The Yankees’ announced today they have added their name to the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework, making them the first North American professional sports team to do so. The groundbreaking move by the Bronx Bombers drew praise from the UN Secretary-General António Guterres.
The New York Yankees are off to a middling start on the field in 2019, with a 2-3 record after last night’s 3-1 loss to Detroit¹ but, from a Green-Sports perspective, the team is leading the field.
Before I go on to the rest of the story, just pause and let the following sink in:
The New York Yankees, the most storied and successful franchise in North American sports history, just made a clear, definitive, public commitment in support of the climate change fight.
Allen Hershkowitz, the Yankees’ newly-minted Environmental Science Advisor and Chairman of Sport and Sustainability International (SandSI), framed the organization’s climate promises this way: “This announcement by the Yankees, due to their powerful, iconic brand, has the chance to change cultural assumptions about sports and climate action. The organization, from the top down, recognizes they, the sports world more broadly, and all of humanity, are facing a global climate crisis. The hope is that, if the Yankees can do this, other teams across all sports — many of which have taken similar actions — will feel emboldened to make their own commitments to the Framework.”
And those pledges have real teeth.
In addition to the GHG reduction and offsetting guarantees, the Yankees and the other signatories to the Framework, have promised to support the following principles:
Undertake systematic efforts to promote greater environmental responsibility
Reduce overall climate impact
Educate for climate action
Promote sustainable and responsible consumption
Advocate for climate action through communication
YANKEES JOIN GLOBAL ALL-STAR TEAM OF SPORTS ORGANIZATIONS JOINING THE FRAMEWORK
The Yankees have been at the cutting edge of Green-Sports since moving into the current iteration of Yankee Stadium in 2009. From attaining Zero-Waste status (i.e. diverting 90 percent or more of waste from landfill via recycling, composting and other methods) to funding the distribution of clean burning cookstoves to women in East Africa that will help public health while reducing carbon emissions, and much more, the Yankees have already started down the path to reaching their Framework commitments.
“The New York Yankees are proud to support the United Nations Sports for Climate Action Framework,” said Yankees’ Principal Owner and Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner in a press release. “For many years, the Yankees have been implementing the type of climate action now enshrined in the Sports for Climate Action principles, and with this pledge the Yankees commit to continue to work collaboratively with our sponsors, fans and other relevant stakeholders to implement the UN’s climate action agenda in sports.”
UN SECRETARY-GENERAL SOUNDS LIKE A YANKEES FAN — AT LEAST FROM A GREEN-SPORTS PERSPECTIVE
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres recognized the importance of having a team as prominent and influential as the Yankees endorse the Sports for Climate Action Framework.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres (Photo credit: Forbes)
“I welcome the announcement by the New York Yankees to join Sports for Climate Action,” Mr. Guterres said. “With their rich winning tradition, the Yankees bring a new level of leadership to global efforts to tackle climate change. When it comes to safeguarding our future, it’s time to play ball.”
GSB’s Take: I am particularly proud to be a lifelong Yankees fan today. Kudos to team management, from Hal Steinbrenner on down, for moving to become the first North American professional sports franchise to sign on to the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework. Because of the competitive nature of pro sports, I expect other MLB teams to follow suit and for teams in other sports to do so as well. I will be interested to see how the Yankees communicate this commitment to their fans, both at the ballpark and those who follow the team on TV, online and elsewhere.
Gian Franco-Kasper, the President of the International Ski Federation (FIS¹), showed himself in an interview last week to be a virulent denier of climate change. His comments were made at the beginning of the 2019 FIS Alpine World Championships in Åre, Sweden. Ironically, the organizers had recently earned ISO 20121 certification as a sustainable event.
Almost immediately after the Franco-Kasper story broke, Protect Our Winters (POW) launched a campaign that is pushing for his resignation.
Unfortunately, Vonn’s farewell had to share the stage with the news that the President of FIS¹, the governing body of international skiing, has views on climate change that mirror those of noted denier-skeptic, President Donald Trump.
Gian Franco-Kasper’s climate change-denier bona fides came to light in an interview with René Hauri in the February 4th issue of the German language, Zurich-based newspaper, Tages Anzeiger. The next day, Dvora Meyers posted a column in Deadspin that, along with her biting analysis, translated the 75 year-old FIS leader’s comments into English.
Gian Franco-Kasper, President of FIS (Photo credit: Mark Runnacles, Getty Images)
Here, from Meyers’ piece, is Franco-Kasper expressing climate change denial, using the old it’s-cold-out-somewhere-so-climate-change-can’t-be-happening” trope:
“There is no proof for it. We have snow, in part even a lot of it. I was in Pyeongchang for the Olympiad. We had minus 35 degrees C. Everybody who came to me shivering I welcomed with: welcome to global warming.”
And here he links his disdain for environmentalists to a fondness for dictators:
“It’s just the way that it is easier for us in dictatorships. From a business view I say: I just want to go to dictatorships, I don’t want to fight with environmentalists anymore.”
And then, for good measure, Franco-Kasper added this note on immigrants to Europe:
“The second generation of immigrants has nothing to do with skiing. There are no ski camps anymore.”
All of these quotes could easily have come from the current occupant of the Oval Office. Yet, even Trump hasn’t made the climate denial-dictator connection, at least as far as I’m aware. Per a CNN report, Franco-Kasper tried to walk back the Love-A-Dictator comment — I’ll leave it to the reader to judge his sincerity — but not his climate change denial nor the immigrant-bashing.
Two days after the Deadspin story broke, Protect Our Winters, the nonprofit made up of elite winter sports athletes who advocate on behalf of systemic political solutions to climate change, issued this call for Franco-Kasper’s resignation:
“The snowsports community should be demanding climate action, and not tolerate those who dismiss science to remain in positions of leadership. That’s why are asking the newly formed Outdoor Business Climate Partnership² and the outdoor and snowsports community at large, all of whom rely on a stable climate to power our $887 billion industry, to join us in calling for Mr. Franco-Kasper’s resignation.”
According to POW, the Franco-Kasper interview brought out into the open what had been whispered about in ski industry circles for years: That FIS leadership is still unwilling to acknowledge — let alone act upon — the overwhelming scientific evidence supporting the reality of human-caused climate change that threatens the entire snowsports industry.
Riikka Rakic (r) sustainability manager for Åre 2019, helped lead the effort that resulted in the championships earning ISO 20121 certification as a sustainable event (Photo credit: Iana Peck, Åre 2019)
GSB’s Take: This one is easy. Franco-Kasper’s climate denial, along with his preference for dealing with dictators rather than democracies, make him 1) scarily Trump-like, and 2) clearly unfit to be the leader of the governing body of a sport that is suffering consequences of climate change in the here and now.
What is not easy to comprehend is how this man, whose views on these issues apparently have been well-known inside international skiing circles, has been able to remain in office since 1998.
POW has started a letter-writing campaign to FIS, urging Franco-Kasper to resign. If you agree he should go and would like to participate, click here.
If the letter-writing effort proves successful and the Franco-Kasper Era (Error?) finally ends, here, in no particular order, is an admittedly U.S.-centric list of three potential successors FIS should consider:
Longtime skier John Kerry, who, as Secretary of State under President Obama, was a driving force behind the ultimate adoption of the landmark 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.
Val Ackerman, first commissioner of the WNBA and currently commissioner of the Big East Conference. She would bring trail blazing executive experience, has a global perspective³, and, based on a brief conversation I had with her in 2018, gets it on climate change.
¹ FIS =The French version, Federation International de Ski
² The Outdoor Business Climate Partnership is comprised of the National Ski Areas Association, Outdoor Industry Association and Snowsports Industry America
³ Ackerman, during her days at the WNBA in the late 90s, worked closely with then-NBA commissioner David Stern, arguably the person most responsible for the explosion in the global popularity of the league.
Last week, Sir Ben Ainslie, the most decorated sailor in Olympic history, “won” GSB’s designation as the Green-Sports Greenwash of the Year. Sir Ben, previously lauded for his and his team’s sterling commitment to clean oceans, “earned” the “award” when he named the English fracking company Ineos as his team’s title sponsor ahead of its 2021 America’s Cup campaign.
Also last week, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and UN Climate Change announced the Sports for Climate Action Framework. As part of the launch, they released a video featuring current and former Olympians urging the world to “win the race against climate change.”
Who was the first athlete to appear in the video? Sir Ben Ainslie.
While this may well be a case of the IOC and UN Climate Change not knowing about the Ainslie-Ineos partnership — or at least about Ineos and fracking — it’s also not the best way to kickoff Sports for Climate Action.
Sports played a role at the recently concluded UN Climate Change Conference (COP24) in Katowice, Poland.
The Framework, according to a UN Climate Change press release, has two key goals:
Achieve a clear trajectory for the global sports community to combat climate change in ways that help meet the greenhouse gas emissions reductions goals of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.
Use sports as a unifying tool to drive climate awareness and action among global citizens.
UN Climate and the International Olympic Committee (IOC), one of the Framework’s 17 founding signatories, produced a fast-paced, two-minute video to bring Sport for Climate Action to life. More than three dozen current and former Olympians urged viewers to support the initiative, repeating the mantra: “Together, let us win the race against climate change.”
Which athlete did the producers pick to lead off the video?
Absent the greenwash, Sir Ben was a sensible choice for that prime spot based on his commitment to sustainability and his global popularity. He promoted ocean health and, to a lesser degree, the climate fight, during his Land Rover BAR team’s three-year quest to win the 2017 America’s Cup that ultimately fell short.
What the powers-that-be at the IOC and UN Climate may not have been aware of is that Ainslie’s 2021 Cup campaign will cost as much as $40 million more than in 2017, when Land Rover BAR spent $135 million.
Sir Ben Ainslie (r), with Ineos CEO Jim Ratcliffe (Photo credit: Toby Melville/Reuters)
And perhaps the folks at the IOC and UN Climate who were responsible for the video hadn’t heard that, when British fracking and chemical company, Ineos, offered Ainslie $153 million to fund the lion’s share of his 2021 Cup quest, Sir Ben took the money.
If they did know that a fracking company is the lead funder of Sir Ben’s new Ineos Team UK, including him in the video, much less having him in the leadoff spot, would not have made sense.
So GreenSportsBlog reached out to UN Climate and the IOC to find out what they knew about the Sir Ben-Ineos partnership and when they knew it.
UN Climate has not yet responded, but the IOC issued this statement: “As an individual, an Olympic champion and a long-term supporter of the IOC’s sustainability initiatives, Sir Ben Ainslie is an outspoken advocate for climate change and other sustainability topics. This is why we wanted to add his voice to support the Sports for Climate Action Campaign. For more information about Sir [Ben] Ainslie’s sponsorship decisions, please contact his team directly.”
The IOC’s statement didn’t answer our question about what they knew about Ainslie’s partnership with a fracking company.
Our assumption was — and is — that the IOC didn’t know about the Ainslie-Ineos deal when they asked Sir Ben to do the video. It was likely just an honest mistake.
If that was the case, and our question was the first the IOC was hearing of Ainslie’s partnership with a fracking company, we simply wanted to know what they thought of it.
And they didn’t answer. Why not?
This shouldn’t be that difficult; it was a simple question. It gave the IOC the opportunity to explain.
By not doing so, the IOC leaves the impression that they are okay with Sir Ben’s greenwash.
College Football Hall of Fame coach Amos Alonzo Stagg, one of the sport’s early innovators, became an unwitting #GreenSports pioneer by having his University of Chicago Maroons eat a vegetarian diet during their 1907 Western Conference championship season. Fast-forward to the present and the NBA’s sustainability efforts continue on the eve of the start of the 2018-19 season as the Indiana Pacers installed a green roof on its training facility. And Seattle-based strategic climate action communications expert Andrea Learned pressed bike commuting as an easy, low cost way to fight climate change at the recent Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco. All in a multi-generational GSB News & Notes column!
U OF CHICAGO FOOTBALL STARTED #GREENSPORTS MOVEMENT WITHOUT KNOWING IT IN 1907 BY EATING A VEGETARIAN DIET
The finest moment in the school’s football history took place in 1934 when Maroons running back Jay Berwanger won the first Heisman Trophy as college football’s finest player.
Twenty seven years earlier, legendary coach Amos Alonzo Stagg converted the team to an all-vegetarian diet, revolutionary for that time. Heck, that would be considered radical today. Coach Stagg thus unknowingly planted the seed for the Green-Sports movement about a century before it actually took root.
Football was already in a period of rapid evolution in 1907. The forward pass was legalized a year earlier a way to open up the game.
Coach Stagg, a graduate of Yale Divinity School, adopted vegetarianism in 1905 and brought it to his squad two years later, believing “the non-flesh-eater shows far greater endurance than the athlete who eats flesh.”
Newspapers across the country savaged Stagg. “‘Vegetarians Only,’ sneered the Boston Globe. ‘Vegetable Football,’ quipped a wire story…The Chicago Inter-Ocean wrote, ‘Dried Apples, Prunes, Nuts, and Water for Maroon Team,’ while the Tribune declared ‘Kickers to Train on Squash.'”
Ex-Maroon superstar quarterback turned rookie Trib sportswriter Walter “Eckie” Eckersall nicknamed his alma mater The Vegetarians.
Technically, vegetarianism could only be a suggestion to the team but “Stagg, who had long insisted on abstinence from smoking, drinking, and cursing, enjoyed fierce loyalty from his squad, which meant, as one paper put it, ‘his suggestions are law.'”
Coach Amos Alonzo Stagg (top row center in hat) and the 1907 University of Chicago Football Team (Photo credit: Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library)
When the season opening game arrived against the visiting Indiana Hoosiers, McThenia reported that Maroons fans unveiled a new, veggie-themed cheer:
“Sweet potatoes, rutabagas, sauerkraut, squash!
Run your legs off, Cap’n De Tray^!
Sure, our milk fed men, by gosh!
Will lick ’em bad today!”
We’ll never know if it was the vegetarian diet — and/or the cheer — that did the trick for Chicago but they won easily over the Hoosiers, 27-6. Road victories at Illinois and Minnesota followed, and then came a home drubbing of Purdue, 56-0. Their 4-0 record earned the Maroons the championship of the Western Conference, the precursor to the Big Ten (seasons were much shorter back then). A non-league loss at home to the Carlisle Indians did little to dampen the fans’ enthusiasm for the team nor Coach Stagg’s conviction that the vegetarian diet had played a positive role in Chicago’s title-winning campaign.
A 1907 article on Coach Stagg’s “vegetable food” (Photo credit: Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library)
Despite the team’s success in 1907, as the 1908 season beckoned, the coach’s ardor for vegetarianism had waned somewhat, both for himself and the team. Per McThenia, Stagg “recalls going flesh-free entirely for only two years, as part of a (failed) effort to eliminate the source of chronic sciatic pain.” As for the Maroons, Stagg continued to encourage a vegetarian diet but no longer pushed it. And, always on the lookout for a new strategy, the coach brought a new “thing” to the squad that year; stimulation by oxygen.
GSB’s Take: Atlas Obscura, the site that ran Tal McThenia’s story on The Vegetarians, is fascinating. It is a self-described “global community of explorers, who have together created a comprehensive database of the world’s most wondrous places and foods.” So if you’re looking for, well, obscure places to visit, check out Atlas Obscura.
Back to The Vegetarians…More than a century later, there are several athletes and teams who have taken the vegetarian baton from the 1907 University of Chicago Maroons, including the all-vegan English fourth division soccer team Forest Green Rovers, Leilani Münter, the “vegan, hippie chick with a race car,” and 11 members of the 2016 Tennessee Titans who adopted a vegetarian diet. Hopefully when the sports media writes about vegetarian-vegan athletes and teams, it will pick up on the climate change-fighting aspects of veggie and vegan diets, most notably that it takes 8-10 times as much energy for meat to get to one’s plate as compared to fruit, grains and vegetables.
Finally, how ironic is it that Chicago, known for a century or a more as the meat production capital of the U.S. — one of its nicknames is “The Hog Butcher of the World” — is also the home to college football’s first/only all-vegetarian team?
INDIANA PACERS PLANT GREEN ROOF ON NEW TRAINING FACILITY
When Victor Oladipo and his Indiana Pacers teammates reported for training camp on September 22nd at their one year-old St. Vincent (training) Center, they did so under a new 8,500 square foot rooftop garden. About 37 percent of the garden is devoted to wildflowers, crops, and plants indigenous to Indiana.
Two views of the new green roof at St. Vincent Center, the new training facility of the NBA’s Indiana Pacers (Photo credits: Christopher Cason)
According to Christoper Cason, writing in the September 16 issue of The Score, “Architecture firm RATIO, along with the Pacers, wanted something that would…set the franchise apart from other professional sports teams. RATIO reached out to Omni Ecosystems in 2015 about installing a green-roof system that would help regulate the building’s temperature and manage stormwater.” Omni builds green-roof and green-wall systems that support a wide range of plants — including foods— as well as grasses and wildflowers.
The St. Vincent Center roof grows tomatoes, basil, beets, bok choy, carrots, green beans, kale, turnips, radish, and Swiss chard. Per Cason, “Instead of soil, the garden uses an engineered growing media that includes lightweight rocks, specific nutrients, and…earthworms.” The harvested vegetables will be used this season by Levy, the Pacers’ food service provider, at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the team’s arena next door. Any excess produce will be donated to Second Helpings, a local hunger relief non-profit.
The garden also acts as a natural HVAC system, keeping St. Vincent Center cool in hot weather and warm in the winter. This will mean lower energy bills and reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
“We’ve implemented a number of measures and campaigns around sustainability and conservation,” Brent Rockwood, senior vice president of corporate, community, and public relations for Pacers Sports & Entertainment, told Cason. “… We strive to set a positive example of environmental responsibility and innovation, and the green roof that sits atop the St. Vincent Center is a big piece to that.”
GSB’s Take: The NBA is upping their green game this season, especially at their training centers. In addition to the Pacers green roof, the LA Lakers recently installed solar panels on the roof of their new UCLA Health Training Center.
CYCLING MUST BE A MUCH BIGGER PART OF THE URBAN CLIMATE CHANGE SOLUTIONS MIX, SAYS ANDREA LEARNED OF #BIKES4CLIMATE AT GLOBAL CLIMATE ACTION SUMMIT
She’s a strategic climate action communications expert who is well-known for her Twitter presence and her Learned Onblog. Learned has worked with NGOs and corporations on their sustainability leadership platforms. And she’s a passionate urban biking advocate, having started for purely practical reasons some twenty years ago in Portland, OR.
Learned brought all of those skillsets to last month’s Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS) in San Francisco. She had hoped to see the climate change-fighting impacts of urban cycling — and walking — get visible and loud discussion as the low-hanging climate action fruit it should be.
Andrea Learned, donning the “Make America Green Again” cap, with Kate White, Deputy Secretary, Environmental Policy and Housing Coordination at the California State Transportation Agency (Photo credit: Kate White)
After all, it makes too much sense.
Per Eillie Anzilotti, writing about Learned and the GCAS in the September 27 issue of Fast Company, research shows that if, “globally, cycling commuting rates can rise from their current level of 6 percent (only around 1 percent in the U.S.) to around 14 percent, urban carbon emissions will drop 11 percent. Boosting pedestrian commuting would have similar benefits.”
Unfortunately, GCAS chose to ignore that low-hanging climate action fruit, as there was little evidence of these human-scale endeavors on the main stage. More Anzilotti: “In the summit’s list of key challenges, sustainable transportation appeared as something of a footnote; discussion of cycling and walking was often drowned out by talk of the admittedly more futuristic and startup-friendly electric vehicles.”
Of course the scaling up of EVs is crucial and the pace must accelerate quickly. But, as Learned told Anzilotti, a hyper-focus on electrifying transportation will grant a pass to cities, particularly those in the U.S., that have failed to create safe streets and bike lanes that actively encourage walking and biking.
Urban cycling as a “thing” for mayors and other politicians faces an uphill climb. EV’s are, after all, sexy. The same goes for solar panels, bus rapid transit, storage batteries and more.
To Learned, who started, builds and curates the #Bikes4Climate hashtag, big city mayors should start climbing.
“We need mayors to visibly ditch their traditional black Suburban transportation, on occasion, and bike commute instead. That will send the clear message that they some awareness of the safety and infrastructure challenges we city bike riders and commuters face every day” Learned told GreenSportsBlog, “It would also highlight the climate action and behavior change potential in individuals. Right now, the only mega-city mayor I know of who makes a point to be seen on a bike and talks about it as a carbon emissions reduction tool is Anne Hidalgo of Paris. Imagine if she’d hosted a whole session about the topic at GCAS? But, and especially in the United States right now, we have to identify, name and fame the leaders, small town or large city, who ARE pedaling their talk. ”
There is a smattering of urban cycling-pedestrian success stories, thanks in large part to women. Anzilotti highlighted a couple of them:
Barcelona’s mayor Ada Colau plans to double its cycling network in 2019 (she needs to move fast!), and reduce all vehicle traffic by 21 percent..
Toronto mayoral candidate Jennifer Keesmaat is proposing to lower speed limits, and the creation of pedestrian zones around schools.
To Learned, there’s an opportunity for policy makers in the climate action space (mayors, chief sustainability officers and more) who DO bike in their cities (for short trips and/or for their commutes) to learn from bike advocates, and to collaborate with those in the bikeshare and mobility sectors. “Leaders need to come together to see bicycles as climate action and transportation tools,” said Learned. “Seeing them as solely recreational toys is a huge mistake.”
GSB’s Take: Urban bike and pedestrian commuting needs to be a key part of any serious urban climate change-fighting plan, not the afterthought it appears to be most of the time. In fact, if people-friendly mobility isn’t already a priority in your city, then it’s time for a new mayor.
^ Leo DeTray served as captain of the 1907 University of Chicago football team
Since 2013, GreenSportsBlog has featured the teams and athletes leading the sports-greening movement. What we haven’t focused on is their work on the field, in the arena, on the track.
So in September, we launched GSB Eco-Scoreboard: Catching Up with Green-Sports Leaders on the Field, anoccasional series highlighting recent on-field/court results of the greenest teams and athletes. Why? Because if they do well, their green messages will gain a wider audience.
But what if the eco-athletes struggle?
Hey, I’m a Jets, Knicks and Rutgers sports fan. I — and a gazillion other sports fans — certainly can relate to struggle. And those engaged in the climate change fight know it is a multi-generational slog.
So the theme of today’s fourth Eco-Scoreboard entry is struggle and overcoming obstacles.
STEPHEN PISCOTTY STARTS ANEW WITH OAKLAND A’S, FIGHTS ALS ON BEHALF OF MOM
GreenSportsBlog first wrote about Piscotty last January after we learned that the then-Cardinals outfielder had majored in Atmosphere and Energy Engineering at Stanford and is keenly interested in the investment and climate change fighting possibilities in inherent in renewable energy. That Piscotty was coming off of a stellar rookie campaign in 2016 made the story all the better.
But 2017 proved to be challenging on and off the field.
On the field, Piscotty dealt with two stints on the disabled list with hamstring and groin injuries along with a sophomore slump at the plate. The double whammy led to a brief demotion to Triple-A Memphis in August.
The off field news was much, much worse as Piscotty’s mother, Gretchen, was diagnosed with ALS^ or Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
In our most recent Eco-Scorecard in January, we shared the news that Piscotty had been traded by the Cardinals to the Oakland A’s, only an hour’s drive from his parents’ home. Both the Cardinals and the A’s acknowledged that Gretchen’s illness was a factor in the trade. Amazing, no?
“It says a lot about both organizations,” Piscotty said in a February 23rd interview with Martin Gallegos of The San Jose Mercury News. “Baseball is very important, but sometimes there are other things that may take priority. It’s heartwarming and humbling, and we are so grateful.”
Piscotty is projected to be the A’s starting right fielder in 2018. After a very slow start at the plate in spring training, he rebounded over the past ten days, getting his batting average up to a respectable .269 with 2 home runs. If Piscotty can stay healthy, it says here that he will provide stability and punch to the Oakland lineup, with results resembling his breakout 22 HR, 85 RBI rookie 2016 campaign rather than his difficult 2017 (9 HR, 37 RBI).
Meanwhile, the 27 year-old has decided to set up a donation page along with his family to raise funds for ALS research.
“My mom was on board with it and we felt like getting something started would be a really cool thing,” Piscotty told Gallegos. “It actually came about by one of my mom’s really good friends, who has actually been helping us a tremendous amount at the house. She is going to run a couple races and dedicate those to my mom, so we are just rallying around that to raise funding and awareness and also kind of use my platform to attack it in that sort of way. I’m pretty excited about the support we have gotten already, and we’ll keep going.”
Stephen Piscotty in his new Oakland A’s uniform (Photo credit: Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group)
More Piscotty: “It’s one of those things that is hard to talk about, but awareness is step one and then the funding. People have to know about it before they are going to donate, and what have you. I think that is the biggest thing. The ice bucket challenge that happened a few years ago was a tremendous thing, and I think there is a jalapeno challenge that is starting to circle around, and hopefully that catches fire too. Things like that day by day and little by little will eventually get us there.”
POW MEMBER AND U.S. CROSS COUNTRY SKIER ANDY NEWELL HOPES PYEONGCHANG 2018 IS HIS LAST OLYMPICS
Cross country skier Andy Newell is a leading member of Protect Our Winters (POW), the group of elite winter sports athletes who advocate for climate action. In the run up to the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Newell co-drafted a letter with fellow Vermonter and climate change fighter Bill McKibben — and founder of 350.org — addressed to world leaders, urging them to sign the Paris Climate Agreement. He helped lead POW’s participation in the People’s Climate March in New York City last April and has lobbied members of Congress of both parties on climate-related legislation.
Qualifying for his fourth Olympics at age 34, Newell took on the high-pressured first leg of the 4×10 km relay. After a decent start — he reached the initial 1.67 km split in 8th place in the 14-team race — Newell struggled, ending up in 12th place with a time of 26 minutes 09.7 seconds, 1.28.8 off the lead. Team USA’s difficulties continued from there as they finished in last, 9 minutes 24 seconds behind the gold medal winners from Norway.
“As expected, it was tough,” Newell told USA Today Network’s Jeff Seidel. “It’s always nerve-wracking to go out first. It’s an honor to lead off the team, but it’s also a high-pressure situation. I went out and did my best. I was dying. I actually barfed my face off at the end of the race. That’s how I know I pushed myself pretty hard.”
Andy Newell (r) and Canada’s Len Valjas scrambling during the first leg 4×10 km cross country ski race at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics (Photo credit: Flying Point Road)
Newell hopes PyeongChang is his final Olympics, despite sounding like he wants to give qualifying for Beijing 2022 a go.
Wait, what? He wants to try out for another Olympics and…fail?
Well, when one considers Newell’s team-first, legacy-based ethos, his willingness to see the next generation of U.S cross country skiers beat him out four years from now starts to make some sense.
“The only thing that would make me happier than going to a…fifth Olympics would be that the U.S. team is so strong that a guy like me can’t make it,” said Newell to Seidel.“Hopefully those guys will be crushing it and they will be coming in as medal contenders…I hope that an old guy like me won’t even be able to make the team four years from now.”
FOREST GREEN ROVERS STRUGGLING TO AVOID RELEGATION
FGR took a major step up on the pitch in 2017, earning promotion from the fifth to the fourth tier of English football — the highest rung achieved in the club’s 125-year history. The trick for FGR this season is to stay in the fourth tier and avoid relegation down from whence they came. Their task is clear: finish above the bottom two places in the 24-team league when the campaign ends in May.
Newly-promoted sides often struggle to stay “up” and FGR is no different as they’ve flirted with the “drop zone” all season. But an undefeated February (three wins and a draw) gave the club some breathing room.
Forest Green Rovers’ Lee Collins (#5) exults after scoring the 81st minute equalizer in their 3-3 draw at Newport County on March 3rd (Photo credit: Forest Green Rovers)
The 81st minute came back to bite FGR at home on Saturday as it was Notts County who scored during that 60 second window to earn a 2-1 win, ending Forest Green’s six match unbeaten streak. Still, the club sits in 20th place with 37 points, seven points ahead of the drop zone with 10 matches to play.
But safety is not yet assured as the season moves to its May conclusion and the struggle continues for FGR with two road contests in four days.
First, Forest Green visits first place Accrington Stanley on Saturday. Then its a mid-week battle among two clubs eager to stay afloat when FGR heads to 19th place Crewe Alexander.
The Olympic flame is set to be doused in PyeongChang Sunday night in South Korea (the closing ceremonies will air on NBC starting at 6 AM ET Sunday). With that being the case, what better time than now for an Olympics-themed News & Notes column in which all three stories focus on climate change? We highlight the historic cross country skiing gold medal won by climate change fighter Jessie Diggins, dig in to Toyota’s powerful climate change ad that has been running during NBC Sports’ Olympics coverage, and feature Protect Our Winters’ chairman and big mountain snowboarder Jeremy Jones and his recent New York Times OpEd that makes the link between climate change fight and jobs.
JESSIE DIGGINS: CLIMATE CHANGE FIGHTER, CARBON PRICING ADVOCATE AND OLYMPIC GOLD MEDAL WINNER
Olympic cross country skier Jessie Diggins and teammate Kikkan Randall set two important firsts for the United States when they won the gold medal in the women’s team sprint freestyle race on Wednesday. The pair became the first U.S. women to ever medal in an Olympic cross country skiing event, and the first Americans, men or women, to win cross country gold.
Jessie Diggins exults as she crosses the finish line to win gold in the team sprint freestyle relay (Photo credit: Lars Baron/Getty Images)
And how’s this for another first: Diggins, from tiny Afton, MN, is the first U.S. cross country skier to win gold while also being very public with her climate change and carbon pricing advocacy.
As we noted in an earlier post, Diggins supports a revenue neutral carbon fee and dividend program (CF&D), like that proposed by Citizens’ Climate Lobby^. Carbon fee & dividend differs from a carbon tax in that the revenues raised by CF&D at the mine, well or border are passed directly on to all U.S. households rather than to the U.S. treasury department. CCL designed the program this way for two main reasons:
The direct-to-citizen dividend approach is the only way that Republicans in Congress could possibly support it. “Tax,” to the GOP, is a 4-letter word — they clearly have counting issues.
It is progressive — the monthly dividend amount sent to each household will be the same but higher income folks consume much more carbon (multiple cars, bigger homes, etc.) than those in the lower income demographics and so will, on a net basis, pay more than they get back in the dividend. Lower earners will, in the main, spend less than they get back.
Diggins is not shy about her passion for the climate change fight — she was quoted in a New York Times article at the start of the Games as saying, “you need to be able to stand up for things you believe in, and saving winter is something I believe in. It just breaks my heart because this is such a cool sport, and winter is so amazing and beautiful and I feel like we’re actually really at risk of losing it. And I don’t want my kids to grow up in a world where they’ve never experienced snow because we weren’t responsible enough.”
The newly-minted gold medal winner joined three other U.S. cross-country Olympians —Simi Hamilton, Andy Newell, Liz Stephen — in the video below that calls on all skiers to take action on climate change, specifically to ask their members of Congress to support CCL and its CF&D proposal.
TOYOTA ADVERTISES THE IMPORTANCE OF KEEPING THE WINTER IN WINTER
NBC Sports announcers commenting on events at the outdoor venues at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics have not made one mention of climate change, at least when I’ve been watching. This, despite the fact skiing and snowboarding are clearly being contested on manmade snow — in the rare instances when the camera gives a wide angle view of an outdoor venue, the viewer clearly sees wide swaths of snow-free land.
But Toyota is picking up climate change the slack with “Frozen,” a stunning 60 second ad produced by creative agency heavyweights Saatchi & Saatchi and Dentsu that emphasizes the automaker’s renewed “commitment to hybrid, electric and hydrogen vehicles…to help keep our winters winter.”
Check it out here:
Toyota is certainly not shy about telling its greener mobility story — “Frozen” has run throughout the Olympics fortnight on NBC and NBCSN, including during high profile/high viewership events like figure skating and alpine skiing. And they’re paying a pretty penny to do so: 60 second spots average $1.19 million during primetime Olympics coverage.
At some point, sports announcers will routinely highlight environmental and climate change-fighting actions taken by the teams and athletes they cover in the same way they talk about domestic violence and cancer.
We’re not there yet, unfortunately.
But, for now, advertisers like Toyota — or, Budweiser and Stella Artois in the case of the Super Bowl a couple of weeks ago — will have to do the heavy green lifting.
Which is much better than nothing.
POW CHAIRMAN JEREMY JONES: FIGHTING CLIMATE CHANGE MEANS SAVING JOBS
Jeremy Jones believes that taking on climate change is an economic as well as environmental imperative.
Jones has experienced the effects of climate change up close as a big mountain snowboarder. And he’s also in the center of the action in the climate change fight in his role as chairman of Protect Our Winters (POW), an organization made up of elite winter and snow sports athletes, including several 2018 Olympians, who advocate in Congress for meaningful action on climate. POW and winter sports athletes won GreenSportsBlog’s “Best Green-Sports Story of 2017.”
Jeremy Jones, chairman of Protect Our Winters (Photo credit: Protect Our Winters)
So it was with great interest that I read “Saving Winter Is About More Than Snow. It’s About Jobs,” Jones New York Times OpEd that ran smack dab in the middle of the Olympics. He highlighted key data points from a soon-to-be released report from POW on the economic risks to mountain areas and towns and the winter sports industry of climate change and its effects:
Winter sports are popular: “About 20 million [Americans] participate in winter sports every year.”
The mountain/winter sports economy is significant: “the 191,000 jobs supported by snow sports in the 2015-16 winter season generated $6.9 billion in wages, while adding $11.3 billion in economic value to the national economy.”
Low snow years are devastating: “causing a combined annual revenue loss of $1 billion and 17,400 fewer jobs.”
What to do? Once the Olympics are over, Jones and his POW teammates will continue taking the mountain/winter sports climate-jobs fight to Capitol Hill:
“Senators in states with vital mountain economies love to talk about jobs. These people include Senators Cory Gardner of Colorado and Dean Heller of Nevada, both Republicans, along with representatives of congressional districts that include mountain towns, like Greg Walden of Oregon, Scott Tipton and Mike Coffman of Colorado, and my district’s representative, Tom McClintock — Republicans as well.
But when the time comes to choose, these elected officials vote for legislation that will increase greenhouse gas emissions while ignoring the real threat to jobs in their own backyards — climate change. (Senator Gardner has a lifetime voting score from the League of Conservation Voters of 11 percent; Senator Heller’s score is 13 percent. The top score among the representatives was 9 percent.)”
Looking for a glimmer of hope? The jobs of Messers Gardner, Heller, Walden, Tipton, Coffman and McClintock are under threat. Because a lot of those 20 million winter sports participants Jones mentioned in his Times OpEd vote.
A TV audience of at least 15 million is expected to tune into this evening’s delayed tape coverage of the 2018 Winter Olympics opening ceremonies on NBC. Hosts Mike Tirico and Katie Couric will no doubt wax poetic about the otherworldly achievements of, and the superhuman obstacles overcome by, a gaggle of (mostly) American Olympians. But will Katie and Mike mention the impressive eco-exploits of some of American athletes? They sure would have a lot to talk about. So I got to imagining what it would be like if they went the eco-athlete route…
Mike Tirico: As you know Katie, all teams are entering the stadium in alphabetical order in the host country’s language, of course in this case, Korean. The United States, pronounced “Mi Guk” in Korean, will come in 26th following Malta and Mongolia and just before our friends in the ever-rising Atlantic, Bermuda. So we’re getting close!
Aerial view of PyeongChang’s Olympic Stadium in advance of the opening ceremonies of the 2018 Winter Games (Photo credit: Time Inc.)
Katie Couric: 고맙습니다Gomabseubnida or Thank you! And you’re right: Here comes tiny Malta, an archipelago in the central Mediterranean between Sicily and the North African coast. With that location, it’s no surprise that its Winter Olympics history is also tiny. In fact, its flag bearer, alpine skier Elise Pellegrin, is the entire Malta team. And, at the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia, Elise became the first ever athlete to represent Malta in a Winter Olympics.
MT: Fitting perhaps that an athlete would be the first Winter Olympics athlete from a country near the equator at a Winter Olympics held in a tropical climate — impacted heavily by global warming, I might add — like Sochi. Now here comes Mongolia or Mong Gol…
KC: …That’s an easy one to pronounce…
MT: …Indeed. Like Malta, Mongolia has a very small delegation — just two cross country skiers — including flag-bearer Achbadrakh Batmunkh. Unlike Malta, it does have a long Winter Olympics history, dating back to the Innsbruck, Austria Games of 1964. Their heritage has been in the Nordic sports of cross-country skiing and biathlon…
KC: …But that heritage has been under threat due to extensive drought in parts of that landlocked land. Wait, I see in the tunnel…It’s gonna be I believe…YES! Here comes the USA!
MT: Leading the 244-member squad into the stadium is luger Erin Hamlin…
KC: …Erin is a fitting flag bearer. This is her fourth Olympics and she is the first Amercian luger to ever earn an Olympic medal, taking bronze at Sochi in 2014. LOOK AT THE SPIRIT OF THE AMERICANS!! It’s INFECTIOUS!!!
KC: …And there is women’s cross country skiing medal hopeful Jessie Diggins!!
MT: Cross country skiing has been a vast Winter Olympics wasteland for Uncle Sam, with Bill Koch’s silver in 1976 the only medal the country has ever won. But Diggins hopes to double that total in the women’s 1.2 km sprint. She seems to have the tenacity necessary to get to the medal stand. Look no further than her work on the climate change fight. A supporter of a revenue neutral carbon fee and dividend, like that proposed by Citizens’ Climate Lobby, Jessie was quoted in a New York Times article earlier this week saying, “you need to be able to stand up for things you believe in, and saving winter is something I believe in. It just breaks my heart because this is such a cool sport, and winter is so amazing and beautiful and I feel like we’re actually really at risk of losing it. And I don’t want my kids to grow up in a world where they’ve never experienced snow because we weren’t responsible enough.”
U.S. Olympic cross country ski medal hopeful and carbon pricing advocate Jessie Diggins (Photo credit: New York Daily News)
KC: Amen to that!
MT: You got that right, Katie! Moving from cross-country to alpine skiing, there is Lindsey Vonn, one of Team USA’s biggest stars and brightest medal hopes!! Wow, Lindsey sure looks relaxed!
KC: Vonn, as has been well-documented, has survived a laundry list of career-threatening injuries and yet here she is again, ready to take on all comers in the downhill. The 33-year old won gold in the downhill and bronze in the Super-G at Vancouver 2010. And she looks in top form coming into PyeongChang.
MT: While she is looking for a smooth trip at the Jeongseon Alpine Centre, Vonn’s off-slope approach to life sometimes invites some bumpy controversy. Lindsey recently stated she is representing the United States and not the President here in PyeongChang and that she will not visit the White House should she win a Gold Medal.
KC: Vonn was certainly not happy when the President pulled the United States out of the landmark 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, saying in an Instagram post that “climate change is REAL and I watch the glaciers I love melt more every year…We can’t change the opinions of others but if we are all conscious and make small changes, we can make a big difference. Let’s try to save our planet!”
Lindsey Vonn (Photo credit Zimbio.com)
MT: Speaking of saving our planet, there are women’s halfpipe medal hopeful Kelly Clark and 4-time Olympic cross country skier Andy Newell. Both devote a good amount of their precious spare time to climate advocacy. In fact, last fall Andy, along with several other elite winter sports athletes, went to Capitol Hill to educate and lobby Members of Congress…
KC: …of both parties
MT: …of both parties, yes, about the effects of climate change in winter sports states like Utah and Colorado and in favor of action to help to curtail it.
Andy Newell at the 2014 Sochi Olympics (Photo credit: Andy Newell)
KC: …That’s right, Mike. And his climate advocacy work is not a new thing. Last fall, in an interview with GreenSportsBlog, Newell shared how he and Bill McKibben…
MT: …Bill McKibben of grassroots climate activist group 350.org fame?
KC: …That’s the one…How he and McKibben “drafted a letter for a group of snow sports athletes called Athletes for Action and that letter was addressed to world leaders, urging them to sign the Paris Climate Agreement.”
MT: An agreement that ultimately was ratified by over 200 countries, including the United States. As we stated earlier, the Trump Administration has decided to pull the U.S. out of Paris. We shall see how that goes. But our South Korean hosts have stayed in Paris and they’ve done some good things from a sustainability point of view with the PyeongChang Olympics.
KC: That’s right, Mike. Hyeona Kim, a senior project manager responsible for sustainability at the PyeongChang Organizing Committee or POCOG, reported that POCOG “is funding wind farms that will produce more than the minimum amount of electricity need to power the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Games.”
Hyeona Kim, Senior Project Manager, POCOG. (Photo credit: PyeongChang Organizing Committee for the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games or POCOG)
MT: Great to hear, Katie. Now, we will back with the entrance of the Bermuda delegation — where sea level rise is indeed a big concern — after this word from our sponsors.