Hold fast your hope

For our second class meeting in Sterling’s introductory A Sense of Place course, we read the introduction to Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, in which she writes:

The thing about a crisis this big, this all-encompassing, is that it changes everything. It changes what we can do, what we can hope for, what we can demand from ourselves and our leaders. It means there is a whole lot of stuff that we have been told is inevitable that simply cannot stand. And it means that a whole lot of stuff we have been told is impossible has to start happening right away.

Can we pull it off? All I know is that nothing is inevitable. Nothing except that climate change changes everything. And for a very brief time, the nature of that change is still up to us.

Her book, published only 3 years ago, presents a dire outlook for the global climate, but also an audacious hope that *this* could be the catalyst for global cooperation, collaboration, and community building that would build the foundation for a resilient future for both humankind and the environment.

When we read her words in 2017, however, it is a lot easier to feel that hope slipping away, and the potential for disastrous effects on the global ecosystem seems inevitable.

It is even more important, today, for us to build strong and resilient communities — through conversations, collaboration, and open transparent communication. We need to recognize that everything has indeed changed. This work is not easy, and the results are not quickly forthcoming, but it is essential.

As Klein writes,”a whole lot of stuff we have been told is impossible has to start happening right away.”

Time to get moving.

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New Shirts and Swag from Atayne!

I’m super excited to announce that Climate Run: Arctic Trail gear is now available in the Atayne Climate Run store!  

Not only do proceeds from the sales go directly to support the record attempt at the 500-mile Arctic Trail in August, and not only are the shirts made from 100% recycled polyester by the great folks at Atayne in Brunswick, Maine–but just look at these shirts!!

 

Facts and science in a complicated world

Amid the political, social, and emotional tumult across our national stage this year, I have treasured my time training as a time to step outside the web of tweets, truths, media blackouts, funding cuts, posturing, and ‘alternative facts.’

Maybe to help me find some solid footing, during my hours (and hours) running, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about glaciers.

In particular, I have become preoccupied with glacial responses to climate change,  which is the rest of this post is all about. I hope you read on, but if you don’t (if glaciers <gasp> aren’t your thing), at least take away this:

Few things in this world are truly simple, and most are deserving of close attention to nuance.

The world is complicated.

Facts are essential.

Embrace complexity.

Climate change is one of those things. We can track the changing surface temperatures, ocean salinity, water temperature, glacial melt, polar sea ice extent, sea level, shoreline erosion, permafrost melt, and so on — all of which are small parts of a hugely complex system.

And all of which have, for many years now, painted a clear and compelling picture of a warming climate.

Even as we begin to understand the complexity of the climatic system, though, we can often find puzzling contradictions, like surging glaciers, which appear to store energy for decades in a period of quiescence and then release a burst of movement so quick it can often be thousands of times faster than the glacier’s typical speed.

Only about 1% of all the world’s glaciers fall into the category of surging glaciers, and they appear in one of the greatest concentrations in the Svalbard archipelago 500 miles north of Norway. One glacial system in particular, Nathorstbreen, surged forward more than 15 km over the course of 4 years — sometimes moving as fast as 25 meters per day (2500 times faster than normal).

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A satellite view of the Nathorstbreen surge from ‘Surge dynamics in the Nathorstbreen glacier system, Svalbard’ by M. Sund, et al.

Glaciologist Heidi Sevestre, an expert on surging glaciers around the world, admits,

Today in a period of global glacier recession, glaciers surge in many parts of the world. Surging glaciers complicate the investigation of glacier response to climate variability.

Dramatic as it is, a surge is simply another data point in a massively complicated global system. A glacial surge does not mean that these glaciers are growing. Their volume is still dramatically decreasing. Between June and August 2015, in Svalbard alone, glaciers lost four and half million metric tons of meltwater every hour.

That’s nearly impossible to imagine, but it matters.

This is where beliefs and facts based on empirical observation meet — and where we need to work hard to be sure that far-reaching decisions are based on evidence and are not merely reactionary.

Silencing the sharing of data, as complex or unimaginable as that data may be, is anathema to building resilience, community, or sound decision making.

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The Nathorstbreen Glacial System image from TopoSvalbard / NorskPolarinstitutt

 

We started a new semester yesterday, and in an effort to help students explore their new surroundings here in Vermont, we looked at, among other things, Terry Tempest Williams’ 2004 essay, Ground Truthing, in which she writes about the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska:

The power of nature is the power of a life in association. Nothing stands alone. On my haunches, I see a sunburst lichen attached to limestone; algae and fungi are working together to break down each rock into soil. I cannot help but recognize a radical form of democracy at play. each organism is rooted in its own biological niche, drawing power from its relationship to other organisms. An equality of being contributes to an ecological state of health and succession.

A radical form of democracy begins with us, the people, making clear that facts, science, and transparency are essential — whether for building resilient communities or making intelligent decisions about our relationship with the natural world.

In all things

I am honored to have been featured by several news organizations this week. Articles about Climate Run were printed in today’s editions of The Times Argus Newspaper and the Caledonian Record. Earlier this week, Vermont Biz, VT Digger, and USA Running all posted articles about the 2017 Arctic Trail Run.

In the Caledonian Record, I was quoted as saying,

“Climate resilience isn’t about just one intervention, or several. It’s looking at the entanglement of infrastructure, culture, policies, and ecology, and seeing what we can do to not just mitigate our impact but to build more intentional and resilient relationships between social and ecological systems.”

 

“It’s not about saving nature, it’s about saving us,” he said.

“Saving us” is about celebrating individuals, building whole communities, and fostering resilient relationships with one another and across boundary lines. If we can’t do that, then how can we even begin to take meaningful action with respect to our larger world?

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Sometimes it can be pretty hard to be out on a long run. Particularly on a cold mid-winter late afternoon in northern Vermont, it can be hard even to get out the door! But when my body warms up and I embrace the rhythm of the run, I’m reminded nearly every time that running isn’t just about the exertion and a means to push through to the finish.

Rather, I like to think of my running itself as writing a narrative of openness, acceptance, and understanding of my place in this larger world—as I run, I feel boundaries begin to blur, and I find myself on a gradient between self and world.

By looking at the landscape at a small scale—something that running (and walking, and skiing, and so on) almost always requires us to do—we can begin to make our connections to natural places at the same time more dynamic, more entwined, and more resilient.

Anything that underscores the tangible, real physicality of individual and community connections with ecological systems—through sport, endurance, and recreation—can be an essential foundation for meaningful conversations not just about ‘the environment,’ but about our communities and about ourselves.

What do I hope for? For no less than to use my experience to begin writing a new narrative that integrates communities and individuals more intentionally with the ecological future of our world.

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Newsflash!

I’m so proud that Climate Run is featured by the good folks over at Running USA. Go check it out!

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Goals vs. Expectations

I had planned a long run for yesterday, January 1, to start off the New Year — and the Climate Run 500-mile Challenge — on strong footing. Of the 14 or so miles I had planned, I finished just over 6, mostly because despite how stunningly beautiful the alpine scenery along New Hampshire’s Franconia Ridge, the 60 mph wind and 10°F temps added up to a bitter windchill through which I had no intention of running 3 miles of exposed ridgeline.

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Instead, I retreated down the trail to the relative security of the stunted spruce trees on the steep western slope of the ridge and reassessed.

I could keep with my plan and cross the ridge — not particularly wise or safe.

I could go the other direction through deep untracked snow — tried that. Neither fun nor really feasible given my running attire.

I could go back down and run along the snowmobile trail by the road — not really appealing.

Instead, I opted to run back down the Falling Waters Trail to the trailhead and I realized, doing the math as I ducked under branches and around the tight copses of spruce and birch along the trail’s steep upper pitches, that I’d already had a long run/nordic ski day of more than 17 miles only two days before. And the lack of a rest day (unless you count a November Project workout as ‘rest’). And the total week’s run/ski mileage of 53 miles was 20 miles more than the week before.

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I’d started the morning thinking, ‘Sunday…must be a Long Run,’ never really taking stock or reflecting on the depth or the rich variety of my entire week. It was a vacation week for the whole family, and that made the training schedule a lot more flexible — and full of skiing, running, mountains, gym time, and group workouts woven into the fabric of family and celebration.

It was no wonder I was feeling a little tired heading up my New Year’s Day mountain run!

Long term goals structure my year in broad strokes — to run the 500-mile Arctic Trail in August, to run 2017 miles in 2017, to PR a pair of ultramarathons this spring, to train with my Sterling team, and to work with the new Climate Run Team doing the 500-mile challenge.

Sometimes, though, reaching those goals can blind me to what I’m doing day to day. Of course, I keep track of all my workouts and share them on Strava, but occasionally I need (as I think we all need) some perspective.

Climbing a mountain is a great way to find some.

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Climate Run 500-Mile Challenge!

With just over 7 months until the start of the Arctic Trail Run, I want to share the fun of training with everyone else!

I’m also feeling more than a little inspired from yesterday morning’s November Project workout in downtown Boston — training is starting to ramp up, with increasing Sunday long run mileage, scheduled cross training, and some run/ski doubles mid-week — and I want to invite you to join me!

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It’s beginning to look a lot like fitness…

So, I’m inviting you to join the Climate Run Team! Starting on January 1st, 2017, I challenge you to run, walk, or ski 500 miles by August 16th as a way to get moving, get in touch with the world around us, and learn about how we impact the environment, climate, and help build a resilient self and resilient community.

500 miles?!?!

Yep! That comes to about 2.2 miles a day — or about 15 miles each week. See? No problem!

Where do I sign up?

On the Climate Run 500-mile Challenge Facebook Group. Go ahead and join, introduce yourself, make your intention clear and get going 🙂

Do I have to run?

Nope! Human powered activities like walking and nordic / uphill skiing work just fine. The more you can do on trails, the better!

How do I  record my miles?

First, you can record them on your own. I love using my Believe Training Journal to help me get a handle on my progress, and the prompts are really great.

Second, join the Climate Run Strava Group to record your miles and see how everyone else is doing.

Post goals, pictures, and inspirations on Climate Run Facebook Page to share your accomplishments!

Is that it? What else do I do? 

The mission of Climate Run is to engage bodily movement as a way to build resilience in the face of a changing climate. 

What does this mean? It means that by participating, you commit to learning about the impacts of climate change and sharing what you learn — both through your physical engagement with the world as you move toward your 500-mile goal — *and*  through what you read, see, and learn about the climate.

Why August 16th, 2017?

That’s the day I plan to reach the end of the Arctic Trail in Kautekeino, Norway, having run the 500 miles from Sulitjelma.

Will it cost anything?

Nope! Just a little time and dedication. Of course, if you choose to support the Climate Run project, that’d be awesome. And, in a few short weeks, there’ll be all kinds of great stuff you could get to show your support — including 100% recycled shirts from Atayne & Vermont-made hats from Skida.

Any other rules?

Not really. Just that your walk / run / ski is intentional and not just incidental as part of your everyday routine. Can you bike? Of course! I love biking. But those miles don’t count as part of your 500. Just walking, running, and skiing.

I’m super excited to share the training and goal-setting with as many people as possible! The more people who are involved in this project, the more we can change the story of climates, communities, and

Also, in a self-serving way, having partners helps me to stay focused and motivated on this long, long-term goal!

More soon!

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Winter Training #goals

This winter has come on cold and fast. When our running team came back to campus from the TARC Winter Fells Ultra 50k in Massachusetts on December 3rd, there was plenty of snow to ski on and a forecast for temps of -10 F. Around here, winter comes as a relief — it’s the season we wait for all year, and much of our holiday planning centers on being where winter is at its best.

That said, all of this makes training about a multi-stage ultra in August even more difficult. The appeal of nordic skiing and skimo (both great cross-training), time in the gym, and planning logistics for the Arctic Run itself can all take focus away from running workouts and a steady ramp up of mileage.

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Following Freyja on our backyard 6 miler

As hard as it may be to get out the door when in full-on conditions, it is honestly the support I feel from everyone as I continue the Climate Run project that plays such a big role in both keeping me accountable and reminding me that the goal is so much larger than just being able to run endless miles. It’s about sharing stories, (hopefully) inspiring others, and building community grounded in ideas of experience, vulnerability, and resilience.

I truly depend on the support I get, all of it — whether logistical, emotional, or financial — to help me get out the door and keep putting the miles in.

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Looking toward the Lapporten (Lapland Gate) in Abisko National Park, Sweden

Even though it’s still quite far off, I can hardly wait to be on the ground in Scandinavia, logging miles through remote and striking landscapes, like the Lapporten in Abisko National Park (about 250 miles into my run), learning about the impact of climate change on these places and on the people I meet, and coming back to share what I learn with as many people as possible.

Until then, though, I put on winter layers, hat, gloves, neck gaiter, microspikes, and headlamp, and head off into the afternoon dusk.

If you’re at all able to show your support through a donation, however small, please take a minute to visit the Climate Run GoFundMe page.

Thank you.

 

 

Fundraising for Climate Run 2017

The GoFundMe page for Climate Run: Arctic Trail has launched!!!

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I’m excited to be moving forward with planning for the Arctic Trail run, but I really can’t do it without everyone’s support. Please check out the campaign page for more details and donate if you can.

Thanks so much!

 

 

 

Adventure Science!

I am very excited to be working with Adventure Scientists to continue providing samples for their ongoing global microplastics project to create a database of microplastics proliferation throughout the world’s marine and freshwater environments. During my time in Scandinavia next summer, I hope to sample freshwater sites along the Nordkalottleden to send back to the U.S. for analysis.

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When I sampled marine water during the 2015 Iceland Run (which you can read about on the ASC site), 4 of the 5 samples I submitted contained between 4 and 10 individual pieces of plastic each — even in the seemingly pristine waters of the southern Arctic Ocean!

By sampling fresh water in Norway, Sweden, and Finland in 2017, I will add to a growing microplastics database and help scientists determine whether the backcountry of Scandinavia will also indicate the rapid increase of microplastics in the environments around the world.