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

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.