In addition to lots of fun activities at the event, I was asked to be a member of a pro-athlete panel for the closing event Adventure Saves the World.
At first I was put off by the title, as I am always mortified by the carbon footprint of even my human-powered expeditions. Then I received an outline, from moderator Mike Roberts, executive editor of the Outside — and to my surprise and delight, this guy wanted to dig deep! He had quotes from Will Gadd, spouting about the BS of many expeditions with a cause, to the polar opposite — powerful athletes really making a difference, like Jake Norton, fighting for clean drinking water. Were we going to have to put on boxing gloves and fight it out? Were many people just using expeditions to raise money for their hedonistic activities under the fake umbrella of a cause?
Turns out, all the world champion athletes at this symposium were all in favor of philanthropy, but all had some key points that charity givers should note…
Polar Explorer Eric Larsen talked up the benefits of bringing nature’s gifts into the classroom with social media, and noted that donated money should go to the cause — not to fund an expedition’s travel expenses.
Willie Kern responded eloquently regarding how effective we were in reaching millions, saying that if even one person was inspired or changed, that made it all worthwhile. Olympic snowboarder Chris Klug mentioned that he is flooded with emails from organ donation recipients like himself, inspired to do even more with their new lives.
How do we recognize if an expedition is doing the right thing? Of course you can check if corporate sponsors are funding expenses and donation money is going directly to causes, and check to see the validity and rating of a nonprofit, but there really is more. At the end of the forum, I had an epiphany regarding the issue… maybe what it boils down to is authenticity: in the days of Google, one can really check to see if an cause-driven expedition is really true to that person’s heart and soul. Based upon the passion I saw and heard at this symposium, I was inspired to keep saving the world, one snowflake at a time!
Alison Gannett is a World Champion Extreme Freeskier, founder of The Save Our Snow Foundation and an award-winning global cooling consultant who has spent her life dedicated to solutions for climate change.