On March 11, 2019, the environmental nonprofit Protect Our Winters (POW) announced its newest branch: POW Climb. POW Climb is an alliance of professional climbers who seek to represent the values of the climbing community as a voice of advocacy and an influence on political policy to halt the effects of global climate change. Their ranks include: Tommy Caldwell, Conrad Anker, Beth Rodden, Matt Segal, Graham Zimmerman, Emily Harrington, Adrian Ballinger, and Angela Hawse, as well as partnerships from La Sportiva and the American Alpine Club.
Protect Our Winters was founded in 2007 by professional snowboarder Jeremy Jones, as an organization that bands together outdoor athletes, creative minds, and business leaders to effect change and work toward a carbon neutral future. The advent of POW Climb further broadens the scope of POW, to get the ever-growing climbing community involved in the fight against climate change.
“The outdoor industry is blowing up, it’s a cool thing, and that gives us power,” said POW Climb alliance member Tommy Caldwell. “Most people in [climbing] history didn’t realize there was something we could potentially make a difference at, and now we do.”
According to Sam Killgore, POW marketing and communications manager, climbers are well practiced at fighting for their values. For decades climbers have battled relentlessly (and cordially) over access issues and in the public lands debate, defending the right to climb. POW Climb hopes to harness that fire to create real, positive solutions for climate change on a global level.
The partnership of POW Climb with the rest of the organization also helps to further band together the outdoor industry and its stance on climate change, strengthening the bonds between athletes, brands, and enthusiasts. “What drives POW and our work within the outdoor community is a shared value,” said Killgore. “If you’re a mountain biker, a climber, a skier, or a trail runner, there’s a shared love of being in the outdoors that ties all of us together.”
Killgore points out that much of the outdoor community shares the same values when it comes to climate change, but there has yet to be an organization to unite those voices.
Caldwell and Killgore both spoke of POW’s goal to create a cultural shift—a culture where it is “uncool” to not care about climate change. “When you dig into the science, the solutions exist,” said Caldwell. “If we could create a culture of people that want to make a carbon neutral future, it wouldn’t be that hard to do.”
Additionally, POW’s solutions are tangible and systemic. It isn’t only about advocacy and awareness, it’s about political policy and working in conjunction with all facets of the outdoor industry, with each subgroup utilizing its strengths. “The climbing community is no stranger to the public lands debate. Access and public lands go hand in hand,” said Killgore. “Public lands are at risk because of fossil fuel development. If we can protect public lands from fossil fuel development, it will encourage a broader resource base going into solar or into wind.” If POW Climb focuses its efforts on lobbying to protect public lands from fossil fuel extraction as climbers have done in the past, they will be protecting climbing areas and encouraging the implementation of other alternative energy sources.
POW Climb is still in its infancy stages and is in the process of mapping out specific plans and goals. You can learn more and stay up to date on their work at protectourwinters.org/pow-climb/.
“I do believe that within my lifetime the world is going to look very different,” said Caldwell. “It’s going to seem like a much more clean place. I think that the climate effects are going to be strong enough that the whole world is going to care, and that we’re going band together and be really working for this carbon neutral future because it’s going to be so obvious that if we don’t we will be completely screwed. And we might be screwed anyways, but we might as well go out fighting.”
Check out protectourwinters.org to find out how you can join the fight.