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snow of tomorrow

Snow of Tomorrow | Tearing down the lifts?

How much radicalism do we need?

by Lisa Amenda 02/08/2021
PG reader Hannes, like probably many of us, wants radical demands and radical solutions - what else could do justice to the huge problem of climate change? More and more drops on increasingly hot stones are not enough. He thinks that the sustainability trend in the outdoor industry in particular also involves a lot of self-deception.

The following call by Hannes to tear down the lifts refers not only to the real ski lifts, but above all to the "lifts in people's heads". In other words, he calls for more radicalism, which he often finds lacking in the Snow of Tomorrow column, among others. On the next page, Lisa, the column's most frequent author, responds to his criticism and asks herself: What would be the point of tearing down the lifts? And is that even radical?"

Tear down the lifts!

Tear down the hut, sings Mickie Krause desperately, because nobody listens to him. There is no right life in the wrong one, as the saying went in the last century. What is it about such clear messages that we don't want to understand? Consistently applied, the environmentally conscious winter sports enthusiast has three options:

  • Resign into agony, continue to drive 200km to the Alps every weekend, consume nature, with everything that is necessary to do so.

  • Recognize the contradiction between nature conservation and winter sports and give up the hobby.

  • Support radical change.

No option is the policy of small steps, because it only serves to cement the status quo. You can soothe your conscience by scaring ptarmigans with ski poles made of bamboo instead of aluminum. You are just as much a part of an overheated leisure industry if you wear clothes made from natural fibers instead of polyester. The policy of small steps is like going on hunger strike but not eating chocolate for the time being. Like demanding gender equality, but only at the weekend.

No shifting responsibility onto individuals! Just as the fairy tale of rags to riches is ultimately just an offer to greed that prevents social justice, the fairy tale of small, easy steps that everyone can take themselves is an offer to laziness that makes real change impossible.

In view of the development of ski tourism in recent decades, the question arises as to whether it can simply be slowed down gently and frozen at a suitable point, or whether it must be understood as a process, with growth being a necessary part of the process that cannot be dispensed with.

Therefore: slaughter the sacred cows, tear down the lifts! It would be a step big enough not to remain a mere symbol and initiate real change and small enough not to be completely unrealistic. It would fill the mountains with emptiness again, with space for new magic. It would be a self-chosen emptiness.

You think the suggestion is so utopian that it remains the same self-deception as a homemade muesli bar instead of industrial chocolate as a summit snack? No, because the homemade muesli bar does not include the possibility of failure, it is an easily achievable goal, you eat the paralyzing satisfaction with it. If you want to tear down lifts, you have to set yourself up for lifelong failure and endure it.

And until then? Of course it's better to eat less meat and form carpools, but you should remain suspicious when solutions to big and complex problems come across as all too simple and convenient, like giving up the straw instead of the piña colada.

Turn the page for commentary on Lisa Amenda's commentary -->

Tear down the lifts - and then?

Hannes doesn't think my column is radical enough. Softener sustainability, in other words. His demand: either complete fatalism and carry on as before, or tear down all the lifts immediately. Interesting thought, actually. Because I have to agree with him on one point: this column is not radical. Especially as we skiers are probably living in an eternal inner conflict. I've already tried radical and called for more radicalism on my blog. But realistically, where would that lead?

It doesn't really matter whether I scare up the black grouse with bamboo ski poles or energy- and resource-wasting aluminum poles, or trudge up the mountains in natural fiber underwear or petroleum-wasting polyester. I'm still part of the "overheated leisure industry", he's right. But at least I wasted fewer resources on a planet with finite resources. I also agree with him in the sense that the world's problems, the solution to climate change, cannot be shifted onto individuals, the citizens. Politics is needed. The economy. A rethink in all areas of life. And that's why it's not enough to bake your own muesli bars, buy recycled Gore-Tex or carpool to the mountains. If politics is to change something, then each and every individual must be prepared to make a change. And that starts with the next election. Go out and vote for the parties that are committed to tackling such problems and, above all, to changing the system. In the Alps, we live in democracies and the asset of such political systems is the co-determination of each and every individual. We must not shift this responsibility away from us.

Would tearing down the lifts help? Wouldn't we then face exactly the same problems as we do now? In Germany, we are currently having a kind of trial run. All ski resorts are closed. Without exception. And what happens? People are still making a pilgrimage to the mountains in droves and running around cluelessly in the terrain with their newly purchased ski touring equipment. Parking lots south of Munich are bursting at the seams, communities are putting up signs against Munich residents. Togetherness becomes pure opposition. The same picture in the German low mountain ranges: do people go skiing? No. Are the lifts running? No. So would it make a difference if we tore down the lifts? Would the valleys be filled with emptiness again, with space for new magic? I can explain the new magic: It's called snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, ski touring, ice skating, winter hiking, tobogganing, walking and, and, and. There would probably be slightly fewer people going to the mountains and there would be no more après-ski parties.

But would that solve all our problems? Would we therefore continue to live happily and with the greatest possible biodiversity on our planet for all eternity? No. Because people want to get out, to move. Into nature. Can anyone forbid them to do that? Can anyone tell them, ourselves, how we should live? No. Because the underlying question is quite fundamental: How does someone want to organize their personal life?

That's why I say it quite simply: Tearing down the lifts is not enough. It would make the mountains more natural again and yes, the people who work in ski tourism would find new jobs, I'm sure of that. But they would have to move out of the mountain valleys. Probably to the cities. That would increase the population pressure on urban areas. This would possibly increase psychological problems, stress and illness among the people affected, or cause them to develop in the first place. Living space would become even scarcer and this would result in increased sealing. Species extinction on a small scale.

I would like to throw another question into the room: Is it winter sports alone that fuels these problems or even brings the possibility of solving them? No. Absolutely not. Winter sports arose from people's hedonistic lifestyles. Because at some point they no longer had to worry about getting their food all day and had time. It is pure luxury. We are dealing with pure luxury problems here. Nothing more and nothing less. Just a nice pastime. So if winter sports were to disappear now, people would look for new hobbies. After all, they still have time. So let's abolish winter sports for all I care. Let's give up skiing. We Germans have already practiced it after this coronavirus winter anyway. We get used to everything. But now we are still faced with the problem that the earth is overheating, that sea levels will rise and that extreme events and natural disasters are likely to increase. So if we continue to vote for the wrong parties, buy cheap meat and thus promote the deforestation of the rainforest or reach for the 100th polyester T-shirt, which is why even more oil reserves have to be tapped, this time perhaps in a nature reserve in the Arctic, then nothing will change in our current situation, even without skiing. How much should we have to forbid ourselves for the radical protection of the earth? And above all, how much do we want to forbid ourselves? Because if we're honest, we shouldn't read anything on the internet here (think of the server capacities in the background), not take a step outside our front door, let alone turn on the heating or take a breath.

And if we then only focus on ourselves, our own country, our own region, then we won't get anywhere. We have to realize that the world is connected. Everything. From the plankton in the sea to the deer in our forests. That a ski resort in British Columbia in a nature reserve is also our business. Or do we want to go back to narrow-minded nationalism? Climate change knows no borders. That's why sustainability and nature conservation should know no national borders. But if we have not yet understood this, then we must admit to ourselves that we are not trying in vain to save the earth, but that we are already, to the best of our knowledge and belief, fundamentally destroying our home. And, above all, ourselves. Because the earth will survive. Nature will regenerate. We humans will not. And if there is a call for more radicalism here, I would like to end with the most radical thought of all: If we as the human species are incapable of looking after our home planet, do we deserve to continue living on it at all?

In view of this alternative: don't we then want to give humanity another chance, not give up hope and continue on the philanthropic path of the previous Snow of Tomorrow editions - without completely losing our radical spirit?

This article has been automatically translated by DeepL with subsequent editing. If you notice any spelling or grammatical errors or if the translation has lost its meaning, please write an e-mail to the editors.

Show original (German)

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