Mountaineering and the Climate Crisis: A Recap of Events with Conrad Anker

The Mountaineers were honored to host legendary alpinist and environmental activist Conrad Anker for a presentation on mountaineering and the climate crisis. Our Peak Society donors also enjoyed a special discussion with Conrad and several other esteemed panelists. Here’s a recap of the events.
The Mountaineers The Mountaineers
October 23, 2020

The Mountaineers was honored to host legendary alpinist and environmental activist Conrad Anker for two recent events on the climate crisis. Conrad joined us on September 24, 2020, to share stories of adventures around the world and how wild places have been negatively impacted by the global climate crisis. The following evening, our Peak Society donors enjoyed a special discussion with Conrad and several other esteemed panelists.

The topic of these events is front of mind to many of us these days, as devastating wildfires across the West have been fueled by human-caused climate change and underscore the urgency of action. Our community is actively experiencing the impacts of the global climate crisis, as the glaciers we climb are melting and smoke shrouds our summertime hikes and even our neighborhoods.

Addressing climate change is integral to the work and mission of The Mountaineers. The climate crisis is an existential threat, both to the wild places we love and to human health and communities. As our climate statement reads, we are committed to doing our part to address the climate crisis 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.

Mountaineers Books, and especially our conservation imprint, Braided River, has been educating people on the impacts of climate change and inspiring them to take action for decades. We’ve published books like The Big Thaw in partnership with leading scientists and photographers. Braided River’s books and strategic impact campaigns and partnerships to protect public lands from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and Tongass National Forest to the North Cascades have influenced decisions at the highest levels of our society.

Thanks to our passionate volunteers and generous donors, we’ve also taken tremendous steps to reduce our carbon footprint. We’ve installed solar panels on the roof of the Seattle Program Center and replaced old light fixtures with more efficient LED lighting in both our Tacoma and Seattle Program Centers and at our Mountaineers Books warehouse.

While we’re committed to doing our part, there’s so much more to be done. We were thrilled to host two recent events on the climate crisis that were widely attended and well received by our community that left us feeling inspired and motivated to take action.

Conrad Anker: Mountaineering and the Climate Crisis

We were honored to host legendary alpinist and environmental activist Conrad Anker for a special presentation on mountaineering and the climate crisis. On September 24, 2020, more than 300 attendees gathered virtually to hear Conrad’s stories of adventures around the world and about how wild places have been negatively impacted by the global climate crisis. We’re grateful for those who were able to attend the presentation and donate to our conservation and advocacy efforts. You can find inspiration yourself by viewing Conrad’s presentation online.

Conrad, a longtime member of The Mountaineers, shared photos and stories of adventures in Alaska and Antarctica. As he transitioned into a discussion of the climate crisis, Conrad shared a compelling graphic of warming temperatures across the globe over the last two centuries. These changes have been driven by increasing CO2 in the atmosphere, which has exponentially increased in the last few decades. Warming temperatures have drastically impacted mountain landscapes: Conrad showed a photo of the iconic glacier Mer de Glace in Chamonix, which has retreated far up the valley over the past century.

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Conrad ended his presentation with thoughts on how we can help make a difference. “The costs of doing nothing is greater than the cost of putting our shoulder to the wheel and putting as much as we can into it,” said Conrad, who is also a board member of the climate advocacy organization Protect Our Winters (POW). He shared details on some of POW’s climate advocacy priorities, including increasing renewable energy, investing in the renewable energy economy, putting a price on carbon, innovating transit solutions, and protecting public lands.

The Zoom chat box was full of questions about how the outdoor community can help improve climate outcomes. Conrad shared how he talks to people who may not believe that climate change is real, speaking about climate issues in an optimistic and forward-thinking manner: “We need to turn this into the moonshot for our generation.” When asked how recreationists can reduce our individual carbon footprint, he reminded us to “not let perfect get in the way of good. Just like when I go to climb, I may not get that perfect send but I’m going to make progress on it.” Like many of us, Conrad takes individual actions like offsetting his travel with carbon offsets and carpooling, but reminded us that it’s even more important to advocate for climate solutions at a corporate, national, and global level.

Conrad brought the evening to a close with a powerful call to action for our community to help protect the places we love for generations to come. “As Mountaineers, we are the eyes and ears of the mountains, and it’s our responsibility to speak on behalf of these wild places.” Conrad has hope, even though there’s no silver bullet. As a community of outdoor adventurers, we’re no strangers to uphill climbs. Addressing climate change will take all of us.

An Evening of Advocacy: The Mountaineers and the Climate Crisis

The following evening, Mountaineers Peak Society donors engaged in a special panel discussion about climate change with Conrad Anker, climate scientist Dr. John All, and photographers and authors Amy Gulick and Florian Schulz, facilitated by The Mountaineers Conservation and Advocacy Director, Betsy Robblee. We explored the topic through the lens of a world-class climber, a mountaineering climate scientist, and two Braided River/Mountaineers Book authors and photographers. It was an honor to have Senator Maria Cantwell provide a special welcome to our attendees.

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Amy and Florian both shared compelling stories of first-hand experiences with the climate crisis in Alaska, which they’ve both photographed extensively. “It’s mindboggling how quickly changes are happening up there,” remarked Amy. Climate change is making it especially hard and more dangerous for Indigenous communities to maintain their way of life, or even remain on their traditional homelands. Amy and Florian’s Braided River books have been a powerful platform for advocacy efforts on behalf of wild places like the Arctic: “These books find their ways into the hands of senators, congresspeople, presidents, and heads of government agencies,” said Amy. “For me, that’s one of the highest and best uses of the books.”

The panelists spoke to the importance of getting people outdoors as part of the solution to the climate crisis, as our programs have done for over a century. “If you don’t go outside, you don’t feel that visceral need to protect our earth,” remarked John. Conrad mentioned the need for people of all backgrounds to get outdoors, saying, “We know that climate disproportionately impacts BIPOC communities. The more that we can extend our work and programs to these communities, the more they’ll become advocates.”

The evening ended on an optimistic note, with each panelist sharing what gives them hope. For Amy, it’s the increasing numbers of young people entering the climate movement, and Conrad mentioned the cultural shift we’re seeing with younger generations. Florian shared that he “can’t afford not to have hope,” and John noted the resiliency and adaptability of people across the world.

Florian also shared a special sneak peek of an exciting project he’s been working on with Braided River: The Arctic: Our Last Great Wilderness. This giant screen film was co-directed by Florian and is part of a dynamic impact campaign from the Campion Advocacy Fund and Braided River to protect the arctic. We’re excited to share this film with our community next spring - and we encourage you to watch the trailer now.

We were extremely grateful for the thoughtful contributions and fascinating conversation facilitated by our esteemed group of panelists. Share in the excitement of the panel discussion for Peak Society donors by watching the recording.

How you can make a difference

While we recognize that addressing climate change will take broad societal change and global action, there are still plenty of ways you can make a difference. Here are a few small actions you can take to improve climate outcomes through support of The Mountaineers conservation and advocacy work:

  • Make a gift in support of The Mountaineers conservation and advocacy efforts. 95% of this influential and outcome-driven programming is made possible by donors.
  • Sign up for Conservation Currents, The Mountaineers monthly e-newsletter that keeps you in-the-know on issues affecting public lands, opportunities to engage, and our carbon footprint reduction efforts.
  • Team up with our pool of donors who make restricted contributions to fund projects that reduce our organization’s carbon footprint. Email amberc@mountaineers.org for more information.
  • Buy Mountaineers Books! Holidays are just around the corner and nothing says “I care about you” more than a book celebrating care for our planet. We have stories about the Arctic, salmon, ancient carbon, earth almanacs, conservation icons, and so much more. Book sales and donations make our impact campaigns possible.
    • Better yet - get your name, or the name of a loved one, in the new Braided River book Orca: Shared Waters, Shared Home. All donations will help bring this dynamic book and impact campaign to life in 2021.
    • Get familiar with Mountaineers Books and Braided River’s long history of engagement on issues affecting the Arctic Refuge and other public lands. Learn how donor-supported books, partnerships, and impact campaigns have helped to protect millions of acres of threatened habitat.
    • Follow the Protect the Arctic campaign, a new collaborative endeavor between photographer Florian Schulz, Braided River, the Campion Advocacy Fund, and more, to preserve the iconic Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and protect landscapes vulnerable to climate change.