “Hockey In The Desert”

The New York Times is starting to become a Green-Sports media All-Star! For the second time in two weeks, the “Gray Lady” ran a story about the intersection of Green & Sports. “Hockey In the Desert” by John Schwartz, appeared in The Times’ Climate: FWD online newsletter. 

 

Two weeks ago, Ken Belson, The New York Times’ lead NFL reporter, jumped into the #CoverGreenSports waters with Sports Stadiums Help Lead the Way Toward Greener Architecture.” His piece, which told the story of how and why Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium, became the first pro sports stadium to earn LEED Platinum status, was terrific to my mind. But I thought this would be a typical mainstream media, Green-Sports one-off.

Happily, The Times proved me wrong, as, less than a week later, they ran “Hockey In the Desert,” by John Schwartz, as part of its Climate: FWD online newsletter. 

 

John Schwartz Daily Texan

John Schwartz, science writer at The New York Times (Photo credit: The Daily Texan)

 

Schwartz’ story actually centers on the non-green aspects of playing ice hockey at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas in June — the hometown Knights, in their inaugural season, somehow made it to The Stanley Cup Finals against the Washington Capitals so they are still hosting home games in desert as summer beckons. With that in mind, Schwartz asked the obvious question: “Doesn’t that mean that hockey is contributing to climate change — and maybe its own demise — by building ice palaces in the desert?”

After citing the obvious mega-challenge —”The outside temperature was in the 90s Fahrenheit (30s Celsius) before Game 1″ — Schwartz dove into the environmental issues surrounding the hosting of an NHL hockey game in a desert climate beyond simply the making of a quality ice sheet: “Cooling the vast volume of inside air and taking out the humidity so that players and spectators are comfortable requires an enormous amount of energy.”

 

T-Mobile Arena

T-Mobile Arena, home of the Las Vegas Knights (Photo credit: Trip Advisor)

 

Of course, the environmental challenges surrounding the playing of sports indoors in hot climes goes far beyond hockey. The writer quoted recent GreenSportsBlog interviewee Robert McLeman, an associate professor in the department of geography and environmental studies at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, as saying that all arenas “come at a high environmental cost,” and that the discussion about hockey provides “an entry point into a conversation about what we want with these recreational facilities, and how to make cities more green.”

 


 

GSB’S TAKES

  • The fact that the The New York Times is starting to find that Green-Sports is among the news that is “Fit to Print” (and/or post online, as the case may be) is more important than the actual content of Schwartz’ story.
  • Let’s not rest on our laurels. Two stories on Green-Sports in The Times in two weeks is cause for celebration. But it’s not a trend, not even close. That means we need to keep pushing the #CoverGreenSports hashtag.
  • Schwartz’ piece was strong. It illuminated several important issues surrounding the putting on indoor sports events in hot climates. I learned some things.
  • He should’ve included a bit more about the steps the NHL and NHL Green are taking to lessen the environmental impact of their sport — one line and a link didn’t do justice to the NHL’s Green-Sports leadership.
  • That the story appeared in Climate: FWD and not the sports section reinforces one of the impediments Belson says stands in the way of more frequent Green-Sports coverage: The topic doesn’t belong to any one section or editor; no one has ownership of it. Belson has a valid point — I, for one, think Green-Sports should reside in the sports section to provide oxygen to this subject to a wider audience than the already “converted,” In Science Times and Climate: FWD. Hopefully the editors at The Times will figure this out.

For now, I’m happy that two Green-Sports stories appeared under The New York Times masthead in two weeks.

 


 

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The GSB Interview: Giulia Carbone, Limiting the Sports Industry’s Impacts on Biodiversity Loss

The past 10 years has seen a boom in new stadium and arena construction in North America and beyond. Readers of GreenSportsBlog know that the sports facilities industry has done a strong job in making sustainability a priority, from construction (i.e. LEED certification) to operations (i.e. zero-waste games) and much more. But what about the effects of stadium and arena construction and operations, as well as the conduct of mega-events like the Olympics, on biodiversity — i.e. animal and plant life? That is a topic we have not touched on — until today.

Giulia Carbone is Deputy Director of the Global Business and Biodiversity Programme at the International Union for Conservation of Nature or IUCN. In the GSB Interview, and on World Biodiversity Day, Giulia delves into what is being done to limit the sports industry’s impacts on biodiversity loss.

 

GreenSportsBlog: We need to give more oxygen to the effects of sports on biodiversity so, Giulia, I am so glad we are talking with you! How did you get into the intersection of sports and biodiversity?

Giulia Carbone: Well Lew, from the time I was a girl in Torino…

GSB: Are you a Juventus or Torino F.C. fan?

Giulia: Oh, Torino ABSOLUTELY! Anyway, during my youth, I always loved nature and the also felt that it was only fair that people, no matter their circumstances, needed to have access to it and co-exist with it. Then I went to the University of California at Santa Barbara

GSB: UCSB — the Gauchos!

 

Carbone1

Giulia Carbone, Deputy Director of the Global Business and Biodiversity Programme at the International Union for Conservation of Nature or IUCN (Photo credit: IUCN)

 

Giulia: Best. School. EVER! I focused on the environment, especially marine issues, and the coexistence of people and the environment. That held true when I started my work life in London, focusing on marine issues. Then I worked with UN Environment for eight years on tourism and the environment.

GSB: What did you work on for UNEP? When was this?

Giulia: I started at UNEP in 1999, and focused on environmental initiatives for tour operators. Our approach was to bring together like-minded operators and give them the tools and the vision to integrate effective supply chain management, eco-friendly destinations and other protocols.

GSB: What tour operators took the lead back then on the environment?

Giulia: Tui, a German tourism company now headquartered in the UK — was really aggressive. They wanted to set the agenda for the tourism sector on supply chain and other sustainability elements and were successful, at least to an extent.

GSB: That’s terrific. What did you do next?

Giulia: I moved to Switzerland, near Geneva, and, in 2003, and started working for the International Union for Conservation of Nature or IUCN.

GSB: What is the IUCN? It seems like something I should’ve heard about.

Giulia: You should have! It’s been around for 70 years, since 1948. It’s a membership organization that includes governments, NGOs large and small and, unlike the UN, groups of indigenous peoples. Today, it is the world’s largest and most diverse environmental network. We have a Congress every four years, and, just like for the Olympic Games, there are bids and organizing committees. The host of our June 2020 Congress is going to be in Marseilles, France; in 2016, we met in Hawai’i, and before that in 2012, we convened in South Korea.

GSB: What does IUCN do?

Giulia: Programmatically, we work in a number of critical conservation issues related to water, forests and oceans, dry lands and more. Where possible, we also engage with corporations to show them that leading on the environment, and taking biodiversity conservation into account in their planning and operation, is actually good business. At the beginning of my time at IUCN, my work focused solely on tourism. But then I branched out to the extractive and energy sectors…

GSB: Energy? Mining?…That sounds like a BIG conservation challenge.

Giulia: Yes, but to our way of thinking, it is crucial for mining and energy companies to figure out how they can operate successfully in ways that limit biodiversity loss. As part of this work, we have also focused on the role that biodiversity offsets can play in conservation.

GSB: I imagine IUCN has taken some criticisms from others in the environmental movement for working with companies seen as bad actors…or worse.

Giulia: There is some of that for sure but we believe that collaborating with companies like Rio Tinto in the mining world and Shell in the energy world is important and necessary. They know that their opeations have environmental impacts and they are interested in working with us to improve things. Another example was with LafargeHolcim, one of the largest cement companies in the world, who owned hundreds of quarries at the time. In just four years of working with IUCN, biodiversity indicators were put in place, employees were trained to respect and account for biodiversity, standards were adopted — and biodiversity became recognized as an important risk factor, something that had value in being managed.

GSB: That’s hard to believe and yet I believe it. Amazing… So now sports? Why did IUCN decide to get involved with sports in the first place?

Giulia: The impacts of sport on biodiversity are also significant, but the opportunities to address them are equally huge. The sports industry has enormous influence and reach, so just being able to talk about the value of biodiversity and the role that species play with this audience is incredible.

GSB: Absolutely! How did IUCN get started in sports?

Giulia: The IOC approached us about four years ago about one of its bid cities. They were concerned about the bid damaging a UNESCO World Heritage Site. That led to conversations about how the IOC could influence sports federations on biodiversity loss. We were engaged to help bid committees and teams on how to limit biodiversity and species loss during venue construction, allocate funds for conservation and protection, and even to educate them on the value of purchasing climate-related offsets.

GSB: Did IUCN work with the summer and winter Olympics bids?

Giulia: Yes, we were involved with the bids for the Olympic Games 2024 and reviewed all the bids from a biodiversity perspective. We are also providing maps of the areas considered to be of high biodiversity value to the potential candidates for the 2026 Winter Olympics. For each of the cities, we have created maps that highlight the location of protected areas, World Heritage sites, Ramsar (intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources) sites, and Key Biodiversity Areas. Additionally, we have provided reports that list all the species of animals and plants that have been classified as threatened or close to extinction, in proximity of these sites. These maps are an amazing tool to help the cities plan better on where to place the venues and new infrastructures, and thus reduce the risk of having an impact on important plants and animals as well as key ecosystems.

GSB: As of now, it looks like there are seven cities considering bids to host the 2026 Winter Olympics, a marked increase as compared to recent cycles. These include Graz, Austria; Calgary, Canada; a joint Italian bid amongst Cortina d’Ampezzo, Milan and Torino; Sapporo, Japan; Sion, Switzerland; Stockholm, Sweden; and Erzurum, Turkey. How does IUCN get the word out about its work in the sports sector?

 

Sion 2026

Sion, Switzerland is one of seven cities looking into bidding on the 2026 Winter Olympics

 

Giulia: We just issued the first of a series of reports on Sport and Biodiversity.  It’s an overview for all of the industry’s key constituents…What is the intersection of sports and biodiversity? What are the risks and opportunities? The next report will be more technical than the first one, and it is almost complete. It focuses on how to mitigate biodiversity loss from venue construction. Then, the third one will focus on how to manage impacts on biodiversity in the organization of sporting events, including recommendations for athletes, venue managers and the fans. In the future, we hope to focus on things like Natural Capital Accounting^ and sports; how to manage invasive species; and, how to engage fans on biodiversity and involve the media more in these issues.  We have quite a challenge ahead of us!

 

Sport and Biodiversity

Cover of IUCN’s “Sport and Biodiversity” guide

 

GSB: Who are your audiences for these reports? Sports fans?

Giulia: No, our prime targets are senior level, C-suite executives throughout the sports world, who are not yet convinced biodiversity is an issue they need to be concerned about. We are also targeting those people involved in venue development and planning as well as those organizing sport events.

GSB: Do you have a sense as to what percentage of sports executives fit that “unconvinced” label?

Giulia: Actually, I just attended a very cool meeting on sport and the environment, the Sustainable Innovation in Sport Summit 2018 in Amsterdam, from 2-3 May, and I was very impressed by the level of commitment and involvement of the participants, mostly all representing sport federations, venues and teams. So I think this is a sector that it is already doing a lot of great work and is ready to do more.

GSB: That’s great! I look forward to reading the reports and seeing biodiversity taking its place in Green-Sports fan engagement programs in the not-too-distant future.

 

Natural Capital Accounting is the process of calculating the total stocks and flows of natural resources and services in a given ecosystem or region. Accounting for such goods may occur in physical or monetary terms. 

 


 

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RinkWatch: Citizens Track Climate Change By Measuring Ice in Backyard Rinks

Ice plays a crucial role in the measurement of climate change. From the decline of Arctic sea ice to using ancient ice cores to help determine CO₂ content in the atmosphere from many millennia ago, a good chunk of the climate change story is told through frozen water.

Did you know that the climate change “ice-story” is being tracked, in part, by regular folks with ice rinks in their backyards? They are doing double duty as hockey parents and as climate researchers in Canada and the northern U.S. via an innovative program, supported by the NHL, called RinkWatch.

GreenSportsBlog spoke with Dr. Robert McLeman, an Associate Professor of Geography and Environmental Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario, and one of the founders of RinkWatch, about how citizens, spurred on by their love of hockey, are helping to add to the body of scientific knowledge about climate change.

 

“I’m a middle aged parent and an environmental scientist focused on the impact of climate change on humans, communities, and other species.”

Dr. Robert McLeman’s self-description shows why he is exceptionally well-suited to have co-founded and help lead RinkWatch, a program that encourages people with backyard ice rinks in Canada and the northern U.S. to become citizen climate scientists by recording data about their ice.

It also doesn’t hurt that Dr. McLeman is a Canadian — and an Ontarian — through and through. “Growing up in Cambridge, Ontario and a fan of the two teams in the province — the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators — spent many a winter day playing shinny (i.e. outdoor) hockey on frozen ponds.” He did his undergraduate work at the University of Western Ontario, got his PhD in Ontario at the University of Guelph, and works today as an Associate Professor of Geography and Environmental Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University in, you guessed it, Ontario.

 

mcleman winter1

Dr. Robert McLeman, one of the co-founders of RinkWatch and Associate Professor of Geography and Environmental Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario (Photo credit: Robert McLeman)

 

Awareness of the conditions surrounding climate refugees, has been and continues to be a major focus of Dr. McLeman’s research: “I am very interested in making the issue of climate refugees, and climate change broadly speaking, more accessible for the general public.

 

CANADIANS LOVE TO TALK ABOUT TWO THINGS: HOCKEY AND THE WEATHER

But accessibility wasn’t the only thing Dr. McLeman and Wilfrid Laurier University colleague Dr. Colin Robertson had in mind in 2013 when they began to talk about collaborating. “We really wanted to answer the question, ‘How do we make individuals and families more interested in the environment, interested in climate change, to the point where they take positive action?’,” recalled Dr. McLeman. “We kept coming back to two things Canadians love to talk about: hockey and the weather.”

 

Colin Robertson Geographers w-out borders

Dr. Colin Robertson, co-founder of RinkWatch (Photo credit: Geographers Without Borders)

 

That realization led McLeman and Robertson to the high tech world of makeshift, backyard hockey rinks. “It started with a simple thought,” shared Dr. McLeman. “Maybe we could create a project in which we would ask regular folks who happen to have backyard ice rinks to track weather-related conditions.”

The January 2013 launch of what would become RinkWatch was a no-budget operation.

“We had zero funding to start,” recalled Dr. McLeman. “So we built a simple website than can compile data like location of the rink, quality of ice, first date ice is playable, etc. We also had a form that showed people how to build a rink. The university put out a press release and the Montreal Gazettethe main English language paper there, picked it up. That really was the catalyst as the story made its way through radio and print media throughout Canada, and really took on a life of its own!”

By the end of their first month, a couple hundred RinkWatchers had signed up. Five years on, 1,500 rinks have participated in RinkWatch. The lions’ share are in Canada, with 20 percent coming from the U.S., along with a handful in China, Estonia and elsewhere.

[Editor’s Note: This is a great example of how, when the media decides to #CoverGreenSports, things can change in a positive fashion.]

 

THE NHL BUYS IN TO RINKWATCH

RinkWatch soon caught the eye of the NHL, the most proactive professional sports league sustainability-wise in North America, if not the world.

“The NHL started checking in with us, through Omar Mitchell and NHL Green,” said Dr. McLeman. “He had seen articles about RinkWatch in places like National GeographicThe league saw that what we were doing reflected the sustainability vision and commitment of Commissioner Gary Bettman, which is to say that hockey improves lives and communities and we want to do what we can to ensure it is around for the next 100 years.”

Next thing Drs. McLeman and Robertson knew, the NHL started tweeting about RinkWatch, asked them to contribute to the NHL Green website and invited them to speak, as part of the league’s centennial celebration, at a December 2016 event on the long term future of the sport at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. “We became a bit of hit,” offered Dr. McLeman, a bit sheepishly.

 

McLeman Hockey HOF

Dr. McLeman, speaking at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto (Photo credit: Getty Images)

 

A formal relationship with the NHL began in 2017, with the league providing funding to help improve the look and functionality of the web site, allow for a broader range data to be included in the future, and to help in the building and dissemination of learning modules for teachers to use with their students. According to Dr. McLeman, the NHL and the academics share two overlapping goals: “1. Get more kids to get more parents to build outdoor rinks, and 2. Get those kids interested in studying environmental science.”

 

RINKWATCH LEADS TO PEER REVIEWED ACADEMIC STUDIES

Drs. McLeman and Robertson are also using RinkWatch data to advance the body of peer reviewed, climate change research.

“We have been able to publish our results in two scholarly journals,” reported Dr. McLeman. “In The Canadian Geographer, we reported results of a study in which we took RinkWatch observations from a number of Canadian cities, identified the key temperatures need to have a skate-able ice surface (the low 20s Fahrenheit) and put these into a climate model to forecast future skating conditions out to the end of the century.” The study showed that if carbon emissions continue on their current course, the outdoor skating season will be significantly shorter. Calgary’s season will be curtailed by about 20 percent. Outdoor skating in Toronto and Montreal is expected to be 30 to 40 percent shorter.

 

Lake Louise hockey

According to a study by McLeman and Robertson, published in The Canadian Geographer, the future of outdoor ice hockey on Lake Louise in Alberta and elsewhere in Canada is at risk due to the effects of climate change (Photo credit: Edmonton Journal)

 

In another study, this one for the journal Leisure/Loisir, the duo reported on findings from a survey they conducted of RinkWatch participants to find out what motivates people to build rinks. According to Dr. McLeman, “an overarching response is that people see backyard rinks as community assets, shared with neighbors and friends, with the goal of getting kids outside, exercising and having fun in the middle of winter.”

That their work has been peer reviewed is a very big deal. “The importance of crossing the peer reviewed threshold cannot be overstated,” concurs Dr. McLeman. “Other environmental scientists like the idea that we’re legitimately, with accepted rigor, connecting sports to climate and ordinary citizens with science. They realize that the urgency and importance of climate change is very difficult to communicate and they see that our work makes it more relatable.”

As for what’s next, the Wilfrid Laurier University colleagues will look to reconstruct the temperature and ice conditions in Canada going back to 1950 so they will have a 150-year (1950-2100) data record. There is a practical aspect to this,” said Dr. McLeman: “Our data can help municipalities determine whether to invest in outdoor rinks or put their resources into indoor facilities.”

While that 150-year horizon is actually a nano-second in a field like climate science, Dr. McLeman finds it easy to see the real-time importance of his and Dr. Robertson’s work with RinkWatch.

“My daughter Anna is now 13. When she was 8, we built an outdoor rink with our community association on top of a tennis court — man, it was hard to spray water with a hose in my hand — it was COLD! In those five years, we’ve had one and a half good winters for skating, the rest were awful. I know this is one awfully small sample size, but it is this type of experience that, we hope, will lead to more and more collective positive environmental action.”

 

McLeman ANNA on Backyard Rink

Young RinkWatcher Anna McLeman takes to the ice in the outdoor rink she, her dad Robert and their community built (Photo credit: Robert McLeman)

 


 

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The GSB Interview: Justin Zeulner, Previewing the 2018 Green Sports Alliance Summer in Atlanta

Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the new home of the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United, will be the site for two mega-events over the next year. Next February, the first LEED Platinum NFL stadium will play host to Super Bowl LIII. But well before that — June 26-27 to be exact — Green Sports Alliance Summit VIII takes center stage. Its theme is PLAY GREENER™: Get In The Game. GSB talked with Alliance Executive Director Justin Zeulner to find out about the new initiatives the Alliance has planned for attendees. 

 

GreenSportsBlog: Justin, before we got on the phone to talk Green Sports Alliance Summit in Atlanta, I had two main thoughts going through my head: 1. How can you and the rest of the Alliance braintrust freshen the Summit going into its eighth iteration, and 2. Having it at LEED Platinum Mercedes-Benz Stadium is a great freshener, indeed!

Justin Zeulner: Keeping things fresh — that’s a great question and it’s something we’re very much focused on, especially coming into this Summit. In fact, a couple of years ago, the leadership took a collective deep breath to figure out, strategically, what would be best, not only for our Summits but for the sports greening movement as a whole. We undertook this strategic refresh at a time of strong growth for us. Two or three years ago, we had 300+ members; now we’re nearing 600. When an organization like ours starts to scale like we have, new challenges arise. What can you provide that’s new, innovative and meaningful? How can we best continue to serve and lead our members, helping them grow their sustainability initiatives when there are many more of them.

GSB: A good problem to have…

JZ: We agree…

GSB: So how is the Alliance going about upping its game service-, growth- and leadership-wise?

JZ: Serve — We keep in close touch with our membership, finding out where they want to go and what guidance they need when it comes to environmental issues. We help by convening the Summit, providing resources and programs, largely around energy, water, transportation, food, and waste. Adding the Corporate Members Network was wonderful because that helped add a great many greener products and services to help our teams and venues reach their goals. Grow — the more the Alliance grows, the more people we get involved in the movement and the greater the impact we have as it relates to our mission — “to build healthy, sustainable communities where we live and play.” Lead—means trying new things, taking some risks…

 

Zeulner GSA

Justin Zeulner, Executive Director of the Green Sports Alliance (Photo credit: Green Sports Alliance)

 

GSB: Justin, that’s a great segue to this year’s Summit in Atlanta. What new things will you try? What risks will you take?

JZ: The title of our Summit is “PLAY GREENER ™: Get In The Game.” The “Get in the Game” piece is illustrative of the changes we’ve made for this year and takes into account comments we received from attendees last year in Sacramento.

GSB: What does that mean exactly?

JZ: One big change is that our sessions will be much more interactive than in past years — more workshops, than panel discussions. We want there to be a robust dialogue that’s as attendee-driven as possible. And we want attendees to leave with a crystal clear road map as to how to implement the greening programs they learn about in Atlanta.

GSB: What kind of programs are you talking about?

JZ: We’re adhering to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs), helping our teams and venues do their part in terms of carbon mitigation to put humanity on a path to a less than 2°C temperature rise, as compared to pre-industrial levels. Food is one key area — we are helping venues with menu design, from more veggie options, to locally sourced food, and more. And venues are responding. Of course they offer burgers —but sometimes those burgers are veggie. In fact, Impossible Burgers

GSB: …The veggie burgers that taste and feel beef-like? They’re GREAT!

JZ: Impossible Burger will be at the Summit! Vegetarian and vegan foods are something athletes are getting more into, so we’ll be talking about that. But we’re getting even deeper with our “Business of Food” workshop. Larry Kopald of Carbon Underground will lead a discussion about regenerative farming, how it can help tackle our carbon problems, and how the sports industry can help support it. A local farmer will share his inspirational story of transforming his family farm from the traditional approach to regenerative farming and what scaling that can mean for sports and the world more broadly. Chefs will also take part, discussing how stadia and arenas can gradually add “plant forward” proteins to their menus.

 

GSA Mercedes-Benz Stadium_dusk_8_30_17

Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, site of the upcoming 2018 Green Sports Alliance Summit (Photo credit: Mercedes-Benz Stadium)

 

GSB: This sounds like a fantastic workshop. And now I’m hungry!

JZ: Well save that appetite for the Tuesday night of the Summit. That’s when we will have our awards celebration at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Top chefs will be featured at our  “Taste of Atlanta”” event.

GSB: Sounds like it will be a must-attend event. Beyond food, what else will attendees see at Mercedes-Benz Stadium?

JZ: Engagement will be a watchword at this year’s Summit, from athletes, to fans, to youth. Youth will be a particular focus with Diana Dehm leading another Student Summit.

GSB: I imagine attendees from teams and leagues will be very interested in how to engage youth with green sports. My bet is that nothing makes sports executives lose sleep these days more than the issue of to how to ensure millennials, Gen Zers, and the generation after follow sports with something close to the passion of their forebears. I’m not saying a team’s, a sport’s greenness is the determining factor but it can be a factor. Who will be delivering the keynote address at this year’s Summit?

JZ: Arthur M. Blank, the owner of the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United, and the driving force behind the building of the LEED Platinum Mercedes-Benz Stadium, will be giving the keynote. His talk will center on how environmental leadership impacts community, social justice and health and wellness. Mr. Blank believes the environmental and the social are linked and it is his mission and that of the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation to positively impact both. Speaking of the social aspects of sustainability, another speaker of note is Samantha “Sam” Gordon. Honored by the NFL with their inaugural Game Changer award, Sam is a young woman from Utah who plays football with the boys and became the one of the best players on the team. That wasn’t enough for Sam — she started a league in her area for female tackle football players. Now Sam is not doing all this just for women to play football. She is doing this work to activate interest among girls in physical activity, exercise, and wellness and ensure underserved populations have a voice.

 

GSA Arthur Blank-headshot

Arthur M. Blank, owner of the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United (Photo credit: Arthur M. Blank Sports and Entertainment)

 

GSA Sam Gordon-headshot

Samantha “Sam” Gordon (Photo credit: Samantha Gordon)

 

GSB: For a GenZ girl like Sam, this is how social movements start!

JZ: Exactly. Also ex-major league baseball player and manager Dusty Baker and former NFLer Will Allen, both advocates for renewable energy, will talk about their experiences in the solar field. And we are honored to have David Kenny, CEO of the Weather Channel, as a speaker.

GSB: Well, I have to say, before we spoke, I was a bit skeptical about this Summit differing enough from its predecessors, that its focus would be too Green-Sports 1.0 (i.e. LEED certified stadia, Zero-Waste games) and not enough Green-Sports 2.0 (fan, athlete engagement) for my taste. But, from the speakers, to the topics, to the workshop style, to audience engagement, I see the 2018 Green Sports Alliance Summit at Mercedes-Benz Stadium as an event that will, while still touching on worthwhile Green-Sports 1.0 issues, push the GreenSports clearly into its 2.0 phase. I am looking forward to it.

JZ: See you in Atlanta!

 

Click here for information on how to attend the 2018 Green Sports Alliance Summit at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta June 26-27.
GreenSportsBlog is a media sponsor of the 2018 Green Sports Alliance Summit.

 


 

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Forest Green Rovers, Greenest Team in Sports, Safe From Relegation, Subject of Video from “The Years Project”

It has been a great week for Forest Green Rovers — the Greenest Team in Sports.  After flirting with relegation much of the season, the club assured itself of remaining in League Two, the 4th tier of English soccer/football, with two matches to play. And FGR was the subject of a short yet powerful video from the “YEARS Project.”

 

Management of Forest Green Rovers, almost universally acknowledged as The Greenest Team in Sports —it serves only vegan food to supporters and players alike and manicures its home pitch with a solar powered MoBot, among many other great, green things — realizes that the English soccer/football club’s ability to influence other sports teams and organizations on environmental issues in the future, is directly related to its performance on the pitch. The better it does, the higher up England’s football pyramid it reaches, the more media will cover FGR’s green story (#CoverGreenSports).

After a playoff win at London’s iconic Wembley Stadium last May earned FGR promotion from England’s 5th to the 4th division — the highest level it has ever reached in 125+ years of play. That led to more media coverage of the team and its sustainability story than ever before — GreenSportsBlog had been on this story since 2014 but suddenly, the ESPNs and The Guardians of the world were paying visits to the Forest Green’s New Lawn Stadium. 

Thus, the pressure was intense to avoid going down, the fate that will be suffered by the last and next-to-last place teams in the 24 team league.

Thing is, newly-promoted teams, whether to the Premier League or to League Two, often struggle to “stay up” in their first season against much stiffer competition. FGR was no different, wallowing near the bottom of the table (standings) for much of the campaign. But a strong late season run pushed Forest Green Rovers above the drop zone and the team clinched safety with two games to go on April 24 with a 0-0 draw at Yeovil Town.

 

FGR Stays Up

Members of Forest Green Rovers salute their traveling supporters after clinching safety from relegation in a 0-0 draw at Yeovil Town (Photo credit: Forest Green Rovers)

 

A couple of days later the, “YEARS Project,” an outgrowth of the outstanding, if not-nearly-viewed-enough climate change-themed documentary series “Years of Living Dangerously^,” went up on Facebook and YouTube with a short form (90 seconds) video that, despite (or maybe because of?) its brevity and no-narration style, tells the Forest Green Rovers story in eye-catching, memorable fashion. Check out the YouTube video here:

 

Here’s the link to the video on the YEARS Project’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/YearsOfLiving/videos/1714770931943291/

If you want to see other short-form, climate change-focused content, on a wide variety of topics, I heartily urge you to LIKE their Facebook page.

In the meantime, here’s hoping Forest Green Rovers’ Chairman Dale Vince and company continue to build the team’s quality so they can contend for promotion to 3rd tier League One in 2018-19. Which will result in even more coverage of the club’s green story.

 

^ If you haven’t watched Years of Living Dangerously, click here — it’s worth your time!

 


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Renowned Climate Scientist Michael Mann On The 20th Anniversary of Publication of “Hockey Stick” Graph in Nature Magazine; Reprise of our GreenSportsBlog Interview

This is a big week for environmental anniversaries.

Earth Day #49 takes place on Sunday, and this week marks the 20th anniversary of the publication by Dr. Michael E. Mann (et. al.) of the “Hockey Stick” graph that clearly showed a dramatic spike in earth’s temperature since the Industrial Revolution.

Dr. Mann is director of Penn State University’s Earth System Science Center, Distinguished Professor of Meteorology, one of the world’s foremost climate scientists and a worthy, fact-based fighter against the climate change denialism and fiction practiced by many in the Republican leadership in Congress. 

But it is that connection to sports; the metaphorical “hockey stick,” that drew GreenSportsBlog to Dr. Mann. We interviewed him in August, 2016 for our “Sustainability Leaders On Green-Sports” series and are pleased to re-run it here.

Wait a second.

Before you read our GSB interview with Dr. Michael E. Mann from 2016, I urge you to click here so you can link to “Earth Day and the Hockey Stick: A Singular Message,” Dr. Mann’s powerful reflection on his 20 years in the cross-hairs of the fossil fuel industry and the politicians who do their bidding. The article appeared in today’s Scientific American blog.

Did you read it? What do you think?

I think that the piece shows that humanity is the big winner twenty years after Dr. Mann wrote the “hockey stick” article.

You see, thanks in large part to that hockey analogy, Dr. Mann was thrust by climate deniers into a role — climate change scientist-as-target — that he was at first unprepared for but has since embraced in gung-ho fashion. To continue with the hockey metaphor, let’s hope that Dr. Mann’s ability — as well the talents of his colleagues — to advance the climate science “puck,” all the while taking constant body checks from goons like climate change denying senators like James Inhofe (R-OK) and Ted Cruz (R-TX), will lead to goals (carbon pricing and more) galore and wins (far fewer deniers in positions of power) galore. Perhaps the referees (aka the voters) will eject Senator Cruz come November. What about Senator Inhofe, you ask? His seat is not up this year.

OK, now here is our August 2016 interview with Dr. Michael E. Mann. Enjoy and have a Happy Earth Day!

 

Freestyle Photo Getty Images

Photo credit: Freestylephoto/Getty Images

 

GreenSportsBlog: “An Inconvenient Truth,” Al Gore’s 2006 Oscar®-winning documentary film was highlighted by your temperature hockey stick!! That is so cool! We will get to hockey sticks and Congress’ attempt to put you in the climate change penalty box in a bit. Before doing so, I guess I’d like to know how you came to climate science.

Dr. Michael Mann: I came to it circuitously. Growing up in Amherst, MA, while I did like sports—I ran cross country, played basketball, loved the Larry Bird-Kevin McHale-Tiny Archibald Celtics—I was really your basic math nerd, hanging out on Friday nights with other math/computer nerd friends.

GSB: Sounds like a blast!

MM: Oh, you have no idea! I come from a math family—my dad was a math professor at UMass in Amherst…

GSB: …The Minutemen!

MM: …Indeed. And then I went to UC Berkeley and studied applied math and physics.

GSB: What is applied math anyway?

MM: It’s geared towards solving real world problems rather than theoretical ones. Then I went to Yale for graduate school to study physics. But, mid-degree, I wasn’t excited about the problems I was being given to solve. So I looked at Yale’s catalogue of scientific research to see where I could use what I had learned to work on a big problem with real world significance. And I found geology and geophysics, which uses math and physics to model the earth’s climate. This was very interesting to me.

GSB: Which is a very good thing for climate science!

MM: So for my post-doc, I went back home to Amherst, to UMass…

GSB: Did you live at home with the folks?

MM: In fact, yes, I did, I lived in an attic apartment in the house. It worked out quite well, actually. And it was there that my interest got piqued in climate change. We worked to use paleo-climate data to extend the climate record, which, at the time, extended to only a century of thermometer-based information.

GSB: Is that where you looked at tree rings?

MM: Exactly! We used tree rings and coral records and other so-called “proxy” data; natural archives that record past climate conditions, to extend back in time our knowledge of global temperature changes. By 1998 we we were able to go back 600 years; by the next year, we were able to extend the record back in time 1,000 years, a millennium.

GSB: And what did you find?

MM: That the earth’s temperature rise since the onset of the Industrial Revolution was unprecedented, as far back as we could go. I was the lead author of the article in Naturepublished on Earth Day—April 22, 1998—that introduced the “hockey stick” curve and demonstrated the unprecedented nature of the recent temperature spike.

 

Hockey Stick

The temperature “Hockey Stick,” resulting from the research of Dr. Michael Mann and colleagues. (Credit: Dr. Michael Mann)

 

GSB: Did your research also include data going back hundreds of thousands of years on atmospheric CO2 concentrations?

MM: The CO2 records, collected from ice core samples, already existed. What was new from our work was the temperature data. And of course it showed a remarkable synchronicity with the already existing CO2 information. It showed that temperatures rose when CO2 in the atmosphere rose. What’s most worrying now is, that CO2 levels are off the charts and temperatures are still in the process of rising in response.

Mann Iceland Glacier

Dr. Michael E. Mann at the edge of a melting Iceland glacier in May, 2016. (Photo credit: Dr. Michael E. Mann)

 

GSB: Believe me, I’m well aware of that from seeing the hockey stick in “An Inconvenient Truth,” and from being a volunteer Climate Reality Leader—I, along with thousands of other everyday citizens from all over the world, have been trained by Al Gore and his staff to give the slide show that was at the heart of his Academy Award® winning documentary to community groups in their own neighborhoods. The “hockey stick” played a key role in the slide show to be sure. Speaking of the “hockey stick,” did you come up with it yourself?

MM: Actually, the hockey stick term was coined by a colleague at Princeton who’s no longer with us by the name of Jerry Mahlman. Because sports analogies and metaphors are so powerful, this framing seems to have clicked with the public, but I have been surprised how strong the click has been. I think the imagery is particularly powerful in Canada—no surprise there. Basically, the “hockey stick” became shorthand that conveys the severity of human-caused climate change.

GSB: Staying with the sports metaphor, you’ve also used the term “climate on steroids” which is, of course, a nod to the link between increased home run totals in Major League Baseball during the 90s-early 2000s and the prevalence of steroid usage during that time…

MM: Yes. Sometimes people ask the wrong questions when it comes to climate change—for example, was hurricane Katrina caused by climate change? That’s like asking whether the 68th home run hit by Barry Bonds in 2001 was caused by steroids. We can never answer that question. But we can conclude that collectively, many of his home runs were due to the steroid use, just as we can conclude that the increased occurrence of devastating hurricanes is due to human-caused climate change.

GSB: And couldn’t you also say Barry Bonds would hit the ball that turned out to be his 68th home run no matter what. But, due to steroids, some portion of that ball’s journey was enhanced by steroids use.

MM: Exactly! And, listen, I also want to bring football into the discussion. Not long ago I saw the movie “Concussion.” It is the perfect analogue to climate change denial.

GSB: How so?

MM: Well, the NFL’s denial of the link between pro football-related concussions and brain related diseases like CTE^ despite knowing the science says the opposite is analogous to the fossil fuel industry denying the reality and seriousness of climate change even though it knows full well the solid science behind it.

GSB:  You can add that certain members of Congress, funded by the fossil fuel industry to spout climate change denial, are like refs paid by gamblers to fix games.

MM: Of course. Look, I’m a scientist and a communicator. You cannot be an effective communicator without recognizing the power of sports—it’s so engrained in our culture—it would be a lost opportunity if you didn’t use sports analogies and metaphors to drive home your points.

GSB: You’ll get no argument from me there. Now, back to “Concussion”: In the movie, Will Smith played Dr. Bennet Omalu, the Nigerian-American pathologist who discovered the link between concussions and CTE and who thus had to face the wrath and weight of the NFL. Since you have been grilled by hostile members of Congress—as detailed in your 2012 book from Columbia University Press, “The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars,” and your research and funding has been challenged by them, are you kind of like the Omalu of climate change in the USA?

 

Mann Hockey Stick

 

MM: I’ll take that comparison any day. And, while it’s certainly not fun to have your work demeaned, challenged and picked at in public, I can handle it. You see I want the ball at the free throw line, down one point, with two foul shots and no time on the clock. Because the climate change fight is one game we have to win and I want to be a part of winning it.

GSB: Somehow I see you making those free throws!

^ CTE = Chronic Traumatic Encephalothapy

 


 

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