By Aaron Teasdale
"There's snow up here, I promise," I assure my son Jonah, as we grunt up a south-facing mountainside in Glacier National Park in July. A mountain goat cocks its head as if to say, "What kind of crazy people hike up bare mountains in ski boots?" He's not the only one to wonder what in the name of Bode Miller we're doing up here with ski gear.
Our day began at Logan Pass, the high point of the park's famed Going to the Sun Road, where plows work for months to carve a byway through walls of deep snow. By July that snow has melted into a predictable patchwork, and even on the highest summits the south slopes are bare. As Jonah and I set out from the parking area on skis, tourists raise their phones to take pictures of the spectacle while children from warmer climes throw snowballs.
An hour later the crowds are far behind us as our snow patches run out and we arrive at the foot of a south-facing mountainside and remove our skis. A bare-chested man with a vigorous hiking stride looks up the daunting pitch above us. Our plan to ascend it, he opines, "sounds like a lot of work."
Despite my confident response to Mr. Bare Chest, I'm secretly worried. There's a fine line between passing on your love of the mountains to your kids and alienating them by pushing them too far. Jonah is 15 and a high school athlete. He can handle this. I hope.
But so far he's a bit morose in that dispiriting way particular to teenagers, so I offer him the option of turning around and doing something easier in the tourist zone. To my pleasant surprise he opts for the bigger, much more challenging adventure. So we lash our skis to our packs, find one of Glacier's many informal climber's trails, and begin our climb into the world of mountain goats and summer snow.
Hours later we gain a knife ridge at 8,000 feet. Sharp peaks laced with waterfalls spear the sky in every direction. The northern side of the mountain drops steeply into a sheltered alpine bowl harboring a thick snowpack. "Told ya we'd get to snow!" I exclaim to Jonah—who is focused on trying to communicate telepathically with the mountain goats lounging on the snowfield.
Below us stretches a beautiful, wild ski run of 1,000 vertical feet. Its high alpine fastness makes it virtually unreachable in winter, but its shady northern aspect in a sheltered cirque preserves it for a fine run in July. We strap on helmets and click into our skis. The slope is steep enough that only the beginning is visible before it plummets away out of sight.
I tell Jonah to follow my line closely, as there are rock bands, small crevasses and other hazards to avoid. After I take a couple turns to test the snow, which has an amenable surface perfectly softened by the day's sun, I tell him to drop in behind me. He's on my old skis, which are a bit long, but he carves his way down the mountainside like he's been doing it all his life. Which is probably because he has.
His father is what you could call a skiing addict. Nothing mainlines joy for me like the wild poetry of gliding down snowy mountainsides, and I've tried to instill proper values in my two sons. If it snows more than six inches, abandoning school for a ski day is optional; more than 10 inches and it's mandatory.
But it wasn't until well into adulthood that I realized you needn't put skis away when winter ends. It started with May. I figured out that even by that late date, snow sticks to high mountains and provides stable glissè opportunities on steep slopes that would be too perilous in avalanche-prone mid-winter. From there, it was only a matter of time until I found myself skiing in the first days of June, when most people are gardening. But making the jump to true summer skiing took a bit longer because, well, snow is harder to find in summer.
Then a friend who's a backcountry skiing guide showed me the hidden side of Glacier's Logan Pass and began inviting me on adventures into remote places that involved fording creeks with skis on our backs and other alpine shenanigans. As you might imagine, we were always the only people back there. Which was all I needed. Wilderness exploration with glorious ski runs far from madding crowds? Sold.
Soon I was exploring the Northern Rockies' other hotbed of summer skiing, the Beartooth Mountains on the Wyoming-Montana border. I heard stories of people doing the same in the Cascades, Rocky Mountain National Park, and California's Mount Shasta. Many of them are part of an ever-growing tribe of year-round skiers—calendar-obsessed souls who've vowed to ski at least once in every month of the year. I now have multiple friends who've been doing so for over 10 years. From them I've learned of the ever-more esoteric locales they use for August and September runs, shadowy creases and perennial snowfields hanging in alpine basins. I'm not quite there yet—I'm loathe to let things like calendars and clocks dictate my agenda. But I no longer think they're crazy. Summer skiing, it seems now, is little more than a day hike in the mountains with a more elegant route back down.
Jonah is all smiles as we fill our water bladders from a snowmelt creek at the bottom of our first run. From there we have another big climb up a steep slope of loose rock. Again I'm worried it might break his effervescent spirit. But letting him choose our climbing route and lead the way imbues him with newfound energy. Although we've been clambering around for at least six hours, he moves up the rough terrain with enthusiasm and we chatter cheerfully without pause.
It's a perfect example of what happens when you bring kids into the wilderness: Removed from civilization's coddling hands, young people perk up, sensing they have only themselves and their companions to rely on. Give them responsibility and that sense of wild agency crystalizes and before you know it, you've got an adventurer on your hands. At least that's what it felt like watching Jonah scramble up that mountainside as if the mountain goats had passed on to him some secret caprine wisdom.
We high-five at the top where the world opens up again. Logan Pass sprawls below us, tourists marching in a line like ants up the snow-covered boardwalk. There's another long ski run at our feet and more tourists will stop and point and take pictures as we carve our way down it, marveling at the crazy people skiing in mid-July. I marvel, too, as I watch Jonah gleefully and even expertly soar down the mountain below me. It's then that I realize that I've been wrong to think that nothing brings me joy like skiing. I now know that nothing brings me joy like watching my son ski a wild mountainside—and then plunging down behind him.
Reposted with permission from our media associate SIERRA Magazine.
By Karen L. Smith-Janssen
Colette Pichon Battle gave a December 2019 TEDWomen Talk on the stark realities of climate change displacement, and people took notice. The video racked up a million views in about two weeks. The attorney, founder, and executive director of the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy (GCCLP) advocates for climate justice in communities of color. Confronted with evidence showing how her own South Louisiana coastal home of Bayou Liberty will be lost to flooding in coming years, the 2019 Obama Fellow dedicates herself to helping others still reeling from the impacts of Katrina face the heavy toll that climate change has taken—and will take—on their lives and homelands. Her work focuses on strengthening multiracial coalitions, advocating for federal, state, and local disaster mitigation measures, and redirecting resources toward Black communities across the Gulf South.
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By Stuart Braun
"These are not just wildfires, they are climate fires," Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington State, said as he stood amid the charred remains of the town of Malden west of Seattle earlier this month. "This is not an act of God," he added. "This has happened because we have changed the climate of the state of Washington in dramatic ways."
'These Aren't Wildfires'<p>Sam Ricketts, who led climate policy and strategy for Governor Jay Inslee's 2020 presidential campaign, tweeted on September 11 that "These aren't wildfires. These are #climatefires, driven by fossil fuel pollution."</p><p>"The rate and the strength and the devastation wrought by these disasters are fueled by climate change," Ricketts told DW of fires that have burnt well over 5 million acres across California, Oregon, Washington State, and into neighboring Idaho. </p><p>In a two-day period in early September, Ricketts notes that more of Washington State burned than in almost any entire fire season until now, apart from 2015. </p><p>California, meanwhile, was a tinderbox after its hottest summer on record, with temperatures in Death Valley reaching nearly 130 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the U.S. National Weather Service. It has been reported as the hottest temperature ever measured on Earth.</p>
<div id="29ad9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8346fe7350e1371d400097cd48bf45a2"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1306969603180879872" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Drought-parched wetlands in South America have been burning for weeks. https://t.co/pjAKdFcKPg #Pantanal https://t.co/ImN2C5vwcp</div> — NASA Earth (@NASA Earth)<a href="https://twitter.com/NASAEarth/statuses/1306969603180879872">1600440810.0</a></blockquote></div><p>As evidenced by Australia's apocalyptic Black Summer of 2019-2020, fires are burning bigger and for longer, with new records set year-on-year. Right now, Brazil's vast and highly biodiverse Pantanal wetlands are suffering from catastrophic fires.</p>
#climatefires Started in Australia<p>Governor Inslee this month invoked the phrase climate fires for arguably the first time in the U.S., according to Ricketts.</p><p>But the term was also used as fires burnt out of control in Australia in late 2019. In the face of a 2000km (more than 1,200 miles) fire front, and government officials and media who <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/trump-climate-change-denial-emissions-environment-germany-fake-heartland-seibt/a-52688933" target="_blank">played down the link to climate change</a>, Greens Party Senator Sarah Hanson-Young and a friend decided that reference to bushfires was inadequate. </p><p>"We both just said, we've got to start calling them climate fires, that's what they are," the Australian Senator told DW.</p><p>Hanson-Young says scientists have been warning for decades that these would be the effects of global heating. "We've been told these kinds of extreme weather events and destruction is what climate change would look like, and it's right here on our doorstep," she said from her home state of South Australia — where by early September fire warnings had already been issued.</p><p>"Calling them climate fires was making it absolutely crystal clear. It is essential that there's no ambiguity," she said </p><p>Having deliberately invoked the term, Hanson-Young soon started to push it on social media via a #climatefires hashtag. </p>
How to Talk About the Urgency of Global Heating<p>The need to use more explicit language when talking about extreme weather events linked to climate change is part of a broader push to express the urgency of global heating. In 2019, activist Greta Thunberg tweeted that the term "climate change" did not reflect the seriousness of the situation. </p><p>"Can we all now please stop saying 'climate change' and instead call it what it is: climate breakdown, climate crisis, climate emergency, ecological breakdown, ecological crisis and ecological emergency?" she wrote. </p><p>"Climate change has for a long time been talked about as something that is a danger in the future," said Hansen-Young. "But the consequences are already here. When people hear the word crisis, they understand that something has to happen, that action has to be taken."</p><p><span></span>Some terms are now used in public policy, with state and national governments, and indeed the EU Parliament, declaring an official climate emergency in the last year. </p>
Words That Reflect the Science<p>But while the West Coast governors all fervently link the fires to an unfolding climate crisis, U.S. President Donald Trump continues to avoid any reference to climate. In a briefing about the fires, he responded to overtures by Wade Crowfoot, California's Natural Resources Secretary, to work with the states on the climate crisis by stating: "It'll start getting cooler. You just watch." Crowfoot replied by saying that scientists disagreed. Trump rejoined with "I don't think science knows, actually." </p><p>It was reminiscent of the anti-science approach to the coronavirus pandemic within the Trump administration, <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/donald-trump-admits-playing-down-coronavirus-risks/a-54874350" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">at least publicly</a>. Fossil fuel companies are also benefiting from his disavowal of climate science, with the Trump administration having <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/opinion-trumps-paris-climate-accord-exit-isnt-really-a-problem/a-51124958" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pulled out of the Paris Agreement</a> and reopened fossil fuel infrastructure like the Keystone XL pipeline. </p><p>But the science community has responded, with Scientific American magazine endorsing Trump's Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden, the first presidential endorsement in its 175-year history. </p><p>Hanson-Young says the use of explicit language like climate fires has also been important in Australia due to the climate denialism of politicians and the press, especially in publications owned by Rupert Murdoch. As fires burnt out much of Australia's southeast coast, they were commonly blamed on arson — a tactic also recently used in the U.S.</p>
Climate Rhetoric Could Help Decide Election<p>The language of climate has begun to influence the U.S. presidential election campaign, with Democratic nominee Joe Biden labelling President Trump a "climate arsonist."</p><p>Biden is touting a robust climate plan that includes a 2050 zero emissions target and a return to the Paris Agreement. Though lacking the ambition of The New Green Deal, it has been front and center of his policy platform in recent days, at a time when five hurricanes are battering the U.S. Gulf Coast while smoke blanketing the West Coast spreads all the way to the East. </p><p>People are experiencing the climate crisis in a visceral way and almost universally relate to the language of an emergency, says Ricketts. "They know something is wrong."</p>
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World's Richest One Percent Are Producing More Than Double the Carbon Emissions as the Bottom 50 Percent
A new report from Oxfam found that the wealthiest one percent of the world produced a carbon footprint that was more than double that of the bottom 50 percent of the world, The Guardian reported. The study examined 25 years of carbon dioxide emissions and wealth inequality from 1990 to 2015.
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