Introducing The Mountaineers Statement on Climate Change

Since its earliest days, The Mountaineers has been committed to conservation and stewardship of wild places. Our Carbon Footprint Reduction Committee, tasked with helping make sure that The Mountaineers are doing our part to address the global climate crisis, recently began working on our organizational climate statement, created to help our community understand why addressing climate change is integral to our work and mission, and why reducing our carbon footprint is a critical part of our Vision 2022 Plan.
Erika Lundahl Erika Lundahl
Carbon Footprint Reduction Committee
May 01, 2020

Since its earliest days, The Mountaineers has been committed to conservation and stewardship of wild places. That’s why we created our Carbon Footprint Reduction Committee, tasked with helping make sure that The Mountaineers and Mountaineers Books are doing our part to address the global climate crisis. 

One of the first things we began working on was our organizational climate statement, created to help our community understand why addressing climate change is integral to our work and mission, and why reducing the carbon footprint of The Mountaineers is a part of our Vision 2022 Plan:

  • Our Mountaineers community is actively experiencing the impacts of the global climate crisis. From melting glaciers to intensifying wildfires, the places we hold most dear are changing, resulting in more perilous access, loss of biodiversity, and degradation of wilderness. We believe that the climate crisis is fundamentally one of equity, which impacts not just wild places, but also human health and communities, and that future generations of Mountaineers deserve an equal opportunity to be inspired by wilderness and outdoor spaces. We commit to do our part by educating the outdoor community, advocating for public lands protections, reducing our organizational carbon footprint, and publishing books and other content that focus on and promote climate solutions, sustainability, and stewardship.

Taking Steps to Address our Carbon Footprint

In the last two years, through generous donor support from Charlie and Carol Michel, we’ve taken tremendous steps to address our carbon footprint. We installed solar panels on the roof of the Seattle Program Center and have been replacing old light fixtures with more efficient ones. At Mountaineers Books, we’ve consistently invested in 100% recycled and FSC-certified papers as revenue and funding allows, and have replaced the lights in our office and warehouse with much more environmentally friendly LEDs. Mountaineer magazine is also printed on 100% recycled and FSC-certified paper. And we have plans for so much more down the line. 

We’ve also been addressing climate change through our books, media, and live events. Through Mountaineers Books and our conservation imprint Braided River, we publish books like The Big Thaw: Ancient Carbon, Modern Science, and a Race to Save the World about how thawing permafrost impacts global climate change with scientists from Woods Hole Research Center. We Are Puget Sound: Discovering and Recovering the Salish Sea addresses how  climate change, pollution, and population growth is changing life as we know it in the Salish Sea. Books like The Big Thaw and We Are Puget Sound provide a media platform to educate the public about how the climate is changing near and far and what we can do about it. 

We’ve also published blogs and magazine articles about how climate change is impacting the places we play close to home. We’ve explored the receding glaciers in the North Cascades, touted the benefits of electric vehicles, and asked members to participate in citizen science to help us learn what watermelon snow can teach us about climate change

Working to address the climate crisis has been part of our advocacy strategy for many years as well. In 2016 we hosted a climate change roundtable with Congresswoman Delbene at our Stevens Pass Lodge. Many of our annual Leadership Conference speakers have presented on the topic, including a session on Climate Change in the PNW with Jason Vogel in 2019. More recently, virtual events from members of our Carbon Footprint Reduction Committee are offering opportunities for community members to learn more about how we can move towards lower carbon lifestyles through food, transportation changes, and more. 

Better Together: Addressing the Climate Crisis Through Volunteerism and Resource Sharing

As a volunteer-led nonprofit, we are stronger when we act together, share resources, and lift each other up. Our flagship book, Freedom of the Hills has always been written by our volunteers because we believe strongly in the collective wisdom held by our community. Volunteers, staff, and authors hold valuable and unique resources and expertise that can help us individually and collectively lower our footprints and live a more sustainable lifestyle. And whether it is by taking up urban cycling, eating more sustainably, or protecting our wild places—which act as critical carbon reserves—we know we can do it better together. All of us need to do more, and we must do it now. 

We recognize the climate crisis is systemic. Climate change does not impact all communities or wild places equally. We have a role to play in making sure that our organization is addressing inequality, and helping sustain the health and wellbeing for all our members.

In the coming months, you will hear more about our climate work in a series of blog posts, and how it relates to our mission to enrich the community by helping people explore, conserve, learn about, and enjoy the lands and waters of the Pacific Northwest and beyond. We’ve been hard at work assessing how The Mountaineers—as an organization which connects people to a deeper sense of place and creates lifelong bonds with the outdoors—can uniquely make an impact. Since 1906, we've been getting people of all ages outside safely and responsibly, and we know that the climate crisis will continue to change how we do this.

No one organization will solve the climate crisis. It will take us all doing our part, and just as The Mountaineers has been a leader for over a century to protect our wild places, we will continue to bring our leadership, integrity, sense of adventure, and love for wild places to help us navigate the uncertainty of what the future will hold.

 

Chiwawa Mountain. Photo by Luke Helgeson.


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Dick Hayek
Dick Hayek says:
May 01, 2020 10:04 PM

At a time that the Mountaineers is dealing with a financial crisis, it is foolhardy to be squandering precious resources in a futile effort to modify the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere. Over the history of the earth, global temperatures and the percentage of carbon dioxide in the air have been constantly changing as the result of ongoing solar cycles. By comparison, the actions of mankind have miniscule impact. Efforts by man to reduce carbon dioxiode cannot have any significant impact on it, so are a waste of valuable resources. An ice sheet once covered two thirds of the State of Washington, and entirely disappeared before the arrival of the industrial revolution. So obviously, its disappearance was not caused by the actions of mankind. Experts say that solar power is only cost effective south of the 30th parallel. In our area it can only save money through government subsidies, which eventually end. Environmental efforts should be directed at removing poisons, particulates and contaminants from the air and waterways. Carbon dioxide is not a poison, particulate or contaminant. Carbon dioxide is a critical food for all plant life. No life could exist without carbon. Increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increases the growth of plants, which in turn provide the oxygen that we breathe. The Strategic Plan from which the focus on reducing carbon dioxide comes, is invalid as a representation of the views of the membership, because it was drawn up by a Board that is not representative of the membership. Some Board members have virtually no contact with club members other than the Board members. The membership only has an opportunity to vote on about half of the voting members of the Board, and members are discouraged from becoming candidates for the elected positions. The process for selecting Board members needs to be modified so that the Board is representative of the membership and thereby develops policies and procedures in line with the wishes of the members.

Dick Hayek

Charlie Michel
Charlie Michel says:
May 02, 2020 08:34 PM

CO2 concentrations in the geologic past have taken millions of years to occur. Mankind is the only explanation for the explosive rise in a blink of geologic time. The stoichiometry fits when calculating all the fossil fuels burned and atmosheric concentrations, once one accounts for the huge carbon sink of dissolved CO2 in the ocean.
This committee was started well before the current crises and the savings resulting will pay back with the built environment (HVAC, solar PV).

Dick Hayek
Dick Hayek says:
May 03, 2020 08:34 PM

In addition to my previous comments, I want to address additional specific points in the Mountaineers' policy on climate change.

1. Switching to LED lights is a valid cost saving measure, as long as lighting remains adequate.

2. Forest fires are caused by mismanagement of the forests, not climate change. A U.S. Forest Service official spoke to the Mountaineers about that a year or two ago. Forest fires are more frequent and more destructive when forest growth becomes too dense, too uniform in size, does not have open gaps, and has too much combustible undergrowth. Proper forest management can deal with all these issues. Not dealing with it results in the loss of valuable timber, pollution of the air and disruption of peoples lives. Trying to change the carbon content of the air has no impact.

3. Recycling is of dubious value, because there is not enough demand for recycled products, so much of recycled materials wind up on landfills, where recycling is being done on site to the extent needed.

4. Removing man made pollution from the air, water and ground is a worthy endeavor that has already been largely accomplished in the United States better than any other country in the world. But carbon dioxide is not a pollutant.

5. Today the main problem with population size in the developed world is that it is shrinking, which creates a burden on working age people to support retirees who are an oversized share of the population. This has been a challenge especially in China, where it is traditional to respect and support elders. Australia is paying mothers to have children. Europe and the United States are dependent on immigration to fill all needed jobs. Impoverished countries tend to have higher birth rates due to high mortality rates. When mortality rates drop, birth rates also drop. Unrestricted abortion also reduces the birth rate, so that it is now below replacement level in the U.S.

6. Bicycling should be restricted to level rights of way where cars are prohibited, for safety reasons, but are beneficial in those areas. The Seattle bicycle program has been a failure because Seattle is too hilly and it is dangerous to ride a bicycle on main streets shared with much faster cars. It is an invitation to injury, death and traffic congestion.

7. Leading a low carbon lifestyle does virtually nothing to improve the climate. Its only significant impact is to squander the money spent on it.

8. The limited resources of the Mountaineers and its members need to be focused in areas where they can cost-effectively improve the world, such as continuing to clean up remaining contaminants in the air, water and land. Better policing is needed of ships dumping waste matter in the ocean, factories and cities dumping waste in waterways and polluting the ground and contaminating ground water. That is the way to improve the environment.

Todd Neubauer
Todd Neubauer says:
May 04, 2020 07:56 PM

Vote Dick Hayek for President!
Mountaineers or otherwise 👍

Dick Hayek
Dick Hayek says:
May 04, 2020 09:13 PM

If it is found necessary for the Mountaineers to take a position on controversial issues, such as climate change, the best way to do that would be to schedule a debate between expert proponents of both sides of the issue, and then invite by email all Mountaineers members to attend it. During the shutdown it would need to be a Zoom webinar. Members unable to see the debate when it occurs should be able to watch it at a convenient time via video recording. Then every member viewing the event should be requested to complete a survey on line, the first question of which should be: Should the Mountaineers take a position on Climate Change? The other questions should deal with their opinion of the cause of climate change and what they think should be done about it. The survey forms should be submitted by the person completing it to an independent entity which then compiles the survey results. A committee of Mountaineers members selected to be representative of the membership should then review the survey compilation and formulate a policy based on the survey results. Members of the Mountaineers with knowledge of both sides of the issue, should then submit pro and con statements to be emailed to all Mountaineers members. Then ballots should be emailed to all members for an up or down vote. This vote could be taken at the same time as other election issues are voted on. Then the Board should be required to ratify the vote of the members.

I remember that a year or two ago a University of Washington Professor of Atmospheric Sciences who was also the State Climatologist, a political appointment, spoke for an hour or two about climate change, to Mountaineers members who chose to attend. His views do not coincide with those of more experienced faculty members in his department, but they were not invited to speak. His presentation consisted of drawing a crude rising line on the white board and describing it as the rise of CO2 in the atmosphere since 1900. He furnished no data. When I told him that experts had said that the CO2 content of the atmosphere was higher in 1400 in today, he said that was not true, but also said that he had only studied data going back to 1900 and did not know about what had happened before then.

A debate of experts presenting both sides of the issue would be much more helpful in forming the basis for a sound Mountaineers policy on this subject. Having an emotion-charged committee of zealots making policy decisions for 14,000 members that are ratified by a non-representative Board is doing a disservice to the membership.