It’s hard to believe that we just passed the 3rd anniversary of GreenSportsBlog and the 10th anniversary of “An Inconvenient Truth,” Al Gore’s Oscar-winning documentary film that dramatically increased awareness of and (at least for a time) interest in the climate crisis. Regarding the former, thank you, dear readers, for your continued support. On the latter, we recently talked with Talya Tavor, Program Manager of I AM PRO SNOW at Vice President Gore’s Climate Reality Project, a grassroots non-profit in which regular folk from around the world are trained by Mr. Gore and team to present an updated version of the slide show that was at the heart of his movie to religious and community groups, businesses, classrooms, etc. Talya shared the mission of I AM PRO SNOW, its work in support of winter sports and mountain communities, and where it will go from here.
GreenSportsBlog: Before I get to Talya, I want to offer a few words about the Climate Reality Project and what it’s meant to me. It is the grassroots organization set up by former Vice President Al Gore in the aftermath of the release of An Inconvenient Truth 10 years ago to catalyze a solution to the climate crisis by making urgent action a necessity at every level of society. Mr. Gore has personally, along with his team, trained thousands of citizens around the world, including yours truly (San Francisco, 2012) to give an updated version of the slide show that was at the heart of An Inconvenient Truth. The centerpiece of my 2.5 day session was being taken through the slide show, slide by slide, by Mr. Gore for 8 hours. You might think this would be, uh, boring? Just the opposite. It was fascinating, inspiring, incredible and, in a way, life changing. Since that training I’ve given over 30 presentations to religious groups, schools, businesses, and community groups. And I started GreenSportsBlog. And that’s just me. The thousands of volunteers trained by Mr. Gore has trained nearly 10,000 leaders representing 135 countries in 31 trainings since 2006. So that’s the Climate Reality Project. Talya, tell us a bit about I AM PRO SNOW!
Talya Tavor: Well, let’s go back to the beginning. At Climate Reality, we’re working to raise awareness of what’s happening with climate change and empower people who maybe have never thought of themselves as activists to get involved in fighting it. And for the winter sports community – people who love skiing, snowboarding, or just getting outside in the snow – the reality of climate change couldn’t be any clearer as winters get warmer in some places and more and more unpredictable in others. We started I AM PRO SNOW to help people in the community connect the dots between the reports about climate change they were hearing about in the news and low snowpack or crazy seasons they were seeing out on the mountain. And most important, we wanted to give people in the community a way to do something about it and use their voices to influence policy in ways that could protect the season they love. It was also really important to get people and athletes in the community involved from Day One and get the message out there through voices everyone knew. So for the first couple years we partnered with the legendary ski filmmaker Warren Miller Entertainment to include features on climate change in films like Ticket to Ride and Flow State. We also partnered with incredible athletes like Olympic skiers Ted Ligety and Kaylin Richardson, to name just a few, to spread the word as well. As we went forward, it became clear that there was a natural constituency for this work beyond skiers and snowboarders. We saw that there were all kinds of business owners or town officials or farmers who maybe weren’t hitting the lift every weekend, but relied on the snow and predictable seasons for their livelihoods or quality of life. And we wanted to get them involved and give them a voice too. So as we were kicking things into high gear as an organization during the run up to the COP 21 climate conference in Paris, we reached out to people across winter sports and mountain communities worldwide. The Climate Reality Project was very active in building support for a global climate agreement with teeth: We collected over 6 million signatures with our partners demanding real action in Paris and pushed for a 1.5°C global temperature increase target rather than a 2.0°C goal. We were really excited to see negotiators adopt our tougher target, and we were also excited to see the I AM PRO SNOW community become such a big part of the effort to push for a strong agreement. Over 200,000 people were represented on to our letter, via iamprosnow.org demanding strong action to protect winter sports venues and mountain communities. One of the ambassadors I mentioned earlier, Kaylin Richardson, an American alpine skier who competed in the 2006 (Turin) and 2010 (Vancouver) Olympics, helped lead the coalition.
Talya Tavor, Program Manager of I AM PRO SNOW at Vice President Gore’s Climate Reality Project. (Photo credit: Talya Tavor)
GSB: That’s impressive…
TT: Wait, there’s more…While in Paris, I AM PRO SNOW hosted a panel at the World Climate Summit, with Bruno Cercley, the CEO of Rossignol; Porter Sox, Editor of Powder magazine; Olympic Snowboarder and Protect Our Winters Ambassador Seth Westcott; Elizabeth Burakowski, a climate scientist specializing on the effects of climate change on winter sports towns and cities and mountain communities; Mike Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, and Mayor Steve Skadron of Aspen, CO.
GSB: How did it go?
TT: It was AMAZING! We had a packed house. Forty-five minutes after it ended, people were still exchanging ideas about how the winter sports industry needs to do much more about building awareness of the climate crisis and also in terms of taking action.
Panelists at the I Am Pro Snow forum at COP21 in Paris at The World Climate Summit. Holding the flag are Talya Tavor, Steve Skadron, Mayor of Aspen, CO, and and Seth Wescott, Protect Our Winters Ambassador. (Photo credit: Talya Tavor)
GSB: What is the winter sports industry doing in that regard?
TT: Not much, I have to say.
GSB: Well, how does I AM PRO SNOW plan to change that?
TT: We announced this really exciting new campaign we’re launching called 100% Committed at the conference.
GSB: What is 100% Committed?
TT: The goal is to get mountain communities and winter sports businesses and cities and towns to power themselves by 100-percent renewable electricity by 2030.
GSB: I notice you specifically included the word “electricity”. Does this mean the focus of 100% Committed is solely on electricity generation for powering buildings and that it doesn’t deal with, say, transportation?
TT: That’s correct—at least for now.
GSB: How is the effort going and when and where will the hard launch take place?
TT: We’ve had a strong reception from businesses, cities and towns like Aspen – which actually started running off 100-percent renewable earlier in 2015 – that are making the commitment and starting the process of making the switch to renewable electricity. We’re hoping to have a campaign event later this year. It will bring together industry, municipal leaders, professional athletes, and leading climate advocates to invite the winter sports world and mountain communities to join us and commit.
GSB: I would think you would want to get past and potentially future Winter Olympic host cities to join in. Are you going that route?
TT: Oh yes, Winter Olympic host cities are a major focus of 100% Committed. They have to be, especially when you consider a recent study that shows that, because of climate change’s effects, only six of 19 previous Winter Olympic venues would be able to host a Winter Olympics in the year 2100.
GSB: That’s great! What about the PyeongChang, South Korea, the host city for the 2018 Winter Olympics?
TT: PyeongChang is making progress on renewable power and we plan to work with city officials for 2018, along with a number of athletes who support 100% Committed and who will likely be competing in the 2018 Olympics.
GSB: Speaking of Winter Olympic athletes, there’s another organization, Protect Our Winters (POW), which gathers together high profile winter sports athletes like multiple Olympic medal winner Gretchen Bleiler in the climate change fight. Does I AM PRO SNOW work with POW, and/or fear that there’s confusion out there about the two groups?
TT: Good questions. We respect, support, and look to work with POW as much as possible. That’s why we were really excited to bring POW Ambassador Seth Wescott to the I AM PRO SNOW panel in Paris. POW does great work—both organizations have quite different missions and strategies. POW has a strong network of professional athletes like Gretchen who have played an integral role in educating the ski and snowboard community about the climate crisis and advocating action on key federal climate issues like the Clean Power Plan. I AM PRO SNOW is focused on the entire winter sports industry and mountain communities, which is why we work with cross-country skiers, bobsledders, and anyone who depends on snow. Second, I AM PRO SNOW is focusing on action at the local level. We’re launching 100% Committed to answer that age old question of, “Okay, I understand the issue, but what can I do?”.
GSB: That makes a ton of sense to me. Beyond 100% Committed, what’s next for I AM PRO SNOW?
TT: So far, we’ve focused on snow sports and the cities and towns that support them. We also realize there are towns and communities that are engaged with ice sports. And that ice hockey is one of the most popular sports in the world. So getting ice sports and the infrastructure around them to join the climate crisis fight with us is certainly on the docket.
GSB: Well, I think you’ll find some willing partners in the ice sports world. We will check in down the road to see how that goes.
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