Pro-skier Mike Douglas launches climate change advocacy group Protect Our Winters in Canada
Protect Our Winters – Pro-skier Mike Douglas will always be known as the “Godfather” of freeskiing. These days the pro-skier turned filmmaker has a twin mission: to protect winter and raise awareness about climate change. Douglas is the producer of the Curve of Time a video time-capsule to be opened in 2050 which examines the effects of climate change on the planet. He recently teamed up with professional snowboarder Marie-France Roy and pro-skier Greg Hill (featured in the video with Chris Rubens) to launch Protect Our Winters (POW) in Canada after been involved with its parent organization in the U.S.A.. Douglas has a social media following and is a voice for climate change advocacy.
The new group was in Montreal recently for a rally to promote its program Hot Planet – Cool Athletes. POW recruits pro-athletes involved in winter and outdoor sports to spread the word that climate change is not okay and something has to be done about it fast. “Our MO is to educate, advocate, and inspire,” Douglas says. Over the years the B.C. native from Whistler had become increasingly concerned about disappearing glaciers while skiing at home and abroad. The reality hit him hard. “It was devastation,” he says.
POW wanted to come in and get the attention of Canadian kids. Douglas has two of his own – a 15-year-old boy and an 11-year-old girl. “I’ve got children and I’m quite concerned,” he says. “We’re focusing on youth 13-30 years old. That’s the opportunity we see with the way we do things.” Outreach to youth by pro-athletes through participating schools is a core component of POW’s mandate. Athletes have always been role models for kids. The fact that some of them have Olympic gold medals doesn’t hurt either. “What we’re trying to do right now is to get people to realize how urgent things are with climate change.”
POW Canada has about 25 high-profile athletes who are its “Ambassadors” or spokespersons. The organization works with leading scientists to develop its educational platform. “We present the science,” Douglas says. “We present climate change from the perspective of a winter athlete who is in the fields.” Who better to know that winter is diminishing than a skier or snowboarder with a bird’s eye view of the changing landscape? POW also enlists the support of other outdoor athletes and now counts mountain bikers and trail runners as members. “Ideally, we’d like to have hockey players,” he says.
Climate change education is central to POW’s approach and Douglas hopes the information presented will encourage youth to “raise their voices.” He is hopeful that when they turn 18 and can vote they will get politicians to effect changes. “We have to transition to a green energy economy and we have to do it quickly,” he says. Douglas isn’t naive though. “Realistically, there has to be a transition period to green energy, ” he says noting the fossil fuel industry is “massively” subsidized. “Let’s start investing in a green energy solution.”
However, awareness is as good as the changes it brings about in personal behavior. Douglas has made significant changes in his own lifestyle – cutting down his air travel especially international flights – and replacing meetings with video-conferences. “When I fly I purchase carbon offsets.” Although he comes from a progressive community in Whistler where recycling and composting are the norm he doesn’t drive an electric car unlike buddy Greg in the video. “As a filmmaker, electric car technology doesn’t allow me to do my job,” he says ruefully stressing his pick-up truck will be his last gas vehicle.
Douglas says one of the problems with living greener is the belief that you have to be perfect. “I’m doing what a lot of Canadians are doing. I looked at my investments and I realized that I was investing in a lot of things I didn’t believe in. I got out of all the dirty oil companies.”
Of course, not everyone has the means to vote with their dollars. Thousands of Albertans who work in the oil sector and depend on it to feed their families and millions of Canadians who rely on oil and gas to heat their homes may feel that they don’t have to be perfect either. Therein lies the challenge to combatting climate change.
Feature image: Panelists from Left to Right: Mike Douglas (pro skier), Greg Hill (pro skier) and Marie-France Roy (pro snowboarder) (credit: Lucas Tingle)