My humble observations
Protect what you love! As I write this, I am sitting in front of my screen, it’s 11 pm, and I just finished organizing a bunch of files. What an unlikely start for a story on this website. But this one is not (only) about mountain adventures. This one is about why exactly you should and how you can join the fight for a healthy planet.
As mountain sports enthusiasts, we have seen the effects of climate change a bit more dramatically than most others. Last year, we first witnessed a very warm winter with few good skiing conditions. Friends who had set their eyes on some north faces had trouble finding good conditions and had to adapt to absurd timing. The plans of many climbers and mountaineers were crushed by falling rocks during the exceptionally dry and hot summer.
Of course, we have to admit that those problems are not very severe compared to people facing the floods in Pakistan, the melting permafrost in rural areas of Alaska or the global south battling heat waves and rising sea levels threatening the survival of millions of people.
Protect what you love
But nonetheless, the mountains are where we live out our passions and where we spend our best days. Science tells us that humans need an emotional connection to care about something. Knowing about a distant disaster is not enough for most of us to really take action. But we climbers, skiers, hikers, paragliders, and alpinists have this strong connection to the mountains, their rock, wildlife and glaciers. We should protect what we love!
In 2007 the pro-snowboarder Jeremy Jones founded Protect Our Winters (POW) with the goal of harnessing the power of the outdoor community to fight climate change. Recently POW Athlete Tommy Caldwell was featured in a New York Times article displaying POW as one of the most effective groups advocating for climate policies. I guess we’re gonna take that as proof of concept for now.
To find and support your local POW Chapter: protectourwinters.org
A different idea of volunteering
In 2017 the Swiss chapter of POW was founded, and ever since, I have volunteered for POW Switzerland. Opposed to the first image that comes to mind when you hear about “volunteering”, I never ever handed out flyers at the shopping mall. Instead, I got to use and develop my professional skills.
I hold a master’s degree in architecture and worked in some bigger Swiss offices as a competition architect for some years. Besides developing concepts and ideas, we needed to explain those graphically. Project management, pressure resistance and an eye for good design are absolutely necessary.
Putting my skills into action
Those skills came in very handy for a small but fast-growing NGO. And so, in the past years, I worked on all types of graphic designs, from flyers to be distributed at ski resorts to posters and slide decks for presentations or our annual report. I held presentations at mountain huts and got called on stage in front of 300 people to speak about POW and climate change, ski toured with a pack full of vegetables and learned more about event management than I ever wanted. It is fantastic to use my skills to protect what I love.
Of course, not all of this was right in the middle of my comfort zone, but that is also a good thing: I was able to discover new talents in me that I was not aware of and learn tons of new tricks as a graphic designer and in communications. Beyond this, I learned about climate change and how to slow it down from professors and scientists. Most importantly, I made a lot of new friends with whom I ski and climb a lot.
Find your opportunity
As you can see from my story, skilled volunteering can be great for both sides: the NGO in need of specific help and the volunteer alike. This is why outdoor company Patagonia made skilled volunteering a fundamental pillar of their platform Patagonia Action Works.
Patagonia Action Works is a website intending to share the reach of Patagonia in the outdoor world with the Non-Profits they support. NGOs can share petitions and events but also look for the help of volunteers with specific tasks or projects. Beyond working with POW, I also had plenty of good experiences with connections via Patagonia Action Works: with the great people of Mountain Wilderness France, the Cascades Wolverine Project and the Soil Heroes Foundation.
Your turn to take action!
- Go to eu.patagonia.com/actionworks. Log in to your location and the causes you care most about.
- You will now notice the section for skilled volunteering by the yellow bars and the volunteering icon.
- Scroll through all the important projects in need of help and find one that suits you. No luck this time? Make sure to check back later!
- Click on a ticket that interests you to get more information and apply.