A while ago I had the opportunity to talk to Jeremy Jones. Jeremy Jones is a real freerider and the founder of POW (Protect Our Winters). He had to SUP through the canals of Amsterdam for a promotional activity for one of his sponsors that morning. I had been surfing some nice waves on my home break that same morning. The jealousy could be seen in his eyes which immediately gave me the first lesson of that day: you may be Jeremy Jones and there might be good surf, but the sponsor goes first.
Fortunately, I could talk with Jeremy about every subject. No forced conversation about new apparel, new films or new boards. I was allowed to decide what I wanted to talk about and I am still grateful to Jeremy and his press agents for that. The only thing we had to 'do' was to take a snapshot for Insta (see above).
I was grateful because at the time of the conversation I was in the middle of my search for the climate, the consequences for freeride and what I could possibly do about that myself. With the following in mind, I started a quest and wrote about it in this article earlier this winter.
What if less and less snow cmoes down? Is that a disaster? And if so, for whom? At wePowder we have avoided the climate discussion for years. With the motto: we are freeriders, we do not harm anybody, we've kept ourselves quiet for years. We love the outdoors, what could go wrong? A little naive of course. Because what if the warming is due to people? What can I still do as a freerider? Do I have to stop riding to stop global warming? I now assume that global warming is a realistic risk AND that we can do something about it. Better safe than sorry.
A quest in which I had the luck to speak with Jeremy Jones.
Why do we need to partner with you? Jeremy responds immediately: I have been in the mountains every winter for the last 30 years. Winters in which climate change became increasingly clear to me. I was born in Jackson Hole, Wyoming and raised with cold winters and endless snow, until it rained in my village for the first time in January about 15 years ago. At first there was astonishment ('this is something we've never experienced'), but after that it has become something ordinary. More and more we have periods with rain during the winter months. My second realization came in Chamonix in which the hike after the Vallée Blanche descent became longer and longer and still is getting longer because the glacier quickly retreats. So it was not a local problem in Wyoming. It has also become warmer in Chamonix.
My very first reactions to global warming were denial and selfishness. It is so much easier to deny the warming than to actually take action. But I could not do that forever. The evidence of global warming was piling up and I experienced the results winter after winter. Global warming is real. More than ever, ski areas have become dependent on artificial snow to be able to open a complete winter. You could say that we've tackled the problem, but we won't make it just with artificial snow. The fact that winters are getting warmer also means that snow will fall more and more often as rain.
I can deny the role of us humans, says Jeremy, but if 97% of scientists agree that we play a significant role in global warming the last decades, then who am I to deny this? The earth is warming up and according to scientists, we have an important role in this. That is bad news, but on the other side it's good news. If we can warm up the earth, then maybe we can cool it down again.
When I spoke to Jeremy, Trump had just rejected the Paris climate agreement. What can you do if the most powerful person on the planet denies the problem? Yes, a good question, according to Jeremy. But let's not forget that I also denied the problem at the beginning, says Jeremy. The biggest challenge in the US is that more than half of the elected governors think climate change is no more than a hoax.
It's a devastating conclusion, because it is precisely the governors who have the key to the solution, says Jeremy. They can make great strides by indirectly closing coal-fired power plants. By investing in sustainable energy and thereby giving a clear signal for the future. With POW I deliberately do not focus on a ban on snowmobiles or big pick ups. I need the support of those groups. That Trump withdrew from the Paris agreement was not directly a defeat for us. It was a shock, that's for sure. Fortunately, there is a second option. In the US the senators are directly elected. As a result, they are very sensitive to the opinion of their supporters at the state level.
By starting coalitions with snowmobilers, touring skiers, outdoor freaks, concerned parents, drivers of a pickup, environmental activists etc. it is possible to apply our influence at local level. Senators need our votes and the same senators know the electricity companies well. Our influence on the senators and their influence on the companies ensures that they make choices that are substantial. By closing coal-fired power stations and switching to sustainable energy, we as a state take a much bigger step than when I try to campaign against riders of a snowmobile. Of course, with POW we encourage the use of more economical or even electric cars. But it is of little use when an electric car is underway on coal-induced energy. That seems cleaner and is also cleaner in the immediate environment, but that large coal-fired power station is still burning. The effect on CO2 emissions is then nil.
A year later we see the results of the broad coalitions against coal-fired plants. More and more electricity companies opt for (more) sustainable solutions. A first success for the broad coalitions that POW also contributes to. Even without the presidential elections, citizens can make a point in the US.
Jeremy continues: we need the governors and senators like no other. Of course it is good if I eat less (or no meat) as an individual, if I use less energy, but without the senators we can not make big steps towards a cleaner future. It is fantastic, of course, if everyone stops using plastic water bottles, but that alone will not save the world, according to Jeremy. We have to make substantial steps and that starts with awareness.
Let's be honest. Skiing or snowboarding is not a cheap sport. It attracts many rich people. People who are often powerful and have influence in one way or another. We must continue to tell these people our story. Freeriders are like the canary pies in a coal mine. Especially the freeriders among us who are on their way in the mountains every day. Almost all mountain guides I speak see the warming around them. They are often riding with the more rich and more powerful people.
Sentors and governors also have holidays and many of them go out in the mountains. To get away from the rat race, to enjoy nature and snow. To make a nice run with friends or a mountain guide. These are the moments that they are open to a conversation and reflection. These are the moments that we can tell the story. We can tell that story, says Jeremy. Companies can take the step to renewable energy. We can help them with that.
As groups we can put pressure on senators and force them to make big choices. Closing coal-fired power stations is such a big choice. But you can also make your voice heard as an individual. Every time you buy a product you can vote with your money. What does the brand stand for? Where does the product come from? What is it made of? How long does it last? Do you really need it? You can make choices by consciously spending your money.
I did some more research after the interview with Jeremy. I didn't have a clear picture yet of the hidden CO2 impact of all the stuff we own. Many of the things that we use every day are made in Asia. TV's, laptops, mobile phones, your down jacket, your shell, your goggle. Say all those stuff you find on Aliexpress. The emissions from cars and factories around the corner are easy to see, but research has shown that the impact of the items we buy and (we think we) need is much greater. I will elaborate on this in one of the following articles.
We have tried to make the goals as concrete as possible, according to Jeremy. And our list looks like this:
A smile appears on his face, but at the same time he's quiet. He clearly struggles with this subject. Jeremy indicates that his flying hours have been drastically reduced and that he will cut even further in his flying hours the coming period. But sometimes you have to take a plane to be able to tell your story. If a flight can contribute to the closure of a coal-fired power station, it is useful, but on the other hand, we will really have to fly less.
Thanks to the interview with Jeremy, I looked deeper (or further and higher) into air traffic to get a better sense of my impact and the impact of the industry as a whole. Strangely enough, flying seems to be exempt from the Paris climate agreement.. Flying appears to have a huge impac,t but is not on the radar as a polluter. Nobody feels responsible or wants to take responsibility, it seems. I will elaborate on this in one of the following articles.
I still had a lot of questions after the interview with Jeremy. I realized how much I did not know (yet) in the train on the way home. Jeremy taught me a number of things:
Where my head was pretty clear due to a morning surf session, it was completely full after the conversation with Mr. Jones. Am I a denier? And what can I do if I accept the problem? More coming soon.