As snowboarders we’re on the front lines of climate change, witnessing the affects on winter and the environement first-hand. Now more than ever we need the winter sports community to join together in the fight against climate change. Feeling like you can speak out isn’t always easy to do though, which is why this Earth Day 2015, Marie-France Roy wanted to share how she found her voice on this issue and how, through starting with little actions, we can move towards the kind of big change we need. — TransWorld SNOWboarding managing editor, Gerhard Gross
Marie-France Roy. Photo: Jussi Grznar
For years, I've struggled with calling myself an environmentalist or speaking out about climate change. As a professional snowboarder I travel around the world, using planes, helicopters, snowcats, and snowmobiles. Because of the nature of my job, I know I have a larger carbon footprint compared to people who don't travel as much.
Until recently, I never felt I could speak about climate change issues because I represent brands—I represent consumption through promotion. A big part of my job is to inspire people to travel and explore the world. This always weighed heavily on me, so I never publicly brought up my concerns about climate change. It seemed hypocritical. I felt guilty.
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that if we can't have any environmental impact or carbon footprint in order to speak out, it's going to be game over for the planet. We all have an effect on the environment and climate. It's just the way our world currently works.
I really wanted to reduce my footprint as much as possible and the easiest way to do that is in my daily life. Of course I recycle and compost but it can go way beyond that. I reduce the amount of meat I eat and try to choose organic, local products, as well as ethical fish and seafood. I drink from a reuseable water bottle as much as possible and buy cleaning and beauty products that are free of harmful chemicals. I changed my RRSPs (similar to a 401(k) in the US) to ethical funds. I buy carbon offsets for my travels. I support, donate and keep myself educated by working with Protect our Winters and the David Suzuki Foundation. I constantly look for the latest science, inspiring technologies, and information about the environment and climate change. It took me a couple of years, but I even built my own off-the-grid cobb house using recycled and natural materials. And finally, I invested my own savings and time into making The Little Things film, which was probably the best way for me to use my assets and lifestyle to create a positive influence.
I really believe it's important to take responsibility for my lifestyle. But even if we all did these things and more, it wouldn't result in the kind of shift we need to really combat climate change. With 2014 making history as the hottest year on record, it's time for all of us to demand action on climate from our political and business leaders.
I know sometimes it can feel like politicians and businesses don't listen, but it's important to remember that we've come together to influence some incredible changes in the past. In 1970, over 20 million people joined in the first Earth Day rallies in the US, and thanks to that groundswell of public support, in that same year President Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency. Nixon wasn't historically pro-environment, but thanks to overwhelming pressure from the people, he took action. The EPA, and sister organizations such as Environment Canada, have been essential in passing laws that stopped environmental degradation from being so much worse than it already is.
Just last September the largest climate rally in history took place in New York City, with over 300,000 people marching to support action on climate change. This is the kind of mass movement we need to see more of—it took 20 million people to drive real action on the environment in 1970 and it will take many of us coming together again to form the laws we need to truly reduce carbon emissions and halt climate change. The great thing is, we know it's possible.
As members of the winter sports community, we've all got to find our lever in the fight against climate change. For myself, and I'm sure many of you, the most immediate way to feel like you're making a difference is to start with the little things, like changing your daily habits. But at some point, we have to take the next step and show politicians and companies that we want laws and business practices that reduce carbon emissions as well.
All this is within our reach. It's a simple as joining an organization like Protect Our Winters, which I'm a part of. It's as simple as signing the next petition that shows up in your email or attending the next climate rally in your area. It's as simple as voting in the next election for the candidate that represents your environmental values.
Most of all, I think it's about realizing that none of us are perfect, but you don't need to be to change your habits and stand up for what you believe in.