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How I Woke Up to Climate Change's Effect on My Lifestyle

by Tim Wenger Feb 6, 2017

As a snowboarder, the past three seasons have shown me without a doubt that climate change is real, and happening right now. The itch to ride started, as it always does, with mid-September dreams of powder days. But November 1st came far too quickly this year. In a rare occurrence, Loveland Ski Area still hadn’t opened and wouldn’t until the 10th, breaking its previous late-opening record set in 1987 when the mountain opened November 6. Loveland wasn’t alone. Resorts across the state delayed openings because of “Persistent warm and dry conditions,” as news outlets reported.

These reports complement what I’ve seen both in person and through the media in recent years. During the winter of 2014/15, California was squeezed by drought. Beyond the manicured lawns of Orange County being left un-watered, the ski resorts of Tahoe had almost no snow at all, forcing some to close in March. Meanwhile, in parts of Colorado and the entire New England region, the polar opposite took place. Residents of Boston saw their city buried in snow.

Bad winters happen. Record snow years take place. That’s normal. But polarizing differences between regions across the country, and an increase in occurrences of extreme weather, are becoming a regular thing. Last winter, I rode spring conditions in early February in Colorado after a particularly warm week.

Two years ago, I joined a non-profit environmental advocacy organization called Protect Our Winters, wanting to support their environmental action and financially contribute what little I could to their lobbying efforts in Washington. Independently, I firmly advocated for progressive political candidates throughout the 2016 election season, and was encouraged to see many friends and social media acquaintances doing the same.

Following the election, a stark shift in rhetoric on the White House website and a slew of executive orders pushed many of us over the edge with panic.

I canceled a planned day of backcountry riding outside of Nederland to attend the Women’s March in Denver on January 21st. My wife flew to D.C. to take part in the original march. Moving through the streets of the Mile High City along with 200,000 others who were just as outraged and paranoid as myself inspired me to take additional action. Even my parents came out to march, the first time either had taken part in a mass protest. Walking alongside them gave me a sense of hope, like if we all get pissed off enough and yell loud enough and protest often enough we can put a stop to Trump’s madness before it starts. Over a late lunch after the march, I echoed the vibe I’d taken from the rally. “I have to do something, I have to keep this fire burning,” I told my parents.

Donating to Protect Our Winters and signing a steady stream of petitions is no longer enough for me. I’ve begun dialing my Senators almost daily. If their interns have made it through the hordes of calls and emails from angry constituents, I imagine they are sick of voices like mine by now. But I longed for something tangible, something to dig my hands into and really make an impact.

On the evening of January 23rd, I got an email from the Climate Reality Project (the organization formed by the merger of Al Gore’s two environment-based non-profits in 2006). I’ve been accepted into their Climate Leadership Corps, and invited to attend the training here in Denver in March. People from countries around the world will be there. Al Gore himself is on the docket.

Now, I’ll have an opportunity to put my money where my mouth is. Am I outraged enough to step beyond my comfort zone and work to assemble those in my network to be active in defense of our planet? Absolutely. I plan to help serve the ski community and beyond in the Denver area by organizing actionable events which help myself and other attendees learn about efforts that average citizens like us can take in our daily lives, such as working towards zero waste lifestyles in our homes and opting to use renewable energy sources to power them.

Following Donald Trump’s inauguration on November 20th, there have been many opportunities to speak out and take action. I look forward to standing alongside fellow activists in the coming months and years, resisting any attempts to quell the research of scientists and working towards a better way forward. Mr. Trump may not like it, but the most beautiful thing about our country is its system of checks and balances. Even the little guy gets a voice, and this little guy plans to go hoarse fighting for what’s right.

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