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23 February, 2010

Ice Matters

By Paige Donner

Winter Olympics 2010, The Green Games

Up in Canada where ice is integral to lifestyle and where, during these 2010 Winter Olympics, it's all about ice - ice hockey, ice skating, curling, luge, skeleton, skiing, bobsleigh ... and more ice...Ice really matters.
But there's a whole other reason why ice matters and matters in a big way. And that's because ice is melting.
James Balog, Artist, Scientist, Explorer and Adventurer has produced his Extreme Ice Survey, a compelling time-lapse photographic presentation depicting the world's ice melting at a speed heretofore unimagined. Balog is Olympic 2010 sponsor, Samsung Corporation's, Eco-Ambassador.

James Balog Presents Extreme Ice Survey at Samsung Rendezvous to Vancouver School Children, Winter Games 2010

On February 16th, Canada's Federal Government Minister of Environment, Jim Prentice [Twitter @JimPrentice] announced that they would offset the estimated 7,600 tons of GHG emissions created by the thousands of government employees participating/volunteering in the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter games.
“Canada is proud to be the first host country in history to help offset the greenhouse gas emissions of its Olympic Games,” said Minister Prentice. “This commitment is one of many ways our Government is contributing to sustainable Games and meeting our global climate change responsibilities.”
And while we all know, somewhere in our brains, that these numbers are significant and meaningful, it's the visuals that really sink in.
And here's where James Balog, a world-renowned nature photographer, can communicate the urgent nature of the state of our affairs so graphically. With his Extreme Ice Survey.
“Ice is the canary in the coal mine," said Balog in his TED Global talk delivered in Oxford, England a few months ago.  More recently at Vancouver's Live City he explained, "We are able to communicate the reality of Climate Change through our Extreme Ice Survey (.org) time-lapse photography essays."
"We are encouraging government leaders to allow us to bring out the story of what the cameras are seeing," noted Balog.
Balog has shown his Extreme Ice Survey to audiences as varied as sophisticated scientific minds at NASA to academics at Oxford from Vancouver's Mackenzie Elementary School (pictured above in their February 23rd Eco Classroom led by Balog).
"When people see my photography of landscapes melting, they understand it immediately. From the time you are one-years-old, everyone understands melting ice. From the moment you feel an ice cube melt on your tongue, you understand the concept that warmth melts ice," explains Balog.
Why does the melting of glaciers matter? Because they offer a tangible, visible manifestation of a dramatic change in climate that's underway.
It's a worldwide change; Glaciers are the visible manifestation.
Photographic documentation also provided undeniable evidence for these claims. Evidence that flies in the face of the Climate Deniers.
"Climate Gate was a ridiculously absurd and overblown event. It was a campaign of confusion and misinformation. The Climate Change deniers stepped up their game right before the Copenhagen Conference," said Balog.
"Scientists are not wild-eyed radicals. They are everything but. History is going to judge the Climate Deniers as irresponsible, criminal even."
"There are people who say that Obama is selling off the future of the U.S. with his big spending campaign. Climate Change Deniers are selling off the the future of our Earth's resources," says Balog. "You can liken the campaign of today's Climate Change Deniers with the cigarette companies of a couple decades ago. The more the status quo makes money in their status quo industries, the more they want to preserve the status quo."
Even giants such as Microsoft's Bill Gates has gotten on board with the cause of climate change. At lat week's TED conference in Long Beach, California, he said that climate change is the world's "most vexing problem," and expounded on the need to find a cheap and clean energy source, saying it is even more important than creating new vaccines and improving farming techniques.
For artist-adventurer James Balog, with the backing of a global electronics leader such as Samsung, he now has the means to spread his message wide and far.  His EIS has already been the subject of  a Nova/PBS TV special and a new book, Extreme Ice Now.
Balog on Photography:
We've been finding that visuals presented properly can captivate people in a way that the qualitative cannot. Visuals makes it real.
Eyes are the primary organ of human perception.
Numbers are an abstraction. Numbers must be processed by the brain and then interpreted. Only a small percentage of the population really speak the language of numbers easily.
Everyone gets the eye/visual thing.
Balog says that  British Columbia is one of the world's regions on the front lines of climate change.  A private foundation recently funded a reconaissance aerial tour to observe the area between between Mt. Garibaldi and Mt. Waddington.  He admitted that he was "stunned" to discover the amount of glacial retreat there was.  He said he had never seen such dramatic change in landscape. “I have seen a lot of changing mountains but I have not seen such a change like this,” said Balog.
With his Extreme Ice Survey organization, James Balog monitors other key areas of the globe:  "We have time-lapse cameras posted in the Andes, Alps, Iceland,Greenland, N. Rockies U.S., and Alaska."
Canada's Minister of Environment Prentice said, “In addition to promoting sustainability at the Games, these innovative approaches will also showcase Canadian environmental technology and ingenuity to the world.”
More of VANOC's [Vancouver Olympic Committee] and Canada's Olympic environmental initiatives:
  • Environmental assessments of Olymipic venue sites to reduce the ecological footprint of the Games;
  • The Canada Line representing 19 kilometers rail transit system that links downtown Vancouver with central Richmond and the Vancouver International Airport funded under the Canada Strategic Infrastructure Program;
  • The BC Hydrogen Highway project showcasing hydrogen and fuel-cell technology including fuel-cell vehicles and fuelling stations, and;
  • The wave roof of the Richmond Oval made from recycled wood from trees destroyed by pine beetles.
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14 February, 2010

Canada Owns The Podium

By Paige Donner
 Jenn Heil, Vancouver 2010, Olympic Silver Medalist, Photo Courtesy BCMC

"And while the pursuit of athletic excellence is the point, the Olympics are  a celebration of the fundamental aspects that unite people."  - P.M. Stephen Harper

Sustainability is a concept that has wide applications.  Presently you often hear it used in the context of environmental programs. However, "sustainability" can be applied to a wider band of disciplines, such as sports. Here in Canada, at the 2010 Olympics, the idea of sustainable podium performances is what defines their Own The Podium program.

Jenn Heil, the Canadian Team's first claimer of Olympic metal, stated consistently that "Own The Podium really gives us the support to win the medal for Team Canada."  Heil gleefully announced at a February 14th press conference that "Canada's medal train has now left the station!"  She will be awarded the Silver at this evening's first 2010 Olympic Games medal ceremony for her mogul skiing performance at last night's Cypress Hill competition. Follow the Canadian Team on Twitter: COT_ALL_UPDATES.
Own the Podium is an innovative and collaborative initiative without precedent in Canadian sport. It was created to bring together the key parties involved in leading and funding excellence in Canadian sport, with specific emphasis on achieving excellence at Summer and Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.

 Jenn Heil, Vancouver 2010, Olympic Silver Medalist, Photo Courtesy BCMC

Kristi Richards, also an Olympic Contender, and the 2007 World Champion for women's moguls, has put her momentum behind sustaining athletes by starting her own "Supporting The Dream Legacy Fund."  She explained that her hometown of Summerland, B.C. stood so strongly behind her while she developed as an athlete that she decided to start a foundation which has the kids fundraising for themselves. "Through the Adopt An Athlete program, I actually turned it back around for the kids. I help them fundraise and then the funds go back to develop them as athletes." Her program is known as the I Can Be Legacy Fund. She showed true Olympian sportsmanship, taking her competitive crash in stride and acknowledging that it allowed her "a second start. I got to get the crowd excited again."  She's also a supporter of the 1 Step Foundation, a sports oriented environmental foundation.
On this Valentine's Day 2010, love is in the air. Love for team, love for country and love for the competitive spirit of athletes,... that spirit that pushes us, as the human race to achieve unprecedented excellence.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has invested a personal presence to these historic winter games. He has shown up at the Olympic Village to galvanize his team to win gold and bring home medals for Canada in 2010; he also "waited for about 10 minutes in the rain, with his daughter" to congratulate Jenn Heil on her win, she said, the heartfelt appreciation apparent on the athlete's face.
Appreciation, recognition and support are all ingredients that form the alchemy of sustainability.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and wife Mrs. Laureen Harper, along with the Right Honorable Michaellle Jean, Governor General of Canada, whose official duty it was to open the Olympic Games of 2010 in Vancouver,  hosted heads of state at an Olympic Reception just prior to the opening ceremonies in downtown   Vancouver Feb. 12th.
Faster, Better, Higher...than has ever been attained by human beings before... is what these assembled Olympians, from across the globe, are here to achieve, the Prime Minister reminded the gathering at the special reception hosted in the city's downtown Fairmont Hotel.  Just below the second story windows, a crowd of several hundred protesters to the games had gathered just prior to Opening Ceremonies. Thousands more, all suporters of the games,  jammed the streets, decked out in Canadian flags, Olympic Gear, their country's colors and maple leafs on their way to watch live or view on humongous outdoor/indoor screens peppered across the city,  the Opening Ceremonies to the games.
Opening Ceremonies, the first ever to be held indoors, were a spectacle, as in the Francophone take on the word, "Spectacular."
Dignitaries on hand included Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and V.P. Joe Biden and his wife Dr. Jill Biden. Dignitaries and representatives from other countries in attendance included Belarusse, Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Latvia, France, Netherlands, Russia, Switzerland, USA, Denmark, Norway, United Kingdom, Cayman.
Canada's P.M. Stephen Harper welcomed the international delegation to "one of the most beautiful and livable cities in the world," speaking in both French and English.
He described the 5500 Olympic athletes as a "colorful procession that showcases how easily disparity can be swallowed up by a sporting event."
He continued by saying, "And while the pursuit of athletic excellence is the point, the Olympics are  a celebration of the fundamental aspects that unite people."
He cited the feel-good example, being used concurrently in a running Visa commercial, of the Turin Games' Sarah Renner who broke her ski pole and was then aided by the Norwegian Olympic coach who sprang forward  to lend her his. This type of sportsmanship is what sports should be all about, he concluded.
The somberness of the day's events, however, were not to be ignored.
"There are also moments that break your heart - such as today's death of Nodar Kumaritashvili, Georgia's Luge athlete's death. These athletes live the Faster, Better, Higher credo, meaning Faster, Better, Higher than has ever been attained by human beings before. These aspirations, he said, come at certain costs."
Canada's Harper ended his greeting to his international guests by observing a minute of silence in respect for the Georgian Athlete.
Governor General:  "Thank you so much for standing together with Canadians.The Olympics are a celebration of solidarity among all peoples. To honor the best in all of us. "
Right Honorable Michaellle Jean, Governor General of Canada also spoke first in French and then in English when she told her guests that "The world is yearning for change, the kind of change to uplift us. The kind of change with which everyone everywhere can achieve their highest potential. The Olympic flame was received and greeted with so much fellowship and community." she noted.  "Humanity is linked in a cosmic circle of interdependence, with the shared values of:  peace, inclusion, solidarity all at the core of Olympic values."
These values have been expressed in more than words.  For the first time in Olympic history a third brand, the brand of the Four Host Nations Society, in addition to  the IOC and the host city of Vancouver - has been allowed official Olympic communications.
Shawn Atleo

For Shawn A-in-chut Atleo, current national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, this is significantly meaningful. "These games are about sports, arts and our culture. It's about bringing it all together and putting it out there for the world to see. This is what these Winter Games are all about for us."  He spoke to guests gathered at a fashion show celebrating First Nations fashion designers Dorothy GrantPamela Baker and Angela DeMontigny on February 13th just as Jenn Heil was winning silver for her country.
Sophie Pierre, Chief Commissioner of the B.C. Treaty Commission, commented that seeing the Opening Ceremonies to the 2010 Olympics were once-in-a-lifetime memorable. "They gave us all a drum, drumstick, a   battery-powered candle and white cape as we entered B.C. Place. All 55,000 of us. It's how they created the effect of snow and ice as a backdrop for the ceremonies," she explained, adding that the audience participation was unprecedented. A friend and guest of Dorothy Grant's at her fashion show, she remarked that she wondered when will we see a male First Nations fashion designer?"
During this hyper-competitive time, when countries from around the world are assembled to display the zenith performances of their athletes, Canada once again displayed its quality for compassion when the crowd of Maple-leaf-bearers began to applaud for U.S.'s Hannah Kearney who took gold this round after finishing 22nd in Turin.
***It is estimated that 24 million Canadians watched the Opening Ceremonies.  In a country whose population totals just over 30 Million, that's enormous solidarity!  More Info at CTV

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