? Saints safety
Steve Gleason runs his Dodge Ram pickup on processed vegetable
? NASCAR driver
Ward Burton's foundation is pledged to habitat management, land conservation
and environmental education in his home of Halifax County, Va.
? The Philadelphia
Eagles may have some of the most discourteous followers in sports, but their
management is a leader, having launched an environmental initiative replete
with catchy slogans like Go Green and Time for Some Serious Trash Talk.
? Two years ago the
men's lacrosse team at Middlebury College calculated its "carbon
footprint" (the amount of global-warming carbon dioxide its daily
activities generated) and raised money to purchase enough renewable-energy
credits (investments in wind power) to offset those emissions. The team thereby
became carbon-neutral--a status also claimed by last summer's soccer World Cup
in Germany, cycling's Team Clif Bar Midwest and the Vermont Frost Heaves, this
writer's American Basketball Association team, which rides in a
? The Natural
Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is working with the NBA and Major League
Baseball to help their teams get greener. Scientists told the NFL that Super
Bowl XLI would put one million pounds of carbon dioxide into the air--not
counting air travel to Miami--so the league planted 3,000 trees around Florida
in an attempt to pull at least that much of the greenhouse gas out of the
By going green,
motor sports could have the quickest impact on public awareness of the planet's
fate. The Formula One circuit has already discovered hybrids and biofuels, and
Indy cars are mixing ethanol into their fuel. NASCAR is poised to phase out
leaded gasoline, a neurotoxin. (The Clean Air Act of 1970 included an exemption
for race cars even as the public was barred from buying cars that ran on leaded
gas.) It's only a short jump from a NASCAR driver with a raised consciousness
to a NASCAR fan with the same.
environmental movement there's way too much preaching to the choir," says
Ken Rakoz of Centralia, Wash., who built the first biodiesel-powered dragster.
"There are people sitting on the fence, and Joe Sixpack doesn't really know
about [biodiesel] until we do something like racing." Whereupon we'll be
that much closer to a future in which we define a winner as not merely the team
that holds a lead, but one whose arena holds a LEED (Leadership in Energy and
Environmental Design) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.
From his home in
Ripton, Vt., McKibben, who sounded an early warning about climate change in his
1989 book The End of Nature, surveys this disfigurement of the world as we've
known it with as much melancholy as indignation. "If I were a deeply moral
person, I should be kept awake at night by the thought of hundreds of millions
of Bangladeshis fleeing rising waters and dengue and famine," says
McKibben, who's helping to organize a nationwide call to action on climate
change for April 14 that will include iconic outdoor and sporting sites Mount
Hood and the Key West coral reefs. "But at some level I feel this most
acutely in the winter, when I realize I've had fewer and fewer chances to put
on my skis."
And therein may lie
the great value of sports. What happens in an arena so familiar and beloved may
sound an alarm we will hear and heed. At a time when so much in our lives is
linear and digital, from the economy to technology, sports still run in
graceful cycles, marking time in rhythm with the seasons.
"It's the last
of the semipagan calendars we keep," McKibben says, "and a lot of it is
going to disappear. All that Bart Giamatti stuff"--the pastoral invocations
of the former commissioner of baseball--"has a different valence if we're
not going to Florida for spring training, but to St. Paul. We're still so used
to the idea that we can deal with the forces of nature that we think nothing of
naming our teams Hurricanes and Cyclones. In 10 years, that will be like
calling a team the Plagues."