Editor’s note: This posting was authored by Pat Ford. Many years ago, Pat served as the executive director of ICL. Most recently, he was the executive director for Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition. Pat lives in Boise, Idaho, and periodically contributes to the ICL blog.
At the first holding snow a few weeks ago, my wife drove up from Boise to ski the ungroomed nordic track at Bogus. First ski each year is sacred for her, and for others.
For four months each year, Bogus Basin is the most visible climate change demo for the almost 40% of Idahoans who live in the Boise Valley. As Boise winters melt at both ends and out from the middle, the effects on Boise’s local ski area are visible to the eyes of all who live in the valley, to skiers and snowboarders who do their thing locally only when there’s snow, and to ski and snow businesses that cater to them.
All those eyes, bodies and businesses see and feel the shrinking snow in sight above us. How many see it knowingly as an instance of global climate change in local motion? Whatever the numerical answer, the civic answer is, not enough.
Fire is Idaho’s biggest demo now for climate change, though I think hot water in our rivers and streams will rise to contend. But Bogus could also be a door through which to build awareness and response in a good share of Idahoans as climatic changes tunnel in to our individual, community, and ecological/economical lives. Bogus is the largest community-owned ski area in our country, with deep roots in many lives, and in the common life, for four of every ten Idahoans.
The climate disruptions now hitting Idaho will become repeating wallops, soon and for our next century. (I think we can almost put our hands on Idaho 100 years from now, feel its shape for our children, for theirs, and for the homes and lands we love.) I have an instinct that the soundness of Idahoans’ responses, singly and as collected in practices and policies, will closely correlate with how quickly, widely, and across our divides we talk with each other about the walloping. Such talk will lead to actions, but is itself a large part of the action-climate change schooling, if you will, in all manner of schools and for we students of all ages.
The uncertainties about climate change effects, interactions, paces and local results are fundamental. So, much of how well Idaho might ride it out will be carpentered on the fly by Idahoans-singly, in family, in community. The knowledge, attitudes, agility and sisterhood with which people meet those moments will be as crucial as science, law and policy. Our ability to avoid utter disasters connects closely to how well we can avoid stupid and blind responses. In human affairs these are never easy to avoid.
I’m told Bogus’ citizen board is aware that climate changes are a factor in its shrinking winters. And that its ongoing pursuit of snowmaking capability is a knowing adaptive response, as is working to make Bogus an all-season attraction. (Both have other motivations, too.) But does the general skiing and snow public make these connections? Will valley leaders and businesses that want Bogus to have a future make them? Will the constant postings and stories of the next three months about Bogus’ conditions do so?
I am musing here, it may be thought, from within the box of adapting to climate change, not the box of stopping or stabilizing it. But there are not two boxes. There is one, with strong internal cross-effects. The faster and more widely Idahoans talk about adapting and building resilience to climate change’s actual escalating effects upon us all, at Bogus Basin and elsewhere, the faster and more widely we will come to understand the most essential adaptation: stabilizing climate change so that all our other adaptations are not swamped in unabated heat.
If Northwest climate models I see are roughly right, the sentence with which I began-that Bogus is the most visible climate change demo for the Boise Valley-will not be true 30 to 50 years from now. There will be no or very transient snow up there in any winter month. Whatever happens to the place and business called Bogus Basin, Boise’s old community school of local skiing will probably close. It is dear to many. While it’s still open, could we somehow make it one school, of many needed, for building climate-ready, climate-active citizens in the Boise Valley?
– Pat Ford