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Professional Athletes Jump In the Ring To Fight Climate Change

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Athletes have always been able to sway public opinion, whether intentionally or unintentionally. In the history of modern professional sports, there have been countless examples of players advocating for social change and equality. However, sustainability hasn’t been at the forefront of some of their activism radars. 

That’s starting to change as climate change has worsened. Winter sports professionals to former NFL linemen are taking the stance about the need to save our planet and conserve our environment. 

Racing For A Cause

One person picking up the mantle is Jeff Mogavero, a professional endurance athlete who lives in Missoula, MT. Mogavero knew he wanted to do something to help the environment after running in the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York.

After running cross-country in college, he wanted everyone to experience the feeling of being outside in an idyllic setting. 

With climate change altering nature, Mogavero felt a responsibility to raise awareness of rising temperatures, deforestation, and lack of snowfall in winter. To do so, he joined Running Up for Air, a set of races that raises money for local climate organizations and educates about air quality. Mogarevo is not the only outdoor athlete to join this fight, though. 

Running Toward Change

Another two athletes pushing for change are Clare Gallagher, an ultrarunner, and Dakota Jones, a pro trail runner. Gallagher had a similar experience to Mogavero, being a college runner and recognizing how much she loved the environment and didn’t want to see it vanish. After earning a sponsorship with outfitter Patagonia, she used her social media presence to bring awareness to climate issues. 

“We need more activists, and for my part, I am going to continue talking about it constantly,” Gallagher said

Dakota Jones cites more historical influence for his desire to slow climate change. After reading the literature of Henry David Thoreau and John Muir, Jones believes that scarcer resources would leave more uncertainty about the future and how we handle climate change. Running past parched rivers and forests burnt by wildfires, Jones says the need to act is becoming more urgent than ever. 

Stronger In Numbers

Pro athletes have also found motivation in working in groups. Winter sportspersons like snowboarder Chloe Kim are part of Protect Our Winters, an organization advocating for Congress to pass more policy that protects the environment. The group was a perfect match for the olympian, being that she spoke at a UN council meeting in 2019 on how climate change is hurting the human experience more than the world’s leaders think. 

The work of Protect Our Winters, founded in 2007 by professional snowboarder Jeremy Jones, could represent more than 57 million people participating or working in outdoor recreation, according to Mario Molina, the organization’s executive director. “There’s a lot of progress we can make by taking individual action, but what we really need is a complete shift,” Molina said

Photo Courtesy Toyota Newsroom

EcoAthletes, founded by Lew Blaustein in 2020, is another coalition of professional athletes, academics, and scientists working together to find solutions to climate change. Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Brent Suter is an advisory board member.

The company works to set athletes up with sponsorships with green companies, social media presence, and outreach programs to show how they are dedicated to raising awareness for environmental issues.

Some influential players the organization has worked with include soccer veteran Jasmine Spencer and retired NFL lineman Garry Gillam

The group even sent a letter to Senate Democrats urging them to do whatever they could to pass the Inflation Reduction Act. “Athletes are catalysts of social change,” says Blaustein. 

Photo Courtesy Milwaukee Brewers/MLB 

Athletes have long been symbols of influence. Those hoping to see more climate protection are the next wave of outspoken changemakers. Whether they are running trails in Montana or playing in the Super Bowl, we are sure to see professionals keeping up these efforts to make sure fans can enjoy nature without climate change altering their experience. 

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