WildSnow Environmental Manifesto

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This post by WildSnow.com blogger  

I was talking advertising with someone and they mentioned my non-conformist take on environmental issues could be problematic when it comes to obtaining support for WildSnow.com. It is a given that many advertisers tend to conform (in public, anyway) to the climbing/skiing industry popular norm in environmental thought, and they like supporting folks with the same views. Thus, I’ve been fortunate that advertisers such as Black Diamond respect me and my right to express myself enough to support this website — even when we’re not always on the same page politically.

But when you think about it, how could anyone who expresses honest opinion ever think exactly like everyone else? We would cease to be human if that was the case. Thus, any opinion blog worth reading will swing to either side of the norm.

I’m a non-conformist and an independent thinker. At times I’m just plain wrong about things. Other times my way is an enjoyable and even productive approach to life. For better or worse, it runs in the family. My father was a non-conformist as well. He was a hippy in Aspen before being a hippy was cool, and even got thrown out of a restaurant for wearing a beard. I’m my father’s son in so many ways (though probably not in the hippy category, though I’ve tried). And that’s human as well. Life can be tough when you don’t go with the flow, but if a civilization intends to progress rather than devolve it needs a variety of thought, including individuals who dance outside the box.

At any rate, here is a re-written version of my reply to the person I was talking advertising with (names are changed to protect the innocent). They were ribbing me about my take on environmentalism, but giving me kudos for trying to go paperless at the OR show by only taking USBs and CDs for press kits:

Hi J.D., I’m glad I green-redeemed myself by trying to go paperless at the show. I also shunned all those worthless plastic gewgaws that people haul out by the sackload, though I did score a schwag jacket made from water bottles and some chapstick on a rope that was made from recycled bee sweat. So, even though I’m now environmentally sensitive I appreciate your ribbing about my enviro blogging as it gets me thinking.

My mission as an enviro-skeptic here at WildSnow.com is to call out the hypocrisy and political power mongering that is resulting in an amazing amount of talk with little to no effective action (the much vaunted “conversation”). In my opinion, most environmental activism these days has emphasis which is mostly wrong, and I intend to frequently express my opinion about that. Perhaps I should be more clear about this position in my blogging, as perhaps I do sometimes sound like someone who doesn’t give a rip about future generations and all that, when I actually do care as much as anyone.

While I feel we in North America have made significant progress in cleaning up our air and water by legislating rules for industry and transportation, I truly believe that the majority of enviro stuff people are exerting energy on has little to no effect on stopping global warming, and frequently has little to no benefit in other areas as well.

I believe global warming is happening but don’t feel it can be stopped any more than we can stop world hunger. Slowed down perhaps, but not stopped. I don’t blame global warming for every interesting weather event, or for my headaches. I also believe global warming is being used as a political power base and as a fear tactic to manipulate people, I don’t like that, so I tend to see things through that lens.

Regarding the annoying euphemism “climate change,” it’s always happened and always will. So you won’t see me substitute that word for the more precise term “global warming.”

Regarding outdoor recreation and environmental ethics I feel the general population needs more access to the backcountry, not less. Which is why I’m always questioning Wilderness and road issues, and feel motorized recreation has a place.

My ethical basis for being a backcountry access advocate is I feel the only thing that speaks power in our society (or most any modern free society) is direct tangible value. If the backcountry is valued for recreation, it will be cared for, resulting in resource extraction being done in a more sensitive fashion. If the backcountry is valued as some sort of spiritual preserve that simply locks up resources, then it will eventually fall to those who want those resources (which is actually all of us unless you’re dressing in spruce bark and living in a cave). That’s not the feelgood rah rah bandwagon, but that’s my take and I believe I’ve got a valid point of view or I wouldn’t continue to express it.

Along those lines, I strongly believe that the vast majority of outdoor recreation actually benefits from a network of roads in the backcountry. I’d like to see more roads and trailheads. I’m thus a skeptic about making the concept of “roadless areas” a god when it comes to benefiting the outdoor industry or outdoor recreation. I also believe roads are not nearly as destructive to the environment as some say they are, in fact, I believe most roads are “sustainable.” This based on 40 years of direct observation.

Regarding legal Federal Wilderness, I strongly feel we have enough in some areas, but need more in others. Before coming out strongly for or against any given Wilderness proposal, I’d study it with care regarding recreation access and variety combined with conservation, and then form opinion.

In the end, we should all remember one fact about opinions. If you agree with someone’s opinion it is wisdom, if you disagree, it’s just an opinion (or worse, to some folks). Hopefully my advertisers understand that. From what I’ve seen, our blog readers already understand and I thank all of you for that. Comments on!

‘best, Lou

Comments

23 Responses to “WildSnow Environmental Manifesto”

  1. Tyler Cruickshank February 2nd, 2007 10:38 am

    Here is my take the environment issue(s):

    I am starting from the assumption that the earth and its people were created/designed by God. Call this creation or intelligent design – it doesn’t matter right now. By creation I mean creation of man/woman, mountains, snow, recreation, culture, arts, business etc. Next, lets describe these created items has having a direction and a structure (I take this straight out of a book by Albert Wolters called “Creation Regained: A Reformational Basis for a Christian Worldview”). By structure I mean that what God created/designed is inherently good and was designed with a proper order. By direction I mean is this creation moving towards or away from God? I believe, based on what are essentially Biblical commands, that we are to be stewards of creation and actually taking creation and enhancing it in order to reveal God’s glory. This applies from creation that ranges from the internal combustion engine to the arts.

    So the question is: What is the current direction of the environment? I say it is away from God. Are we enhancing our environment? No. Acid rain, nitrification, air pollution, cfc’s and stratospheric ozone depletion, greenhouse gases and climate warming. We are degrading our environment and quickly moving the direction of this wonderful creation far away from an example of God’s creativity. The internal combustion engine, manufacturing, fertilizer — all these are all great examples of how we have enhanced creation, but I am afraid the “direction” has taken a wrong turn. The good news is that we can each play a role, even if our role is very small relative to the larger problem, in redeeming this creation. In doing, so we participate in God’s ongoing work of redemption of the entirety of what He has created. Just because the impact of our lone actions is a drop in the bucket, doesn’t mean that our stewardship and participation in the process of redemption is not vitally important.

  2. Ben February 2nd, 2007 10:56 am

    The seventh paragraph of your letter sums up my feelings on wilderness areas beautifully.

  3. David Eye February 2nd, 2007 11:53 am

    Lou;

    You are above all, one of the most independently minded, thoughtful persons I’ve ever met.

    Most all people I know who have spent as much time in the backcountry as you literally “cannot see the forest ” because of all the political crap posing as science. Now don’t get me wrong, I support the scientists when it is backed up with studies, but as you know there is alot going on that is really about land-grabbing for our own personal interest,.. my use is more holy than yours, etc.

    Stick to your guns !!! (I have every faith you will).

    David Eye
    Fort Collins CO USA

  4. dave downing February 2nd, 2007 2:10 pm

    lou.
    you have one of the only pro-environmental view points that i respect. i say “Dawson for Prez.” I love that you can have a balanced view that won’t kill the planet, but allows mtn biking in the woods:)
    cheers.

  5. Jay Jurkowitsch February 2nd, 2007 4:20 pm

    Lou and the Rest; I can only ay that you guys are both right and wrong on severak degrees. Rather than get into a pt. by pt. detailed arguement, let me state or restate my PRIMARY factor to ALL problems; environmental, political, resource, global warming, solvable or not; TOO MANY DAMNED RATS IN THE CAGE!!
    Reduce population – you reduce and/or eliminate these problems!! So, at your NEXT volunteer function; Let’s get about 90% of the Earths Pop. to volunteer to leave!! Their choice of techniques! The we can ALL have what we want/need/deserve,ect!!

  6. Larrry February 2nd, 2007 4:37 pm

    Jay, why don’t you lead by example and start a line for volunteers for you program. I’ll hang in here and turn out the lights when everyone is gone.

  7. Tim Carroll February 2nd, 2007 4:55 pm

    To Lou, I say that your passion is commendable but your attempt to prioritize things is misguided. Stopping global warming but letting water and air and land pollution continue is hypocritical. Saying we’ve done enough for land, air and water pollution is just plain wrong. Some serious study will show that there is a significant, important connection between air-water-land pollution and global climate change… the connection is deep and rests in perspective, the perspective that assumes man’s desires in the world of material –and especially fiscal/capital matters– always has priority. Such a perspective is scientifically mistaken and in some cases, willfully ignorant and even sometimes an outright attempt to mislead through lies.

    ++++++++++

    To David Eye, who said:

    “Most all people I know who have spent as much time in the backcountry as you literally “cannot see the forest â€? because of all the political crap posing as science. Now don’t get me wrong, I support the scientists when it is backed up with studies, but as you know there is alot going on that is really about land-grabbing for our own personal interest,.. my use is more holy than yours, etc.”

    David, I wonder about what you reference when you speak of “political crap posing as science,” and I wonder what is your basis for saying whether something is science or, to use your phrase, “political crap.” In my humble yet scientifically learned view, I acknowledge there is political distortion on both sides of the debate, but must emphasize that the vast majority of the distortion is done by the purveyors of JUNK science who want to protect their economic and material interest in continuing to befoul the earth, its waters, and its atmosphere. There is an industry focused upon sham science “studies” and their resultant publications, and there are many many many Americans who are too naive or ignorant of matters scientific to know when they’re being lied to or gulled. Most of the entities which hire and publish the work of junk science purveyors have fancy-sounding names and titles, and most of those fancy names are chosen to completely betray the purpose and intent of those entities. It is common to see an entity call itself something like “Friends of the Environment” when its core purpose is to relax federal and state effluent standards imposed upon chemical and other industrial entities.

    What I’m saying here is, please be careful when you assume that someone is telling you the truth, and if your political bent is toward the right side of the bipolar political spectrum, then you need to have a double dose of skepticism because your perspective is inclined to agree with those who seek to distort the public’s view for the sake of continued or enhance financial profit and material wealth.

  8. Ryan February 2nd, 2007 6:07 pm

    This is just selfish stance. People are so mixed up about this. The point isn’t whether we can stop global warming or climate change, the point is that regardless we do the right thing. We shouldn’t need knowing that we will stop global warming as a reason to reduce emissions and pollution we should just do it becasue we can. Because it is right.
    Can anyone argue that solar and windpower does not make more sense then electricity generated from coal or burning petroleum? These technologies are available they just need to be perfected. If we decide today to start using clean energy it isn’t going to happen tomorrow. It will take time, possible decades to make it efficient, and that is why we should commit to it now not 10 years from now.

    And I am glad you like the backcountry and want more access, so do i, but that doesn’t make it right. Pure wilderness areas are becoming very important. We are slowly pushing our houses and roads and buildings into every nook and crannie and while we better our lives we worsen other animals and plants livelyhood. And maybe not tomorrow, maybe not in 20 years but sooner or later this is going to come back to bite us because we are all connected. Choose to be ignorant if you like but the science is firm.

  9. Tim Carroll February 2nd, 2007 6:56 pm

    Here’s what I was talking about regarding the junk science purveyors and the corrupting influence of money/wealth:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/frontpage/story/0%2C%2C2004399%2C00.html

  10. Randonnee February 2nd, 2007 7:49 pm

    Thanks for expressing your views, Lou. We all can agree to conservation and good stewardship in regard to maintaining a healthy environment. I can agree that human use of our Public Lands needs more emphasis, while maintaining proper and good stewardship of the land.

    To accept the popular view of GW (human-caused) is certainly accepting consensus- not science- and actually constitutes faith in a specific value system. If it were so clear cut, human-caused GW would be provable. The promotion of the GW popular line is mainly political in nature and involves money, in fact a large worldwide industry. The popular GW discussion quickly goes in the direction of political power, the limiting of individual rights, the transferring of wealth, and attacking and trying to silence anyone who does not bow to the GW altar. There are quite a few different reputable sources with questions about the popular GW line that bring it into doubt. Clearly there are some measurable and noticable (in our short human memory) weather trends that seem to constitute a significant change. However, it is so amusing to see all the recent cold weather anomalies being ignored because these events do not promote the GW faith.

    It is so interesting to know that so many keen promoters of the popular GW line are in fact unabashedly huge consumers of manufactured products, goods, services, housing, petro fuel etc. It is so amusing to read about trading carbon credits or whatever from GW-line promoting individuals who live in a large cities far from the mountains and spend their spare time driving for hours every week to the mountains to do some ski touring. Many of these individuals want sacrifice to be forced- from others- in order to solve the problem that they have imagined.

    The use of hydrocarbon energy has elevated the health and well being of humans to never before seen standards of living. We live longer, have more comfort, more “stuff,” more food, more leisure, and on and on. I am quite thankful to have the standard of living that has been attained. My family lives comfortably, travels, recreates, has opportunities and luxuries as a result of our standard of living.

    Today was my 41st randonnee ski powder day since November 9th, with about 1/2 of those tour approaches snowmobile supported (powder can be found here with the right transportation technology combined with sweat). For that I am truly thankful and did in fact express this at our dinner table prayer this evening!

  11. David February 2nd, 2007 8:34 pm

    I’m not surprised that some folks question Lou’s environmental perspective. While I find Lou’s insights on many outdoor topics to be unique, interesting, and well worth my time, often he reads like a certain overweight radio host when discussing environmental issues. The recent post that seemingly blamed Enviros for the not solving the smog issues in Salt Lake City comes to mind. Discussions of GW also veer toward this Exxonesque perspective.

    I would guess that some of it is mild bluster (like the common diss of Tele stuff). Yet I’ve read enough of it to recognize it and tune Lou out when I see it coming. This might be what the advertisizers are noticing as well.

  12. Mike Marolt February 2nd, 2007 8:48 pm

    Lou: Let’s hope we have a little global warming up at sunlight this weekend.

    See you up there. M

  13. Steve Seckinger February 2nd, 2007 10:07 pm

    Tim,
    Perhaps David Eye would have to define his exact definition of “political crap” to all of us, but I’m not sure I understand your definition of “junk science”. I would suggest though that political crap is what we may hear when any politician (i.e. senators, governors) publicize their views on such topics as global warming, ending the war in Iraq, or mandatory vaccination of young girls (see today’s news). I would not go along with your example of junk science though with a reference from The Guardian – it’s historically been a bit too leftish for me. I’d prefer The Independent.

    (For the record I did attend a well known natural-resources school in Ft. Collins, breathe the SLC muck every day, and am friends with David. I also just attended the UAC fundraiser where skiers, snowmobilers, and heli-types all got along which I think was Lou’s point.)

  14. H2O Joe February 2nd, 2007 11:42 pm

    Lou you’re dead on. I once lived with a biologist who had been an environmental canvasser at one point. He was always abit self righteous and spouted doom and gloom about how people were destroying the earth yet he used an electric razor and slept on a heated waterbed. Whenever I called him on the issue he shrugged it off and never had an answer. It was always “what the other guys are doing.” I think that is the crux of the problem. Everyone wants everyone else to bear the sacrifice for a “better” planet. We tend to be a selfish and self centered species. Oh yeah. I recycle and try to buy organic, etc. but I still drive my van less than a mile to the store for beer when it’s cold out. Peace, love and powder to the people.

  15. Tim Carroll February 3rd, 2007 12:55 am

    “To accept the popular view of GW (human-caused) is certainly accepting consensus- not science- and actually constitutes faith in a specific value system. If it were so clear cut, human-caused GW would be provable.”

    Sorry, but that’s not how bioscience works. It works by disproof, not by proof. You’ve confused bioscience with geometry.

    Also, it’s NOT provable because nobody gathered finite detailed data before the industrial age arrived.

    Your statement probably sounded good in your head and might even convince a few fake-skeptics, but that doesn’t mean it’s accurate, fair, honest or scientific.

  16. Tim Carroll February 3rd, 2007 1:01 am

    Also, as a final statement this evening to Lou –

    Lou, when you start your rant by giving your Ancestral Hippie Cred (“my dad was a hippie when hippies weren’t cool”) it is rather obvious that you’re going to parrot something from the mind of someone like Gale Norton or Dale Bosworth. I realize you’re a Christian and with some Christians there’s that “manifest destiny” thing (which really isn’t even remotely Biblical, but that’s another debate for another rant), but honestly if you think making excuses for pollution is good Christian doctrine, I have to wonder which Jesus Christ you claim to follow. It sounds to me more like the Pat Robertson/Jerry Falwell version, whereas I’d say you’d be hewing a lot closer to the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth if you were more a mimic of Wendell Berry.

  17. NOTstradamus February 3rd, 2007 9:09 am

    Every now and then I find it mandatory to step through the fifth dimension and give you silly talking monkeys a path . This is one of those times. The readers of this should consider themselves the chosen ones. The ones to deliver the message.
    1 The climate is not constant but in a state of impermanance. The climate is going through a pattern that is predictably forseeable through human scientific calculation of greenhouse gas building up in our atmosphere.There is nothing to worry about, as this has happened before . The last time the atmosphere was in this condition, it was created through volcanic eruption -resulting in an era known as the ice age.
    2 There are two more levels of evolution to come -hence the formula of fortysix plus two. Everything from opposable thumbs and primitive toolmaking to i-pods can be accounted for in this equation. Followers of religions must ask why god is opening up a can of whoop ass on the citizens of earth. Perhaps this a payback for evils done in past lives? Pray for evolution.
    3More roads with more engines. Sounds like we need Bush for four more years and a couple more wars. Refer to number 1.
    4Hippies have always been cool.
    5The blog section of this website is a direct reflection of the current snowpack. High avy danger results in lots of pent up,misguided energy.

  18. Matt Kinney February 3rd, 2007 11:42 am

    I find it interesting that some of these companies would question Lou’s opinion on the environment but have no issues having their company emblems plastered on websites and helicopter cowlings in the Chugach and Canada.

    If the ski industry wants to do something “environmental” they should boycott the heliski industry in North America, pehaps the most gregarious example of recreational waste and laziness in any sport.

  19. Jason Hendrickson February 3rd, 2007 12:09 pm

    Lou,

    Wow, religion, science, politics, emotions, philosophy, where do I start?
    Frankly, I for one am a “believer” in human caused global warming for a few reasons. Many of the hottest years on record have occured in the past ten years. Granted, no one blames global warming for anomolous cold events, but temperature is a measure of the energy in a system. The more energy present in any system, the more chaotic the system can become (think a group of third graders after a bunch of candy and coca-cola), and more erratic events will occur. Therefore, oddly cold weather events sould be an expected result of global warming.
    Granted, other events like volcanic eruptions and forest fires add large amounts of “greenhouse gasses” into the air. However, volcanos erupt at fairly regular intervals, and our climate has remained fairly stable over the long term with those eruptions, so that seems unlikely to cause the warming. Forest fires only release carbon dioxide that was recently (within the last 50 to 100 years) atmospheric anyway, and thus don’t affect the aggregate level significantly.
    What leads me to believe that GW is human caused is that we are burning fossil fuels that have kept huge quantities of carbon sequestered for hundreds of millions of years. This is carbon that was removed from the atmospheric cycle during the time of the dinosaurs. Putting that carbon back into the cycle does add significantly to the amound of carbon available for global warming.
    That said, I don’t go door to door harrassing my neighbors, I don’t condescend to others who disagree, and I don’t lambast my friends over their choices, nor do I belong to any groups who do. I just drive a smaller truck, ride the bus as much as I can, and live in a small place. How my choices impact the environment factors into what I choose to do, what I buy, and what I throw away. If we all lived our lives according to our beliefs, I think we’d find that we could all get along just fine.

    J

  20. Eric Steig February 3rd, 2007 3:13 pm

    I agree with Matt! The ski companies have some real audacity in questioning Lou’s “greenness”. We’re ALL less green than we probably should be, but self rightiousness doesn’t get us anywhere.

    I also agree with Lou that a lot of stuff that “enviros” talk about is pretty useless on its own. But there are serious things that can, and should be done. Namely, we need a serious international agreement on limiting carbon emissions. In fact, I have absolutely no doubt this will happen. The question is whether we waste time trying to prevent it — on very dubious “economic grounds”, or whether we get with the program and (as Americans in particular) show some leadership on this.

    Lou is right of course that we can’t “stop global warming”. But as he says, we can maybe slow it down. And that’s a non trivial thing. I’m a working scientist in this field, and I can assure you that the majority of scientists that work on this stuff actually aren’t “doom and gloomers”. But they do think it is serious. And what our increasing understanding of the situation shows is that taking some serious action now will make a big difference to our future — or more specifically that of our children.

    Specifically, the most recent studies suggest we can stabilize things at a couple of degrees warmer than present by taking realistic international action now (not so different from the very successful Montreal protocol that has kept the Antarctic ozone hole from getting our of control). Business as usual (meaning everyone living like we do now in the U.S.) will probably mean significantly greater warming — more like 6 degrees or so.

    And one thing that is pretty darn certain is that under either scenario — but especially the latter — we’ll have less snow in the Northwest, and in Europe. If that’s not enough for us ski types to take it all seriously, I don’t know what it is.

  21. Jay Jurkowitsch February 5th, 2007 3:32 pm

    WHY is it, that when someone replies and doesn’t pull any punches – the typical reply to them is; YOU GO FIRST??
    Yes, the whole world needs more recreation and outdoor recreation,BUT there isn’t enough quality outdoors left. How about NYC stop whining and SETTLE for Central Park as their outdoor experience? A massive,planned decrease in WORLD population is needed and if people don’t do it – NATURE WILL!!
    Plus – it is definitely time for everyone to accept the reality of Global Warming – as per the IPCC report. Even that report is candy coated as to what can be dowe – but they at least accepting the FACT that GW is here and WE added to natural processes that has made the situation life threatening – if not species threatening!!
    So, if we don’t suck it up and do the sacrifice it requires ; then the Gov’ts of the world will ram regs. down your throat!!

  22. Chris February 6th, 2007 12:36 pm

    Lou, why not offer a skier/climate scientist like Eric a few guest blogs if he is willing?

    Nothing like having an actual climate scientist discuss climate….

  23. Lou February 6th, 2007 12:41 pm

    Eric, if you feel like possibly doing a guest blog you can email me via the contact option in the nav menu on all my web pages.

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Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information opinion website and e magazine. Lou's passion for the past 45 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about backcountry skiing and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free back country news and information here, and tons of Randonnee rando telemark info.

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