Anyone who drools, as my old Latin professor would say, has heard of rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, energy consumption and global warming. Even my day job has me working on our state’s Global Warming Task Force which is looking for ways to reduce human impacts on the heating Earth.
Discussion about greenhouse gases is no longer limited to screenings of “An Inconvenient Truth,” or PBS documentaries. When Katie Kouric talks melting glaciers on the evening news, the message is resonating with a large, aging audience who also take in the accompanying pharmaceutical ads for acid reflux, high blood pressure, arterial clotting, enlarged prostate and ED. I’m half expecting to see an ad for a pill to reduce personal gaseous emissions. Perhaps you will see the makers of Beano, Di-Gel and Maalox making atmospheric protection claims such as “Clear the air with…,” or maybe a new product line: “Greeno - the environmentally safe way to eat beans.”
If scientific projections are even half-accurate, everyone will need to examine how they relate to greenhouse gas production, especially when it comes to energy use. You can go online right now and calculate your own personal carbon footprint, taking into account how much fossil fuel you consume in your car and at home.
I’ve done it and am now aware that I’ve got work to do myself. My carbon Achilles heel is commuting to work. But fossil fuels are also a big part of our food supply. The equivalent of about 400 gallons of gasoline is needed to grow food for the average American each year. When you begin to think of your own body as a carbon reservoir (the human body is 18 percent carbon), some futuristic images come to mind.
For the person interested in tracking how much fossil carbon they have ingested, I envision a new armband sensor for your iPod. With it you could not only groove to K.T. Tunstall but you could monitor the Middle Eastern oil composition of your body. Consider scanning your next Big Mac or even non-edible items for similar statistics. You might even figure out the carbon footprint of your next pair of cross country skis. And while we're at it, what are the carbon emission implications of using hydrocarbon vs. fluorocarbon waxes? Are no-wax skis a good thing or a bad thing? Maybe we should all be on wood skis with leather bindings using bamboo poles. Could be another reason to go retro.
So, do we need to feel guilty about pursuing our favorite wintertime recreation? Will a vision of one of Al Gore’s slides showing retreating ice caps follow you down the trail? Worse, maybe you see yourself starring in a new Michael Moore shockumentary titled “Centigrade 5.0: America, the Banana Republic.” It will be the environmental disaster film to end them all. The movie will show a split-screen cameo of you buying a new pair of skis juxtaposed with Florida slipping beneath the waves.
Well, I think I’ve spun this nightmare scenario out far enough. Skiers must be part of the solution and have the extra motivation to save the winter climate. And certainly both Al Gore and Michael Moore could benefit from a little carbon-reduction time on skis themselves.
Here are some home-grown ski solutions to global warming. Regarding my own carbon challenges, I picked up my bike-to-work activity this last summer, which is not a bad cross-training activity for skiing. But winter commuting is a problem. If only there was a ski trail system in town similar to those I’ve seen in Finland. Some Finnish schools actually have ski racks to accommodate commuting kids and teachers.
Another method of reducing the skiing footprint is to spend more time skiing close to home (think global, ski local), which brings down transport fuel use. And, for more far flung adventures, consider hooking up with a ski club for bus or train trips. As you recline in the motor coach you can enjoy indigenously produced fermented beverages while keeping the state patrol’s footprint off your car’s bumper.
Speaking of bumpers, my own local New Glarus brewery has gotten in on the low-carbon act by producing a bumper sticker for one of their top ranking lagers, Yokel. You guessed it: Think Global, Drink Yokel. Carbohydrate/electrolyte replacement can be a fun as well as environmentally sensitive activity.
So don’t worry. No one is taking your skis away. You are the solution. In fact, the more time you spend skiing, the lower your carbon footprint per kilometer. While you are outside, you can lower the thermostat until you get home and save even more carbon. Right now, there is a company in Chicago that trades in carbon credits. Maybe you can sell carbon reduction credits just by skiing. It might just be your profitable duty to get out the door.