Last summer, alpinist Graham Zimmerman attempted a new route on K2, the second-highest mountain on earth. At 7,000 meters of the 8,600-meter Himalayan mountain, historically, everything would be frozen. Instead, Zimmerman experienced temperatures at 53 degrees Fahrenheit, weather you may expect on a bluebird spring ski day at Mt. Bachelor.
“What I came home with was a story as to how these mountains are heating up,” said Zimmerman, a Bend local using his outdoor experiences to advocate for climate policy. He is a self-proclaimed “imperfect advocate” and a climb captain for Protect Our Winters, or POW, a nonprofit organization helping people protect the places they love from climate change. To be a perfect advocate, he acknowledges, would mean giving up the activities he loves, but those are also the activities which make him care about the outdoors in the first place—skiing, climbing and creating global connections. “When we talk about imperfect advocacy, it’s me utilizing a story that I took from going on a trip that had a pretty big carbon cost and using that to talk about climate,” Zimmerman said.
As climate change becomes one of the most significant issues of our time, POW is turning outdoor enthusiasts into climate advocates. The organization acts as a guide, providing tools for advocates to use their voices to create systematic change. “If we can shift ourselves into a greener economy with more efficient travel, electronic vehicles and the green energy grid, then we can actually do these things that are the reason for giving a damn about climate and landscapes in the first place,” Zimmerman said.
To make these changes, people need to engage with the political system, get involved locally, and look at our elected officials to understand their stance on climate and vote accordingly, Zimmerman said. We also need to raise our voices and share our personal climate stories.
“We all have stories, particularly people who are spending a lot of time outside,” Zimmerman said. “Anybody in Bend has stories about how their livelihoods, their recreation and their love of landscape are being affected by climate, and that’s one of the most powerful tools we have for breaking down partisan divides and meeting our fellow citizens of this country and this world where they’re at and where we’re at. Think about those stories, think about how you tell them, about how you utilize them to create connection and drive action because they are super potent.”
POW aims to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 by embracing renewable energy, electric transportation, carbon pricing policies and preventing fuel extraction from public lands. These changes will come from incentivizing a clean energy future, making climate a top policy priority and shifting our nation’s attitude around climate change. Become a member of the POW Central Oregon Alliance to get involved with outreach, events and alliance recruitment.