From Issue 4
According to NASA, global climate change has already had observable effects on the environment today. Some of these include sea-level rise, endangered species, droughts, more frequent and severe natural disasters, and of course, rise in global temperatures. As a result, glaciers on our planet’s poles are melting, and snowpack across the world has started to decline. This undeniable truth, that human-induced climate change is present and getting worse, is supported by thousands of witnesses across the world that have suffered the gradual changes in their regions. It’s also been evident in the snowsports community.
Sierra Quitiquit is a professional skier, surfer, skater, model, and international activist raising awareness of the effects of climate change on her athletic community, joining multiple athletes to turn the tide against this crisis. Sierra recently took part in NATO’s Protect The Futures Campaign in Brussels and has been educating people on environmental topics, fighting for women’s rights, promoting policy solutions, and leading national campaigns for reducing our plastic consumption for years.
Hi Sierra, thanks for joining us. Can you briefly tell us a bit about yourself?
For sure, Diego! I was born in Park City Utah. I love to cook and just be in nature. In fact, today I had a beautiful walk in the sunshine. I also enjoy touching plants, playing with puppies, skateboarding, and doing my passion which is skiing. I got into sustainability precisely through skiing, which has been a family thing since I was a little girl. My grandfather, who was Filipino learned how to ski while serving in the U.S. Navy in Alaska. He then taught my father, who finally passed on the torch to me.
That is beautiful! Can you share with us now how your journey as a changemaker began?
When I was young I used to see tons of snow very early in the year. Unfortunately, over the years I realized that our snowpack began to decline very gravely with global warming and rising temperatures. I noticed that what the world was saying about these crises was far from the reality that I was witnessing. I felt that it was my duty to help people understand how rapidly and severely climate change was happening. That is how I started my first nonprofit organization when I was 18 years old, the same age as you, and it was called Gears Against Global Warming. I have been an environmental activist since then, and I really enjoy finding communities of like-minded people that care about the natural world as much as I do.
How did you notice, as a professional skier, that climate change was affecting your community?
My hometown, Park City, Utah, has been a big snow sports community. We would host the World Cup Opening, which brought millions of dollars in revenue to my community. Our ski season would last from November to April, but over 10 years, it undeniably started to change. There was never any snow on Halloween anymore, we were not able to host the World Cup Opening, and not even open the resort by Thanksgiving. The tourists that came for Christmas would not see snowpacks covering the resort. This not only leads to the decline of my passion, which is skiing, but also causes economic loss as it affects tourism, job creation, and recreation altogether. Our whole ecosystem is being disrupted.
What similarities are there between being a skier and being an environmental activist? How has training for one prepared you for the other?
There’s a say in the skiers’ community that you need to be very tough to practice the sport. It is cold, and you need to deal with the elements and the wind all the time. We learn how to turn our faces into the wind instead of shying away from it, and I think that is the mentality that we need to fight climate change. The transformation that is needed won’t come easy. We need strength and resilience to promote a harmonious life with Mother Nature, especially since this is a long journey for us, and future generations.
Tell us about Plastic Free Fridays, the organization that you c-founded. What was your goal or vision?
I started it almost three years ago alongside Meg Haywood Sullivan to give everyday people the opportunity to take that toe into activism themselves. I wanted to empower individuals to take a stance as environmentalists through the act of refusing single-use plastics. People were challenged then to go one day per week refusing single-use plastics, creating a habit that could be perpetuated for the rest of their lives, learning about consumer choice, how they could vote with their dollars, and saving some money in the process. If you want to join us you can follow Plastic Free Fridays on Instagram and pledge to join the movement.
You had a conversation with outstanding female role models like Greta Thunberg, Malala Yousafzai, and Emma Watson. I wonder how you see both the feminist and climate movements coming together to accomplish transcendental change in both spheres?
We’ve lived in the age of the patriarch for so many centuries, and we’ve seen where that’s gotten us. I agree that there is a necessary strength in masculinity that is so necessary for our society, but if you look at the feminine energy, we are inherently nurturing. We bring softness to this world, as we inherently think of the next generations and want to create a sustainable future for all of us. I think that the future is equal. We need both the masculine and feminine energies living in balance. For me, that’s what feminism is. It’s neither the patriarch nor the matriarch dominating, but both living in respect and synergy together.
How can people start influencing decision-making to actually create tangible change in their community or country?
It is so important that we exercise our right to vote. That is our voice. In that way, we can say our will, and what we would like to see projected into our futures. You don’t need to be an expert on every bill or candidate. It’s enough with knowing what is the most important matter for you and choosing those who think the same as you. For me, the most important issue is climate change, so in every election, I make sure I vote for the candidate that is the best climate champion out there. You can get further involved by getting in touch with your representatives. It might be easy to think that we are small or that our voices don’t matter, but they do.
How can different stakeholders and communities work together to fight these issues?
I think right now it is very important as environmentalists and activists that we understand that climate change is a global problem and it does unite us all. There is a lot of talk about intersectionality, especially with environmental, social, and racial justice coming together. If you look at all of these different issues, you see how they are connected and collide because climate change affects the poorest sectors of society. People that have been affected by racial discrimination are the most likely to be underserved and more vulnerable to air pollution and the effects of climate change. So I think it’s really important that we realize how these are affecting our brothers and sisters around the globe. We have to get into the mindset of global thinking and seeing nature as a global system.
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Sierra Quitiquit: How Shortened Ski Seasons Motivated a Movement
Sierra Quitiquit implements the same tenacity, determination and persistence to her environmental work as she does on the slopes. Growing up skiing in the mountains of Utah, Sierra witnessed the snowpack recede year after year. That’s why she is committed to helping humanity live in harmony with Mother Nature, encouraging action through Plastic Free Fridays, which she co-founded, and reminding everyone that their voice and vote plays a crucial role in driving change.
The episode is made with generous support from Princess Polly