Unlike many other
pressing environmental concerns--pollution, water shortages, overpopulation,
deforestation--global warming is by definition global. Every organism on the
planet is already feeling its impact.
"There are many
important environmental battles to be fought," says Bill McKibben, the
Vermont-based writer, activist and passionate cross-country skier. "But if
we lose this one--which we're doing--none of the others matter. It's crunch
Sports condition us
to notice first those things that happen at scatback speed, and until recently
climate change took place in world-historical fashion, the way a nil-nil soccer
match unfolds. But that perception is changing fast, especially for skiers,
whose season has endured a whipsaw of extremes: One day in November enough snow
fell at Colorado's Beaver Creek to cause the cancellation of practice for the
men's downhill at a World Cup event. A day later on the other side of the
globe, officials at the French resort of Val d'Is�re called off another World
Cup event on account of too little snow, as well as a forecast of prolonged
warm temperatures--one of seven World Cup events in Europe this season to have
all races canceled for the same reason (page 43).
When the U.S.
Nordic ski team returned home early from the European circuit after a December
race was rescheduled four times in one week, it left behind resorts desperately
trying to lure tourists with promises of spa weekends, Christmas markets and
hiking to be enjoyed during this "extension of autumn."
Indeed, the world's
signature dogsled race, Alaska's Iditarod, hasn't begun at its traditional
starting point in Wasilla since 2002 because of too little snow there. The
Elfstedentocht, an 11-city skating marathon that the Dutch stage whenever the
canals freeze over, has been run only once in the past two decades. The highest
ski slope on the planet, Bolivia's Chacaltaya (altitude 17,388 feet), will soon
be unskiable for lack of snow, and the Swiss are wrapping an age-old glacier in
an insulating blanket as if it were a foundling. Meanwhile backcountry skiing
in North America and ice fishing in the upper Midwest are in jeopardy, and any
ski resort below 4,000 feet is worried. Winter in Vermont is now the equivalent
of winter in Rhode Island a generation ago.
accelerating global warming, and we can at least minimize its damage, if not
reverse it. By acting quickly, the two countries that emit most of the world's
carbon dioxide, the U.S. and China, might be able to avert that forecasted
five-degree temperature increase, slowing the rise of the seas enough to allow
for the development of new technologies to redress the problem. What would it
mean to act? Decrease the burning of fossil fuels, improve fuel efficiency and
conserve energy in our daily lives.
The good news is
that stadiums and arenas, if built with green aforethought, can be more than
symbolic Valhallas that remind us that we're all in this together (page 44).
Site one near a public-transit line, and there's less need to build that most
Earth-hostile of features, the vast parking lot. (The greenest ballpark in the
country may be Fenway Park, because only an idiot would try driving and parking
Turbines mounted on
upper decks would catch the same wind that plays whimsically with pop flies,
turning it into the source of power to offset at least some of the energy
demands of a ball game. Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., features a water
filtration and reuse system that collects and recirculates "black" and
"gray water" to make the most of all that beer and all those
A very familiar
sports facility is already poised to help the cause: A golf course is by
definition conserved green space. If not turned into a repository for
pesticides or a pretext for building strips of single-family homes along its
fairways, it can serve as a huge filter, with the water draining from it
cleaner than the water flowing in (opposite page).
eco-consciousness is leeching ever so slowly into the jockosphere. You'd expect
environmental awareness among extreme-sport athletes like the snowboarders and
BMX riders who belong to the Action Sports Environmental Coalition, or from
surfers whose vocation and avocation depend on the health of the seas. But less
likely candidates are thinking globally and acting locally.