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Climate Change Starts to F#*& With Cocktail Hour: Cue the Revolution

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"Climate Change Starts to F#*& With Cocktail Hour: Cue the Revolution"

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by Auden Schendler, in a Grist cross-post

Come Friday, I’m usually pretty torched after a typical week of being attacked as a hypocrite for working on climate change in the ski industry, failing to get any attention from corporate funded politicians, or torquing on the status quo and getting nowhere because of rule No. 1 of climate activism: Given the choice between saving the world and having an awkward encounter in the supermarket because someone doesn’t agree with you, most humans will opt to avoid the awkwardness, despite the obvious imbalance in the equation.

So, often, I’ll join our company CFO for a cocktail. He will have, himself, spent the week trying to wrest chunks of money for efficiency retrofits out of tight budgets; or beating up sketchy financial models from clean energy projects. Our favorite cocktail is a Manhattan, which I mix up with some Gentleman Jack if possible, because I like owner Brown-Forman’s work on climate change. And, in theory, I escape. Or so I thought.

A terror-inducing study for the Commonwealth of Kentucky that just came across my radar has warned that global warming may affect weather patterns crucial to the Bourbon aging process.

Hey, now. Come on. Things are getting a little personal now.

For years we’ve been hearing that climate change will lead to increased drought, fire, super storms, floods, threats to oceans and fisheries, disruptions to food and water supply. But that’s just standard apocalypse. Now climate change is jacking with cocktail hour, and that’s no bueno. Maybe this will be the final straw that galvanizes people into action. Just this Wednesday alone there were two posts on the booze-climate connection. They were, not surprisingly given my worldview, both by friends who have been known to enjoy the occasional highball. Snowboarder Jeremy Jones talks about his climate nonprofit Protect Our Winters’ new collaboration with Alamos vineyards in the Huffington Post. Of course this makes sense: Alamos depends on Andes snowmelt to irrigate their vineyards.

And Jenn Orgolini from New Belgium Brewery pointed out in the Coloradoan that drought and flooding threatens the brewery’s (and many Broncos fans’) very lifeblood: hops and barley.

When many of us got into this field of solving climate change years ago, conventional wisdom was that a few businesses would be extremely concerned about climate out front. Those industries included insurance (Swiss Re and other reinsurance giants have had climate divisions for years, correctly anticipating a spike in weather related disasters) , banking, skiing (duh) and agriculture. But now a whole host of other businesses are worried, and lots of those cut to the heart of who we are, they cut to the heart of our history and our tradition and ritual. Take tea, for example, a key part of life in many parts of the world. It’s under the gun from climate as well.

Getting closer to home for me (I’m such a coffee addict I used to carry a glass press pot into the wilderness for three week trips when I worked for Outward Bound), a few weeks ago Jim Hanna at Starbucks went unintentionally viral when he talked about climate impacts on coffee — a story that got covered everywhere from Newsweek to the Washinton Post and Fox News. . This surprised Jim a little bit. But of course it went viral. To drink coffee is to be a human being, from the Champs Elysee to the Haight Ashbury.

As I researched this article, I found you could Google almost any business, and find concerns about climate change associated with it. No surprise. But we humans are funny; we care more about some things than others. Some things are often too big to understand let alone think we can fix; (climate, democracy) and some things get our attention because they are small and personal and in our faces. Things like children. Or Whiskey.

Auden Schendler is Vice President of sustainability at Aspen Skiing Company. He is the author of Getting Green Done: Hard Truths From the Front Lines of the Sustainability Revolution.
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23 Responses to Climate Change Starts to F#*& With Cocktail Hour: Cue the Revolution

  1. publius2012 says:

    What’s happening to this blog? :(

    • The content is as great as ever and there is more of it, but you are right: there are at least a couple of mechanical issues, although you might try a different browser. The link mentioned just below by Bob Carver (aka publius) works with Chrome, for example.

      I have to wonder though, would the open thread be a better place for discussing the mechanics of the website? Just a thought.

  2. Bob Carver says:

    For instance, why does this link appear in the middle of each article: “CLICK HERE TO READ MORE OR COMMENT”? It doesn’t appear to do anything.

  3. Mike Roddy says:

    Don’t forget wine. The best varietals, such as pinot noir and cabernet, are adapted to extended fog in the Napa and Sonoma valleys. It’s getting sunnier there fast. Roots are deep, and vines are long lived- some are now being yanked out to make room for those horrible Joseph Gallo type wines that originated in the Central Valley. The end product is a bottle called something like “merlot” or “syrah”, with “a hint of blackberry and caramel”.

    It might as well be shoe polish. This could drive Northern Californians to their revolutionary roots. Maybe we’ll set up a camping vigil outside Chevron offices in San Francisco. I hope so.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      The grape growers will just have to retreat north is search of suitable terroir. The microclimates will shift incessantly but it’s necessary work, as we will all need some strong and pleasant stuff to anaesthetise ourselves in coming years.

  4. Daniel J. Andrews says:

    Chocolate. Don’t forget chocolate is also being threatened.

  5. Susan Anderson says:

    Peanuts are also in trouble. Big implications, despite the lighthearted (sort of) tone of this article, attempting to move outside our clear and present danger. Peanuts were a resort as meat was getting expensive.

    I can’t believe the whole world is trying to ignore the financial trouble – since most people seem to filter information through money, perhaps that’s one place where ignorance can stop being a badge of honor.

  6. Ominous Clouds Overhead says:

    Yup, booze ie really important—important to staying numb and not noticing that a significant portion of the rest of the world can barely afford to eat.

    Once again, living in la-la Aspen trumps reality. Worrying about alcohol and chocolate and coffee are about at the bottom of my climate change worry list. I worry more about people starving to death. And Joe, how did this even get on your blog?

    • Tony says:

      The point is not that we *should* worry about coffee/booze/etc. (although why not?), but that people *naturally* care about such things, particularly when they live in the developed world and (like most people reading this blog, I imagine) have all their needs met. You ever read any of Joe’s posts on rhetoric? Geez.

      • Ominous Clouds Overhead says:

        I read all Joe’s posts and have for a long time and I know well what rhetoric is. I got the point. I didn’t think it was particularly humorous, though. What bothers me about it is that others will read it and not get it nor think it’s tongue in cheek. This detracts from Joe’s more serious posts. It’s ammo for the deniers who will say that all we care about is our luxuries.

        I think it’s in poor taste, and I also maintain Auden needs to get out of Aspen once in awhile. I know Auden – he used to teach my kids at the very expensive and yuppie CRMS high school just down the road. My kids survived in spite of it (the school, not Auden – my wife’s idea).

        • Mike Roddy says:

          Of course I was dead serious in my comment. You don’t think wine is important? You’d rather fret about people starving in Asia?
          Dear God, I see how you got your nickname.

    • Brooks Bridges says:

      You’re right in comparing no booze to no food but I think:

      1) Most of us enjoy a little tongue in cheek humor once in a while

      2) His last paragraph expresses a sad reality; it’s not a justification:
      “But we humans are funny; we care more about some things than others. Some things are often too big to understand let alone think we can fix; (climate, democracy) and some things get our attention because they are small and personal and in our faces. Things like children. Or Whiskey”.

    • jk says:

      Ominous:

      Perhaps coffee and cacao should be higher on your list. After all, people in the tropics make their living growing cacao and coffee, so the loss of what may be a luxury for us may be the loss of livelihood for them. While we won’t starve without chocolate and coffee, they may.

      And then there’s this ironic twist: In the face of climate change, shade-grown cacao and coffee are bound to fare better than cacao and coffee grown in deforested areas. I suppose that’s the good news.

      Here’s hoping la-la Aspenites enjoy plenty of hot chocolate and coffee produced from fair-trade, shade-grown beans for a long time to come.

  7. fj says:

    Yes, abstenince is the key: Don’t start before noon!

    And, developed/developing world differential advancements.

  8. Robert In New Orleans says:

    It might be that the rise in cost and/or the sudden absence of the small luxuries that many of us indulge in will finally get the attention of the rabble.

  9. PeterW says:

    Auden this line hit home with me:

    Given the choice between saving the world and having an awkward encounter in the supermarket because someone doesn’t agree with you, most humans will opt to avoid the awkwardness, despite the obvious imbalance in the equation.

    Every day I just want to scream at people “Hey moron the end of civilization is coming down the pipes” but of course I don’t.

    I also found it surprising that Brown-Forman, the Kentucky based company that owns Jack Daniel’s brand, is concerned about climate change. Maybe there’s hope if a company in the middle of a coal industry state, can see the light.

  10. Chris Winter says:

    OCO wrote: “What bothers me about it is that others will read it and not get it nor think it’s tongue in cheek.”

    This doesn’t bother me too much. There’s always someone doesn’t get the message. And many that do will pretend they don’t, just in order to take a potshot at it.

    “This detracts from Joe’s more serious posts. It’s ammo for the deniers who will say that all we care about is our luxuries.”

    They’ll say that anyway. To me it seems a risky stance for defenders of the status quo to assume.

  11. prokaryotes says:

    Thank you, great read!

  12. Dave says:

    Pointing out the kind of everyday absurdities we all participate in just by living in this society and caring about climate sustainability – that is a refreshing counterpoint to the keyboard sermons and sanctimony common to this topic.

    I think Auden’s point about avoiding awkward supermarket conversations is crucial. There is a conspiracy of silence around climate change typical of contentious issues in this country. That seems to be the real fruit of the climate denial media blitz – to make climate unspeakable, and thus action impossible.

    How do we undo that? A leadership coach I know advised, “Go against the grain. Lean into the discomfort of difficult interactions, find out what is really there, what needs to be addressed, what needs to change.”

    Until people are talking openly about climate in the supermarket and the bar (buying coffee and booze) the politics won’t line up for serious action. Hard to do, but worth a try.

  13. That is a great point, Dave, the idea of “leaning into it.” I take that on as a daily adult mantra, meaning that if I don’t have an uncomfortable conversation with someone every day, trying to move the ball on an issue, themselves, or myself, taking criticism or dealing with some awkard or uncomfortable thing, then I’m not a big boy. I have ample opportunity for that in my job. But I try to embrace it, rather than shun it. That’s why it’s such a bummer to me to have anonymous criticism from a local “friend?” like Ominous Clouds Overhead. Blog in your own name, baby, and join the painful world. In a way, that kind of anonymous commentary is essentially the problem we’re facing in society on climate, as mentioned above. We’re all scared. But Bukowski wasn’t scared, and here’s his very apropos poem
    “to lean back into it.”

    To Lean Back Into It

    like in a chair the color of the sun
    as you listen to lazy piano music
    and the aircraft overhead are not
    at war.
    where the last drink is as good as
    the first
    and you realize that the promises
    you made yourself were
    kept.
    that’s plenty.
    that last: about the promises:
    what’s not so good is that the few
    friends you had are
    dead and they seem
    irreplacable.
    as for women, you didn’t know enough
    early enough
    and you knew enough
    too late.
    and if more self-analysis is allowed: it’s
    nice that you turned out well-
    honed,
    that you arrived late
    and remained generally
    capable.
    outside of that, not much to say
    except you can leave without
    regret.
    until then, a bit more amusement,
    a bit more endurance,
    leaning back
    into it.
    like the dog who got across
    the busy street:
    not all of it was good
    luck.

  14. Mike#22 says:

    “Given the choice between saving the world and having an awkward encounter in the supermarket because someone doesn’t agree with you, most humans will opt to avoid the awkwardness, despite the obvious imbalance in the equation.”

    Stuck It. Nice.