För framtids segrar

Photograph by Nisse Schmidt / Vasaloppet

All winter recreations owe their glory to the absence of friction

Bill McKibben

Back in February I pointed to an NPR story about Mora Minnesota and people helping to save their local Vasaloppet. This week comes an article in the New Yorker by Bill McKibben, who participated in the actual Vasaloppet in Sweden. McKibben is a lifelong cross-country skier, and he’s also an environmentalist. As we all know, cross-country skiing depends on hitting the wax, which is a lot harder when weather becomes unpredictable.

Not only is winter affected. You may have heard multiple areas in Scandinavia had a drier and hotter summer in 2018, contributing to a remarkable series of forest fires:

As temperatures warm and winters shorten, traditions like the Vasaloppet (or the Iditarod) become ever more tenuous; friction tries relentlessly to reassert its claims

Bill McKibben

McKibben writes that the Vasaloppet, “like everything to do with ice and cold, is now under existential threat.” But he sees glimmers of hope.

He points out that funds and institutions are divesting from fossil fuel companies because their primary value is projected to decline. We know the US military regards climate change as a serious threat to operations and national security. Acknowledgement, acceptance, and action by big players with economic and political clout is crucial.

As is activism at the literal ground level. Masha Gessen, writing in the New Yorker last year, described a Swedish girl named Greta Thunberg and her protest to demand stronger efforts by the Swedish government in response to climate change. Thunberg’s steadfastness has generated a groundswell of support among students globally.

Yet even progressive governments shy away from acting with urgency. The stakes of climate change are much greater than merely the risk to the status quo or a recreational activity. We are already inducing an unnaturally rapid shift in the climate that all living things have called ‘normal’ for over 100,000 years. We don’t want to think we’re pushing Mother Nature toward a cliff, but we’d be wise not to wait and see how hard she pushes back.