POW Canada is a rapidly growing community of outdoor enthusiasts, professional athletes, social innovators, and industry brands dedicated to connecting this collective passion for the outdoors with positive climate action across Canada. Though it is a new organization, it draws on the experience and strength of its parent organization POW USA, but with a distinctly Canadian approach. We asked founding members Mike Douglas and Marie-France Roy for their insights.
ORIGIN: What are some unique climate problems that Canadians are facing, specifically? Does this tie into why POW Canada was founded?
From our glaciers melting quicker than normal and affecting our snowpack and freshwater needs, big freezing levels fluctuations challenging ski resorts conditions, forest fires seasons becoming longer and hotter every year, pollution, rise of water temperature in our oceans- putting our wildlife at risk and changing weather patterns, loss of habitat from energy or extraction projects... These are only a few examples of the challenges we are facing in Canada. While we need to be aware that the issues happening here are directly connected to what happens worldwide, establishing Protect Our Winters in Canada allows us to be more effective within our own country and give Canadians the right tools to take action.
Canada is very much a winter sports country - it's part of our culture and identity. It's also a driving factor of our economy. Outdoor sport is a huge business and brings a lot of jobs. When you think about POW it's easy to think about snow and what shorter and milder winters would mean, but there is much more at stake. Virtually every outdoors person can tell you stories about how they are seeing climate change and pollution affect the environment - from pine beetles to species loss and habitat destruction. It's a massive problem and will ultimately affect us all. POW recognizes that winter and outdoor sports enthusiasts are on the front lines of climate change and collectively, we have a voice and responsibility to speak up.
ORIGIN: Mike - You are one of the founders of POW Canada, tell us what motivated you to be part of the starting of a Canadian chapter?
I've been a fan of what POW USA has been doing for a long time and finally got involved with them about a year and a half ago. It's easy to focus on the US because of all the madness happening within their government, but climate change is very much a global problem. Canadians have a better understanding of climate change than our neighbours to the south, but I think the majority of Canadians are underestimating the urgency of the issue. Scientific consensus says we need to transition to clean energy very quickly if we want to prevent catastrophic results. We need Canadians to understand this and make moves. It's not hopeless, we have the technology to do it. It just takes the will to make it happen. I have two kids and I want them to have a healthy world to live in.
ORIGIN: MF - You've been very active with POW USA, what do you see as the opportunities with POW Canada?
The athletes at POW are the secret ingredient. It is proven that people, especially the youth, are more likely to connect about issues if it is brought up by someone they admire or a close friend instead of experts, teachers or even parents.
Canada has bred so many champions in the sports industry, so we have huge assets here. An Olympic gold medallist not only has the power to inspire kids, but they also have an extremely respected voice when the time comes to bring the environmental issues to Parliament Hill on behalf of the outdoor industry. They have legitimate power to influence elected officials to consider our message and affect policies.
Protect Our Winter’s goal is to empower the youth to become climate advocates. Surveys are showing that, for the last three years, climate change is the number one issue that millennials are concerned about. Let’s give them the confidence and tools to ensure a good quality of life for their generation and the next.
ORIGIN: As athletes who travel the world to ski and snowboard, tell us what you feel about climate change and if (or how) you've seen the impacts personally.
Personally, I've noticed environmental degradation ever since I was a child. I grew up in the countryside of Quebec, so I was very tuned in with Nature from a very young age. Both by playing outside a lot, and from parents who initiated this love for the outdoors via camping, fishing, and snowboarding. Yes, there are lots of sad sights that I have witnessed from snowboarding, from glaciers melting on Whistler and affecting the summer camps, to forest fires fully smoking out large areas across Canada during the summers for weeks at a time. This is not only affecting the health of individuals but also businesses and tourism on a very large scale. It is all interconnected and if nature suffers, individuals and the economy also suffer.
We see the impacts everywhere. Whether it's receding glaciers, ski areas struggling to stay open through low snow years, pine beetles, or wildfire damage. The signs are everywhere when you open your eyes. I had the opportunity to go to Greenland with a crew from Salomon and do some climate research. We drilled ice cores into a remote section of the Greenland Ice Sheet and came back with some new data that will assist scientists in figuring out the rate of sea level rise. The results were not good. It really helped me understand the urgency of the situation.
ORIGIN: What other Canadian athletes are part of POW Canada and how will they be involved in spreading awareness?
We have a ton of athletes who have expressed interest in getting involved such as Olympians like Ashleigh Mcivor, Spencer O'Brien, Erik Guay, snowboard and ski legends Mark Abma, Leah Evans, Ian Mcintosh, Robin Van Gyn, Leanne Pelosi, Craig Mcmorris, Mark McMorris, Meghann O'Brien, Rusty Ockenden and so many more... This is just a small handful of a long list of people that are willing to speak up and create change with POW. With the "Hot Planet Cool Athletes" Assembly Program, we're planning to get a lot of these athletes into schools to present our mission and meet with students. The goal is to influence them to connect to the outdoors and also provide them with the tools to become climate advocates.
ORIGIN: If people want to get involved with POW Canada, what should they do?
There are many different ways and they are all extremely valuable! First, we invite everyone to sign up online on protectourwinters.ca to become a member of POW Canada. It is free and easy! From there, we ask people to spread the word about this important message, donate if they can, share it on social media, get their local school to host a Hot Planet Cool Athletes Assembly, organize your own local fun event to fundraise, etc. We can all pitch in a little bit whatever way we can. We all benefit so much from our outdoors, it is our responsibility to protect it!