Act Now, Apologize Later

This year the TransWorld Snowboarding Industry Conference was honored to have Adam Werbach as the keynote speaker.

As the youngest president of the Sierra Club in its 112-year history, 23-year-old Werbach galvanized a new generation to the importance of environmentalism.

Rolling Stone has described him as a fixture on the list of America’s most-influential people under 30. Al Gore was quoted as saying, "He’s proven what many have believed all along. Young people care, they’re involved, and they’re already making a difference."

In his lively, anecdote-filled address, Werbach continually stressed the need for the winter-sports industry to do a better job emphasizing to the mainstream that snowboarding and skiing are positive forces for environmental protection.

The new force in environmentalism isn’t to be found in Washington, but at home. "It’s a 1,000 surfers attacking the beach, paddling around Ocean Beach pier, saying we’re tired of getting sick from the water. That’s the new form of environmentalism," he said, referring to a Surfrider Foundation demonstration during the Republican National Convention in San Diego in 1997. "Perhaps the biggest contribution you guys can make to the environmental movement is by showing people what it’s like to be outdoors," he said.

An now more than ever is the time to act.

"You are users of the national forests, and the national forests are facing a crisis," he said. "And as users of the national forests, you have a higher responsibility for its protection. Now, the problem is, you have a bad rap. Ninety-eight percent of the revenue for national forests comes from recreation. The other two percent comes from mineral and resource extraction. And that mineral and resource extraction right now is rampant and out of control. That’s why we’re down to such a small percentage of the original wild lands.

"Now some people say our national forests are being abused, therefore we should cut down on the amount of abuse on the land," he continued. "And there is environmental impact to snowboarding and skiing. But the benefits per unit of cost is much greater than any use of the forest. But right now you’re grouped with these abusers of the forest. The industry has not been loud enough in saying, ‘That’s not acceptable. We’re not just steward of the places we go skiing and snowboarding right now, we’re steward of the entire forest.’ We need to move toward that."

How effective was his speech? "That was the best f–king speech I’ve heard in my entire life," said Tom Sims afterward. Maintaining that spirit is a task we all should strive for.

–Sean O’Brien