GSB News and Notes: Scottish Footballer Goes Green, FOX Kids TV Show Features Eco-Athletes, Patagonia To Donate Millions in Savings from Trump Tax Cut to Green Charities

Happy Friday! In a TGIF GreenSportsBlog News & Notes, we feature a diverse trio of stories:

Russell Martin, currently player-coach for Walsall F.C. in the third tier of English football, recently made waves by announcing he’s switched his political affiliation to the Green Party. “Awesome Planet,” a part of the Xploration Station three-hour block of science-focused television shows airing on FOX stations, recently aired an episode featuring eco-athletes. And Patagonia, the über-green outdoor clothing and gear company, announced it will donate the $10 million it saved as a result of the 2017 Trump/GOP tax cuts to environmental non-profits. 

 

RUSSELL MARTIN TAKES A POLITICAL STAND AS ECO-ATHLETE 

Russell Martin has earned fame as an international footballer, playing for the Scottish National Team as well as for Norwich City F.C. when it was a member of the English Premier League^.

Now the player-coach at Walsall F.C., which currently plays in England’s third tier, Martin’s notoriety will likely jump up a notch or two, thanks to his recent announcement that he’s joined the U.K.’s Green Party.

 

Russell Martin
Russell Martin (#4 in blue), in action for Scotland against Germany in 2015 (Photo credit: Matthias Hangst/Bongarts/Getty Images)

 

“I’ve voted Labour all my life,” Martin told Stuart James in the November 23rd issue of The Guardian. “But knowing…what the [Green] Party represents, I just thought this aligns with my values and morals.”

Those values and morals include water conservation and veganism.

On water, “I used to get peppered at Norwich because I was always saying: ‘Turn the tap off’ when the lads brushed their teeth in the changing room,” Martin related to James.

Regarding his eating habits, Martin shared with James that he’s “been a vegan for four years, plant-based, so that awakens you socially to become a lot more conscious about things. I’ll be honest, that wasn’t for ethical reasons at first, it was purely health. I was struggling with ulcerative colitis and I did a lot of research into diet and what could help. But then when you become involved in that it raises your awareness of the ethical side. You actually look at it and think: ‘This makes sense.’”

Martin put his money where his mouth is when he became part-owner of Erpingham House, the largest vegan restaurant in Great Britain. He also owns an EV and promotes sustainability and environmental awareness to the children who pass through his Russell Martin Foundation, based in his home town of Brighton, which started as a football academy but is now a registered charity.

 

Russell Martin II

Russell Martin (Photo credit: Jonny Weeks, The Guardian)

 

Despite the time and energy that the dual player-coach roles demand, Martin is happy to take on the environment and climate change. “There’s stuff we can’t control – the Brexit madness – but there’s stuff that we can have an influence on and help future generations,” he told James. “I’ve got three young kids and I want it to look as good as possible for them by the time they hit my age.”

GSB’s Take: Russell Martin is one of a small but growing number of athletes who are speaking out on environmental issues, including climate change. He seems unfazed by any potential backlash. Martin told James that he’s “past the point of worrying what others think. It’s not like: ‘Is it going to harm my employment opportunities because of where I vote and what I stand for?’ If it did, I wouldn’t want to work for those people anyway.”

Given Martin’s willingness to speak out on environmental and climate issues, his top level playing pedigree, and his newfound coaching experience, it would not surprise me one bit to see him coaching for Forest Green Rovers, the world’s Greenest Team in Sports. Currently FGR resides in England’s fourth tier, one level below Walsall.

 

GREEN-SPORTS FEATURED ON FOX NETWORK’S “AWESOME PLANET” SATURDAY MORNING TV SHOW

Explorer Phillippe Cousteau, Jr. has, for the past five seasons, taken young viewers on adventures all over the world on “Awesome Planet.” The show is part of the three-hour Xploration Station block of science-based programming that airs on FOX stations across the U.S.

 

Phillippe Cousteau

“Planet Awesome” host Phillippe Cousteau, Jr. and his wife Ashlan prepare for a dive off the coast of the Marshall Islands (Photo credit: Phillippe Cousteau, Jr.)

 

In October, the grandson of the legendary aquatic conservationist and filmmaker Jacques Cousteau devoted an entire half-hour episode to three eco-athletes:

  • GreenSportsBlog fave and Olympic silver medal-winning snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler, advocating for action on climate to ensure that snow sports can continue to thrive in her native Colorado
  • Surfer Zane Schweitzer, who showed kids how plastic ocean waste is impacting the beaches of Hawaii
  • Boxer Jose Ramirez, fighting for access to fresh water in California as a member of the Latino Water Coalition

 

Surfer Zane Schweitzer’s segment on “Planet Awesome” (5 mins 7 secs)

 

The Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles also made an appearance, as they were lauded for their leadership role in bringing highly visible solar installations to stadiums.

Awesome Planet draws an average weekly audience of 750,000 viewers.

GSB’s Take: Every survey I’ve seen shows that American 16-23 year-olds, the older half of Gen-Z*, favor substantive action on climate change. Thus it’s not surprising that Awesome Planet would feature athletes and teams who are engaged in the climate change fight and other environmental issues. Concern about climate change polls over 50 percent among all age groups, across the political spectrum, with the exception of the most conservative Republicans. That tells me that programming highlighting eco-athletes targeted to a general audience would go over well. Hint to CBS Sports: How about a Green-Sports segment during the many hours of your Super Bowl LIII pregame coverage?

 

PATAGONIA TO GIVE ITS ENTIRE TRUMP TAX CUT WINDFALL TO ENVIRONMENTAL CHARITIES

Patagonia said last month that it will donate the $10 million it saved from recent tax cuts to environmental protection groups. In a withering letter, CEO Rose Marcario called the Trump- and GOP-backed tax cuts “irresponsible.” Changes to the corporate tax rate went into effect in 2018, giving corporations a massive boost by dropping their tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent.

 

Rose Marcario

Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario (Photo credit: Patagonia)

 

“Instead of putting the money back into our business, we’re responding by putting $10 million back into the planet,” Marcario wrote in the statement. “Our home planet needs it more than we do.”

The company said the donations would be incremental to its existing “One Percent for the Planet” pledge through which it has donated one percent of its sales each year since 1985 for “preservation and restoration of the natural environment.” According to Forbes, Patagonia revenue topped $750 million in 2017.

According to Ryan Miller, writing in USA Today on November, 29th, the company plans to give the $10 million to “groups committed to protecting air, land and water and finding solutions to the climate crisis.”

The company’s announcement came less than a week after a Trump administration report warned of the dire threat that human-caused climate change poses to the United States and its citizens. President Trump told reporters “I don’t believe it,” when asked about the study’s conclusions.

GSB’s Take: I yield the floor here to Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard for his take on the tax cut and the Trump administration’s approach to climate change: In a companion statement to CEO Marcario’s, Chouinard said, “Our government continues to ignore the seriousness and causes of the climate crisis. It is pure evil.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

 

* Gen-Z is made up of people born from 1995-2012

 


 

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The GSB Interview: Jason Twill, a Green Sports Alliance Founding Director, on the Organization’s Birth

The Green-Sports movement is in a transitional phase from its initial 1.0 version — the greening of the games themselves — to its 2.0 incarnation — engaging fans on environmental and climate issues.

The Green Sports Alliance, now eight years old, is also in the midst of change, as it searches for a new executive director to lead the organization firmly into the Green-Sports 2.0 era. That the Alliance is the most established Green-Sports trade association in the world may be taken for granted by many. But for those who were present at its birth, the odds of the GSA reaching its eighth birthday was by no means a certainty back in 2011. An organization dedicated to the Greening of Sports? What did that even mean?

With that in mind, we spoke with Jason Twill, one of the GSA’s Founding Directors and co-author of its bylaws. This long-form interview gets the inside story of how the Alliance came to be, the fascinating route Twill took to be — as Lin Manuel Miranda famously said in Hamilton — in the “Room Where it Happened,” and how the Alliance and other similar organizations around the world can help build a Green-Sports 2.0 world.

 

GreenSportsBlog: Jason, the story of how the Green Sports Alliance came to be is something I’ve been interested in for some time, so thank you for talking with us. Tell us about your background and how you came to be involved with the Green-Sports movement in its embryonic stages.

Jason Twill: Thanks, Lew. It has been quite a circuitous route. Toward the end of high school in Warren, NJ, a New York City suburb, I tended bar in Hoboken, which was a quick train ride away from Greenwich Village. I have this memory of emerging from the depth of the underground like I had crossed some imaginary threshold into this world of excitement — streets buzzing with energy, layered with a diversity of people and cultures that make The Village great and the antithesis of suburbia, which I hated. That’s when my passion to create better cities and communities began, and I have never looked back.

GSB: What came next?

 

Jason Twill

Jason Twill (Photo credit: Jennifer Twill)

 

Jason: I studied art and political economics at Colorado College; and I also had the privilege of studying in Florence, where the piazzas and labyrinthine grid was a very different sort of urban environment. I loved it! I then moved to New York and was interested in pursuing fashion design. Took a construction job to pay the bills while studying at the Fashion Institute of Technology and Parsons School of Design.

GSB: What happened to loving cities and urban architecture?

Jason: I told you it was a circuitous route! I got the fashion bug in Florence. So, back in New York, I spent my days on construction sites and evenings at fashion shows and working with designers. This confluence of construction and design is what ultimately led me back to a passion for architecture. It hit me like a ton of bricks when I was visiting the Getty Center museum in L.A. I found myself looking at the buildings and landscape as art and became set — finally — on becoming an architect.

I applied to Columbia for urban studies and architecture and, while waiting to start, took a summer job in 2001 with architecture firm Mancini Duffy. Their offices were in Tower 2 of the World Trade Center. I was in the building on the morning of 9/11. Escaped by just a hair, along with others from the firm, but I lost a lot of friends that day. So I postponed school and went back to the firm to help them rebuild their practice. I noticed several friends there suffering from post-traumatic stress. Having been through a lot of adversity in my life, I set up an informal 12-step-like program in which we all supported one another to get through the fear and anxiety we were experiencing.

At that time, my co-worker and future wife, Jennifer, gave me a book, “The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Decline of America’s Man-made Landscape,” by Jason Howard Kunstler, a fantastic, non-technical explanation of suburban sprawl in the post-World War II era. It made me reflect on my own experience growing up in the suburbs and how much the built environment shapes our social patterns and behaviors. I literally closed that book and knew what I wanted to do with the rest of my life: Disrupt the real estate sector through ecologically and socially conscious development models. So I pivoted from Columbia to getting a Masters in real estate development and finance at NYU.

 

GEOGRAPHY OF NOWHERE

 

GSB: Did that even exist in the early 2000s?

Jason: Not really. I had to advocate for NYU to introduce things like LEED certification. But there were already a lot of great experts in this space I could learn from outside of school. I essentially earned two masters, with conventional real estate courses at NYU augmented by reading tons of books^ to teach myself these other pathways. Also volunteered to help get the US Green Building Council’s New York City chapter going, worked on some of the first LEED buildings in New York, and then I was fortunate enough to meet Jonathan Rose…

GSB: The legendary New York City real estate developer and sustainability champion…

Jason: Exactly. I wrote him a letter; he invited me to his office for coffee and a talk He’s been a friend, mentor and inspiration ever since. During that time, from 2003-2007, I worked for a couple of smaller private developers, championing sustainable and equitable design. The timing was right; by 2005, the market had shifted and I was getting more traction on things like LEED certification. We also had our first son, Sullivan. He had a series of illnesses and the first case of influenza A in the city in 2007, which scared the hell out of us as new parents. We thought this might have something to do with the post 9/11 air quality in New York, so we decided to move to another city. Austin, Portland, and Seattle were on our radar because of their progressive governance and industry stars.

GSB: Where did you end up?

Jason: We chose Seattle, the epicenter of the green building movement. I was very fortunate to receive an offer from Vulcan Inc. and we relocated in 2007.

GSB: Vulcan Inc. is the business and philanthropic entity founded by Microsoft co-founder, the late Paul G. Allen.

Jason: Yes! The six years I spent at Vulcan were some of the most productive of my career. I became a practitioner of city-making as a senior project manager working on all aspects of Paul Allen’s portfolio. We looked to inspire change in areas he was most passionate about: art, science, music, technology, and sports. I supported Vulcan Real Estate on the delivery of a new community called South Lake Union, an industrial area filled with old warehouses just north of the city’s central business district.

GSB: What did it become?

Jason: Paul originally purchased the land and gifted it to the city so they could create a park. But citizens voted down a tax measure to fund construction and the city handed back the land. Paul pivoted and turned it into a mixed-use, sustainable community. Over time, it emerged as one of the first Innovation Districts in North America, now home to Amazon’s HQ1, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft. At the same time I was working on South Lake Union, I started incubating what would become the Green Sports Alliance. When the financial markets crashed in 2008, things slowed down at Vulcan. My boss, Ray Colliver, got approval from Paul to apportion more of my time to embed sustainability even deeper across Vulcan’s business portfolio. Our office was across the street from CenturyLink Field, home of the NFL’s Seahawks, one of the teams Paul owned…

GSB: …The others being CenturyLink tenants — MLS’ Seattle Sounders — in which Mr. Allen’s estate has an ownership stake, and the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers.

Jason: Ray introduced me to Darryl Benge and Mike McFaul, who ran CenturyLink operations. They were already looking to invest in sustainability measures, so I started to support them in getting some runs on the green scoreboard.

GSB: What kind of things did you help them do?

Jason: We planned and implemented a comprehensive resource conservation plan that included the installation of nearly a megawatt of solar panels on the roof of the adjacent WaMu Theater, EV charging, LED lighting retrofit, waterless urinals, waste strategies, and more. We also started to explore how we could generate fan awareness and impact behavior through strategic branding and messaging. And then this larger dialogue started to occur around green sports.

 

Solar CenturyLink

A solar array tops the roof of the WaMu Theater adjacent to CenturyLink Field, home of Seattle’s Seahawks Sounders (Photo credit: Seattle Seahawks)

 

GSB: How so?

Jason: In 2009, I met Justin Zeulner, who worked for the Trail Blazers. He was doing terrific green stuff there, including getting Moda Center certified as one of the first LEED Gold arenas in the world. I was also introduced to some folks at the WNBA’s Seattle Storm

GSB: …the current WNBA champs!

Jason: …and the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks, and became mates with green-sports pioneer Scott Jenkins, who was managing Safeco Field for the Seattle Mariners.

GSB: Scott’s now the Chairman of the Board of the Green Sports Alliance and General Manager of Atlanta’s LEED Platinum Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Jason: With all these relationships building, we were sharing strategies and partners that could help us ‘green’ the venues, so all the proverbial kindling was there to start a fire, just waiting for the spark. It came when my boss Ray Colliver, who always pushed me take things further, sustainability-wise, with Paul’s teams, handed me a Sports Business Journal issue focused on sustainability. I noted an article by Allen Hershkowitz, then a Senior Scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), leading their sports and entertainment greening platform.

Already a big fan of NRDC’s work, I called him and said, ‘Hi, I’m Jason, I work for Paul G. Allen, who owns a few sports franchises and we want to work with NRDC to drive a bigger agenda for sustainability in sports.’ We had a couple of conversations — he was incredible. I really love the guy and we were exploding with ideas from the start. Allen offered to fly out with his key staff to meet, while my colleague Dune Ives and I started to explore what we could create in this space from Vulcan’s perspective.

GSB: Dune is now executive director of the Lonely Whale Foundation, a group established by actor and activist Adrian Grenier, which is leading initiatives on ocean health and the anti-plastic straw movement.

Jason: Yes, Dune has an unbelievably beautiful mind and is a force of nature in the sustainability movement. We mapped out the mission statement, vision, and objectives for what initially became the Pacific Northwest Green Sports Alliance. Then, on February 1, 2010, using our draft work as the agenda, we hosted a workshop with Allen and his NRDC colleagues. Representatives from five of the region’s pro teams (Portland’s Trail Blazers and Seattle’s Mariners, Seahawks, Sounders and the Storm), as well as officials from the City of Seattle, the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, and Green Building Services joined in.

From this initial group of passionate change makers, The Pacific Northwest Green Sports Alliance was born! The Vancouver Canucks joined shortly thereafter. I became its Chair to help get it going. Pretty quickly, we received interest from teams and venues beyond the region, so we dropped “Pacific Northwest” from the name. We secured a seed money grant from the Bullitt Foundation — an organization led by Dennis Hayes, founder of Earth Day, focused on environmental change in the northwest. This funding was crucial and, along with investments from NRDC, Vulcan, and each of the teams, we hired Martin Tull, a brilliant change-maker from the Portland sustainability community, as the founding executive director. He built the Alliance into a stable, sustainable non-profit organization.

GSB: So you guys basically bootstrapped the Green Sports Alliance off the ground.

Jason: We all had full-time jobs, but fueled by a passion for change, we put the time and energy into making this happen. There isn’t any one founder of the Alliance; we all worked really hard and collaboratively, playing a vital part in its success to this day. Our beginnings are quintessentially captured in this famous Margaret Meade quote:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

We definitely hit on something and there was a big, public launch at Safeco Field, home of the Mariners in spring 2011. By that time, I had stepped down as chair, handing the reins to Scott Jenkins, already a key figure in the movement. Since then, I’ve served as a Board executive committee member.

It’s important to acknowledge that we did not create the Green-Sports space. There was already a ton of great work and leadership happening around sports and sustainability in North America and globally. We just created a platform to bring all these leaders together to share best practices and accelerate the progress of the Green-Sports movement.

We also wouldn’t be where we are at today without the technical and financial support of the NRDC team led by Allen Hershkowitz, along with terrific scientists and technical experts like Darby Hoover and Alice Henly. With their support we were able to publish documents like the “Game Changer” report that provided case studies highlighting the amazing sustainability work happening across the pro leagues. This helped us grow from the inaugural six founding teams to a roster that includes pretty much all major league teams in North America, plus many college athletics departments and conferences.

 

Jason Twill GSA origins

A gathering of some of the key players in the founding of the Green Sports Alliance, including: FRONT ROW: Scott Jenkins (2nd from left), Dune Ives (3rd from left) and Justin Zeulner (right). MIDDLE ROW: Jason Twill (2nd from right). TOP ROW: Allen Hershkowitz (2nd from left), Martin Tull (right) (Photo credit: Green Sports Alliance)

 

Jason: That growth was also driven by annual GSA summits starting with our inaugural event in Portland in 2011. Martin Tull, working with a local team, the Board, and the NRDC, miraculously put it together in just a few months.

GSB: A Herculean effort! How did it go?

Jason: It was a big hit. Over 200 people came. Ex-NBA All-Star and then-Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson keynoted. People from across North America who were interested or already working in this space attended. They really appreciated a forum on sustainability solely focused on the sports industry. The next year, our Summit in Seattle attracted closer to 400 people and we knew we had hit our stride.

 

KJ at GSA 2011 Dabe Alan

Retired NBA All Star and ex-Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson addressing the first Green Sports Alliance Summit in 2011 in Portland (Photo credit: Dabe Alan)

 

GSB: I went to the third Summit, in Brooklyn in 2013, and even more people came. And the rest, as they say, is history. What is your role as a board member?

Jason: I try to provide big-picture thinking and thought leadership on how to best grow the movement. We started with greening the games and the venues…

GSB: …What I call Green-Sports 1.0. I believe that’s the way it had to be. But we’re past the time to pivot to Green-Sports 2.0, engaging fans — with the important megaphone of the media — to change their environmental behaviors, including as it relates to climate change.

Jason: I agree. Even in those very early days, I would look across at CenturyLink Field and think, ‘for every Seahawks game, we have something like 10 percent of the entire population of Seattle in one room,’ which prompted me to ask, ‘How do we change the hearts and minds of billions of sports fans across the world and tell a new story of sustainability in our time?’

GSB: How is that going?

Jason: Nelson Mandela probably captured it best when he said

Sport has the power to change the world. It had the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. Sport can awaken hope where there was previously only despair.

Now think about channeling that power toward addressing climate change, the defining challenge of our time. We still have a lot of work to do to realize this dream, but the Green Sports Alliance and all of our partner organizations have this opportunity before us if we work together.

GSB: Those include GSA Japan, which launched earlier this year, BASIS in Great Britain, Sports Environment Alliance (SEA) in Australia and New Zealand, along with Sport and Sustainability International (SandSI) in Europe. Is this separation — some might say Balkanization — a good thing when the Green-Sports movement is relatively small?

Jason: Great question. I don’t see this as Balkanization at all. All these organizations are able to respond to their local cultures and contexts. I do see the ability for all of these groups, including Beyond Sport and others, to collaborate for maximum global impact through locally meaningful initiatives. In fact, that is one of the things I want to help foster as a GSA Board Member since I am now living and working in Australia. I am in conversation with a lot of the folks at these other incredible organizations, as many of us in the Alliance are. I think it is in all of our interests to work together, using the power of sports to ensure a safe and sustainable future for all life on our planet.

GSB: I’ll sign for that! What are you doing in Australia?

Jason: Staying true to my passion for cities, I set up Urban Apostles, my own development and consulting business. We specialize in regenerative urbanism and affordable housing models for cities. I like to say we work at the intersection of the sharing economy and art of city making.

GSB: What is regenerative urbanism?

Jason: Regenerative urbanism considers going beyond the ‘sustainable’ paradigm for cities since our current form of urbanization is not doing nearly enough to address issues like climate change and social inequity. For me, it’s a way of conceiving our cities as ‘living systems,’ and planning and developing them in a manner which creates conditions conducive for all life forms to thrive. Imagine a city that responds to the evolutionary needs of all the life within and around it. We look to shift from ‘human-centric’ urbanization models to ‘life-centric’ ones. Earlier this year, I also founded and launched City Makers’ Guild. It’s an education, advocacy, and research group promoting more equitable and inclusive cities.

GSB: Congratulations and good luck with both. And thank you for your important, visionary work that helped give birth to the Green Sports Alliance and is accelerating the move to Green-Sports 2.0.

 

^ Books on green design Twill read during his time at NYU included “Natural Capitalism,” by Amory & Hunter Lovins, with Paul Hawkens. “Ecological Design,” by Sym Van der Ryn and Stuart Cowan. “The Green Real Estate Development Guide,” by William Browning and the Rocky Mountain Institute

 


 

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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.

 

Screen Shot 2018-11-16 at 9.33.33 AM

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.

 

Screen Shot 2018-11-14 at 10.32.05 AM

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.

 

Screen Shot 2018-11-14 at 10.29.06 AM

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.

 

Screen Shot 2018-11-14 at 10.35.42 AM

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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The GSB (Mock) Interview: Drew Brees; Standing Tall on Climate Change

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees broke Peyton Manning’s record for the most career passing yards in NFL history at a raucous Mercedes-Benz Superdome a week ago Monday. The next day, about 300 miles to the east of the Crescent City, Hurricane Michael plowed into Panama City, Florida. 

Brees, who played a crucial role as a high profile ambassador supporting the recovery of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina hit, had to be affected by the devastation wrought by this latest mega-storm. With that in mind, GreenSportsBlog spoke with Brees to see if he has made the connection between the Katrinas and Michaels — as well as the Harveys, Irmas and Marias of the world and climate change.

OK, we didn’t really talk to Brees — he was too busy preparing for Sunday’s game with the Baltimore Ravens.

So we’re doing the next best thing: Imagining a conversation with Brees about Katrina, Michael and climate change.

To be clear, Brees has not spoken out about climate change, at least as far as I can tell. I have no idea what he thinks on the issue. 

And even though he publicly stated that NFL players should stand for the national anthem, thus aligning himself with President Trump, a climate change denier/skeptic, that does not mean Brees is a denier/skeptic. In fact, he seems to be a thoughtful fellow, one who relies heavily on data to do his job. So, this faux interview posits that he would follow the scientific data on climate change.

This is our second imagined conversation about climate change with a mega sports star. LeBron James was the first back in 2013.

GreenSportsBlog believes that finding über athletes who are willing to engage with their fans on climate change is absolutely crucial to scaling the impact of the Green-Sports movement. That’s why we’re kinda-sorta talking to Brees, a beloved figure in Louisiana and throughout the football world.

 

GreenSportsBlog: Drew, congratulations on breaking the NFL career passing yards record held by a great son of New Orleans, Peyton Manning. In fact, Peyton sent this short congratulatory video to you.

 

 

Drew Brees: Uh, thanks, Peyton…I guess. And thank you, Lew. This is truly a team honor. Or teams. Going back to the 2006 group, my first year with the Saints, when the squad came back to New Orleans after being nomads in 2005, post-Hurricane Katrina…

 

Drew Brees

Drew Brees talks to Lisa Salters of ESPN after breaking the NFL’s career passing yards record (Photo credit: ESPN)

 

GSB: …That’s right, Katrina hit New Orleans in August, 2005, two weeks before the start of the season. So the Saints played their home games in places like Baton Rouge and San Antonio.

Drew: That’s right. The city was severely damaged — on its knees, really — and, coming in as a free agent, I was seen as damaged goods because the then-San Diego (now Los Angeles) Chargers released me and my surgically repaired right shoulder…

GSB: …And you were seen as too short at 6′ 0″ coming out of Purdue.

Drew: But I got very lucky — the Saints and coach Sean Payton took a chance on me and in 2006, just as the team was ready to return to a rebuilt Superdome. It’s been magical since our first game back in New Orleans, on that Monday night vs. the Atlanta Falcons.

 

 

GSB: You ain’t kidding. The 2005 Saints were 3-13 and there were rumors that the team was going to permanently leave a Katrina-battered New Orleans for San Antonio or elsewhere. But with you at the helm, and kind of taking the team and New Orleans on your back, the Saints had the most successful season in its 40 year existence, going 10-6 and reaching the NFC Championship Game.

Drew: It was incredible, so, when you think of it, the career passing yards record is really born of the spirit of New Orleans post-Katrina. And you’re kind to say I carried the city and the team. It was as much the other way around — the city lifted me. The 2006 team lifted me — guys like Reggie Bush, Marques Colston, the late, great Will Smith, and Steve Gleason, my buddy who blocked that punt vs. the Falcons in our first game back to the Dome and now courageously battling ALS.

GSB: Gleason is indeed a profile in courage. And then, in February 2010 in Super Bowl XLIV, you led the Saints to their first — and to date, only — championship, defeating the aforementioned Peyton Manning and his Indianapolis Colts.

Drew: I know I use this word a lot but it was INCREDIBLE!

GSB: As a Jets fan I hope I get one taste of “incredible” one of these years. But I digress. Let’s talk about Katrina. You arrived in New Orleans a year after the storm and almost immediately got involved in rebuilding efforts.

Drew: My wife Brittany and I chose to come here in large part because we thought we could do something special here. When we arrived in the spring of 2006, it was like a ghost town. There still were boats in the middle of roads, and cars still upside down in people’s living rooms. What was amazing was that we leaned on each other. People were trying to rebuild their homes, rebuild their lives, yet they were still coming to the Dome to cheer on the Saints because it gave them so much energy and enthusiasm…just this feeling that we’re all in this together.

GSB: Well, you put your money where your mouth is. In 2007, your Brees Dream Foundation entered into a partnership with Operation Kids to rebuild city schools, parks, playgrounds, and athletic centers. It also funded after school and mentoring programs.

Drew: It was the least I could do.

 

Drew Brees Siding

Drew Brees installs a piece of siding at a home under construction at the Habitat for Humanity Musicians Village in the 9th Ward in May, 2007, 21 months after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)

 

GSB: Thankfully, from a New Orleans perspective, there hasn’t been another Katrina. But these once in a hundred year hurricanes are happening with much more frequency than that. Just last year, in a very short period of time, Harvey hit the Houston area, Irma blasted South Florida and Maria obliterated the British Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. And of course last month, Florence devastated the Carolinas and, the day after you broke the record, Michael slammed into the Florida Panhandle as a Category IV storm.

Drew: I know. I raffled off one of the game balls from the record-setter with all of the proceeds going to Michael relief. J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans of course did incredible work in that area post-Harvey last year. You still feel kind of helpless, because there’s really nothing you can do to stop it.

 

JJ Watt Houston Business

J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans (c) with a $5,000,000 check from his Foundation, raised by donations from thousands of fans post 2017’s Hurricane Harvey. The funds went to Harvey-related relief efforts (Photo credit: Houston Business Journal)

 

GSB: Is that really true? In the short term, governments can build stronger levees, create manmade barrier islands to keep some storm water out of cities, make sure that future urban development takes the environment into account, and more.

Drew: I guess. But those things cost a lot of money.

GSB: Yes, but these storms are costing billions, and that’s not including the human costs. There is a strong case to be made that the investments in levees and the like make financial sense in light of the costs. Just ask the folks in the Netherlands, where those types of investments were made decades ago, and they have largely been successful.

Drew: If what you say is backed up by real data and the benefits of those types investments outweigh the costs then we are foolish not to investigate and make them.

GSB: The data is there in terms of investments to help areas adapt to a changing environment. But these are band-aids, really. The bigger problem is the increased frequency of severe hurricanes. Do you think human-caused climate change is having an impact?

Drew: Well, I’m going to start by saying I’m not a scientist BUT don’t worry, Lew, I’m not going to use that as a dodge.

GSB: Thank YOU!!

Drew: No problem. Because even though I am a man of deep faith I also am a man who appreciates science and data — the two can definitely co-exist in my mind. So when I read that 97 percent of climate scientists say climate change is real and human caused, that gets my attention. If our analytics department told me that the Baltimore Ravens defense, our opponent this Sunday, is going to blitz 97 percent of the time when we lined up a certain way, you bet we will call a play to counteract that blitz. Or if 97 percent of doctors studying the brains of deceased NFL players say that brain trauma from football caused the players to suffer from CTE

GSB: …Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease found in athletes, military veterans, and others with a history of repetitive brain trauma…

Drew …I would believe that there’s a strong link between football and CTE. That’s why, while I love football and think it’s the greatest game in the world, I think kids should not play tackle football until they’re of high school age so their brains and bodies are more developed. Play flag football until then. But I digress. The data and the science are clear: Climate change is real and it’s human caused and it’s having a disastrous effect now on my city and on coastal cities all over the United States and elsewhere.

GSB: So what should we do about it?

Drew: Great question. I have to admit I need to study the potential remedies. I’m a small government conservative kind of guy but, as with the idea of building levees, if public investment can yield a positive return on climate, I’d be open to it.

GSB: How about a market-based, revenue neutral price on carbon that is being advocated by a group called the Climate Leadership Council (CLC), led by Republican elder statesmen like James Baker and George Shultz? Or a similar plan as proposed by Citizens’ Climate Lobby, a group with which I volunteer. The gist of both is that a fee would be placed on carbon-based fuels (coal, natural gas, oil) at the mine, well, or border. The money raised from that fee would be returned to U.S. households in the form of a monthly dividend rather than going to the Treasury. Higher prices on gas and other products due to the fee would encourage citizens to find and demand lower carbon options and accelerate the growth of the clean economy.

Drew: Now that’s a playbook I’d like to dive into. After the season, of course.

GSB: I’ll be happy to send you some info. I’ll wait until after February 3, the date of Super Bowl LIII at the LEED Platinum Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. One more question: Do you guys ever talk about climate change in the locker room? Say after Harvey or Maria hit?

Drew: Maybe a couple of guys mention it here or there but it really didn’t bubble up after those storms. We of course talk about the national anthem — I believe that everyone should stand despite the fact that I also believe that African Americans are often unfairly treated by police — and we talk about healthcare, both for NFL players and everyone else, and other issues. But climate change? Not that much.

GSB: What do you think would change that?

Drew: Truth is, I don’t have a real answer. I hate to say it but it may take a few more Katrinas.

 


 

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