a boots-on-the-ground view of the change that's a-foot

Posts Tagged ‘sports’

X-Games on a Vision Quest

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

(Seeing the BMX ramp yesterday reminded me of my friend, Michael May, who I posted about (below) in 2007. Though he’s since weathered a broken wrist, elbow, and nose, he’s still following his riding bliss.)

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

I have a love/hate relationship with sports – you could call me a reformed sports addict. Although strictly amateur, I pushed and pulled myself through many athletic endeavors since puberty. In fact, discovering sports as a teenager is definitely why I survived puberty! I ran, played softball, basketball, tennis, did high jump, some gymnastics, skied and ran some more. Later, I discovered the more extreme sports like windsurfing, water skiing, mountain biking and triathlons. I found and committed to yoga just in time to save my body from injury and overuse and my mind from imploding into a ego-centric mess. We all have our journey, eh?

I’m relieved and satisfied that I moved on, staying active and outdoors-loving but finding a balance I missed earlier. I still have an ongoing admiration for the ambitious passion of most athletes (though I question the purity of professional sports) and I’m especially enamored with the people who play and/or compete with an unadulterated mind/body/nature connection. Windsurfing still mesmerizes me, as does surfing and snowboarding. Not too long ago, I connected with an especially impressive skateboard and BMX enthusiast. A quiet and focussed intensity surrounds him and he continually expresses an inspiring blend of road warrior, artist and buddha. That’s him above.

It’s not a surprise to me that the leaders in the Green movement in sports comes from the professional skateboarding and BMX community. Pierre Andre Senizergues segued from pro-skateboarder to owner of Sole Tech, an athletic shoe company with buildings powered by solar panels, including an extensive recycling progam and waterless urinals that save at least 250,000 gallons of water per year (or 2 1/2 million bottles of beer). Sole Tech is currently launching a line of sustainable footwear and apparel. This guy practices what he preaches, living in an eco-house and becoming a primary backer for Leonardo DiCaprio’s environmental film, The 11th Hour.

Skateboard Professional turned guru, Frank Scura, once immersed in the traditional mainstream culture of the action sports, journeyed out (you gotta check out his wolf story!) and back in with a different perspective on himself and the world. Returning to the sport scene with a new set of ideals, he founded AESC (Action Sports Environmental Coalition) in 2001, an organization set on educating its young athletes about how they can contribute to environmental efforts and sustainability through conscious consumption. Read more about Scura’s corporate marketing strategies – “a three-prong attack on business as usual” at Grist.

He’s into “seed-planting”, not preaching, but found young people really want to hear from their heroes – people who embrace their lifestyles yet show them a way to contribute outside themselves. Scura confirms my observation that the yogic nature of what X-athletes do – the ability to be fully present – is a formula for commitment on many levels. He says, “The beauty of it is – it’s exactly what action sports needs. The ultimate punk rock rebellious act to fuck the Man and fuck the system is to be environmentally and socially conscious. That’s exactly what they don’t want you to do.”

Sports Heroes Heed the Call

Tuesday, March 4th, 2008

Speaking of heroes, athletes seem to be naturals at it. And many of them continue to shine long after they leave the winner’s circle.

Tennis now steps up to the plate net with the announcement of GreenSlam, a organization promoting socially and environmentally responsible change through the power of sports. Founder, Billie Jean King, tennis legend and social activist, is no stranger to using her voice for good. She has teamed up with llana Kloss, CEO and Commissioner of World Team Tennis, to move professionals, along with the entire tennis industry, towards GreenSlam standards.

With programs that include global ecologically supportive athletic events, “green-collar” work/study opportunities and cleaning up roadways, GreenSlam reaches into all aspects of the sports world, including its fans.

Prince Sports stepped into the ring court as sponsor, along with the Tennis Industry Association and Firm Green Energy Inc, a leader in renewable energy initiatives, big names that go right to the source.

“If the billions of people who live and love sports take just one single step, we can win back our planet.”
– Billie Jean King.

Love. Set. Match.

Lance Armstrong Goes Public

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Lance Armstrong, the seven-time Tour de France champion, has announced plans for opening a bike shop and commuting center in downtown Austin, TX, in May of this year. It will include bicycle/gear sales, bicycle storage and showers for commuters, a training facility and a cafe. Now you can ride in to work, grab a shower, breakfast and a chat with other riders before continuing to the office (by foot, bus, or pedicab).

Mellow Johnny’s, named for the yellow jersey, is making good-sense use of an existing 1950’s building and it is not just about the bike. Lance acknowledges the importance of encouraging and supporting a cycling culture in growing cities like Austin, “We have to promote (bike) commuting. This can be a hub for that.” Armstrong also promotes the addition of safe roadways for cyclists, positioning the new shop in close proximity to the the Lance Armstrong Bikeway, a path conceived of by a local cycling activist and subsequently funded by the city of Austin, that loops approximately 6 miles through the center of the downtown area.

With the revitalization of urban areas and the move towards mixed-use communities, an accessible mass transit system combined with a commuter bike center and safe bicycle lanes is what every city needs and what an eco-motivated population deserves. And I think many of us are motivated and inspired by new ideas and hope for a liveable and happy future.

And, I’m motivated by heroes like Lance, who, instead of resting on his laurels, is doing what he knows best and doing it for Change. Now I know that I’m riding with the best of them.

Where is Winter? Not gone to the dogs…

Friday, January 18th, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Winter has been hard to find lately. Skis, snowboards and ice skates stay stowed away for longer periods of time each year. The mountainous snowbanks that used to still be melting far into a MN spring, now rarely reach a foot or two all year. The shortcut I took across one of the city’s lakes on my x-cross country skis is no longer a safe bet. And now, Winter can’t even seem to find Alaska.

Citing a warming climate and urban sprawl (connection noted), Grist reports that Iditarod officials announced permanent logistical changes in the race course this year, shortening the length and moving the start location 30 miles north – in search of colder temps, less asphalt and more snow.

Other professional Winter sports athletes are having to adjust to warming issues as well. Skiers, skaters and snowboarders are heeding the call to save their careers – and their passion for Winter sport. According to EMagazine, Snowboarders, Gretchen Bleiler, Lindsey Jacobellis joined the cause after experiencing significant and disturbing changes in practice and event conditions all over the world. Five of the original 8 World Cup snowboarding events were canceled last year due to lack of snow and warm temps.

Boston Bruins hockey player, Andrew Ference, wants the entire NHL to go carbon Neutral. He worked with the David Suzuki Foundation, calculating an emissions output of 25 tons of carbon per player during the sports season for flights and accommodations. He and other players now purchase Gold Standard carbon offsets and have made significant changes in their own lives as well – like driving less and recycling more. Similar meetings are happening with 20 other NHL teams while Olympic alpine skier, Kjetil Andre Aamott of Norway, has founded an anti-globalwarming campaign for Olympic athletes.

Lack of snow also has motivated recreational ski resorts to take action and move towards greener – or whiter – mountains. They may have to run snow making machines more, but some are switching to biodiesel fuel while others are purchasing wind power. The Natural Ski Areas Association joined with NRDC’s Keep Winter Cool campaign, supported and promoted by snowboarder, Ross Powers and Alpine ski racer, Picabo Street. Read more about ski areas going green here.

“It’s a lifestyle change.” says Street in EMagazine, who is making changes in her lifestyle on and off the road. “You have to focus on it, and really commit to it.”

Spoken like a true athlete.

Portland Knows Bikes

Thursday, November 8th, 2007

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Known to some as “Bike City, U.S.A.”, Portland is a mecca for recreational and commuter cyclists, and home to the Nation’s highest percentage of workers who commute by bike (3.5%). Way ahead of it’s time, the city began planning a network of bike lanes in the 1970’s, according to the NY Times. Refueled by the carbon-reducing environmental movement, Portland scores high in green karma and green economy. The growing number of cycling enthusiasts in the area is boosting a growing market of small businesses that are combining both recreation and transportation with a strong sustainability message.

“Our intentions are to be as sustainable a city as possible,” says Sam Adams, a city commissioner in charge of transportation. But what began as only an environmental effort, became an additional economy booster – testament to the fact that what goes around comes around. That’s only part of the good news. Successful small business fosters community and goodwill, allowing room for community outreach and nonprofit advocacy. With encouragement from local government, drivers and riders in Portland mostly share roads – and parking spaces – harmoniously. More plans are underway for additional bike lanes to keep riders out of motor traffic.

The moral of the story? Cities that grow greener may also see growth in community-building attitude and activities, economy-boosting small business, tourism, sustainability, safety and healthy habits, as well as a decrease in pollution and corporate takeovers. Nothing to lose, everything to gain.

How to help your town have this much fun? Find your passion. Find your voice. Get involved in local planning, large or small. Find your path and hit the ground running – or, er, riding – !


Thursday, October 25th, 2007

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

My twin sister lives near Lake Tahoe and she called the other day to tell me the first snow had come early this year – she was standing in the canyon, looking up at it just then. We were silent for a moment, both of us, I’m certain, thinking wistfully of the long, beautifully snow-covered Winters of our childhood in Minnesota. Those days seem far away – not by measure of years, but by the measure of lacking snow. Just as we now reveled in an October snowfall, we were simultaneously sobered by the fact that this was not an indication of “business as usual” in terms of nature. As temperatures rise, annual snowfall throughout the world have been decreasing rapidly over decades. Winter sports may soon be a thing of the past.

Of course, in this culture, denial runs deep. Ski resorts have been making supplemental snow for dry periods for a long time and I’m sure they’ll continue to fill the air with CO2 emissions via snowmakers for a long time yet. But, making your own snow at home? Now I know just how spoiled we have become and that nature can’t seem to speak to us loudly enough.

Do you know about this? When Winter is a no-show, instead of worrying about it, we just rub our hands together like mad scientists and find yet another non-sustainable way to get what we want. Much to my surprise and dismay, I’ve discovered that companies in the U.S. have been selling home snowmakers since 2000 and sales “have hit every state except Hawaii” say the owners of Snow At Home. (Sorry, if you want a link to this, you’re gonna have to find it yourself.) I guess our SUVs, luxury boats, motor homes and swimming pools aren’t enough. We gotta have it – all.

I don’t know…just how long can we continue to have our planet and eat it, too?

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