FEATURE: Faces of the Festival
We asked, they answered
Jackson, WY – Angel Collinson is an ambitious big mountain skier who has been on a film tour with her partner Lucas Debari to try to motivate young skiers to become conservationists. The 2011 freeskiing world tour champion, who was the first woman in an opening scene of a co-ed ski film, won the Powder Magazine award for Best Female performance last year in Teton Gravity Research’s film “The Dream Factory.”
Q: As a big mountain skier, your career relies on powder yet you have to use a lot of fossil fuel to reach the office. What are you doing to reduce your carbon footprint and protect the powder?
A: It’s definitely something I struggle with. It’s a double-edged sword. I’m given a unique voice in the community and I see climate change firsthand. It’s amplified my voice. I am involved in Protect Our Winters and doing the SHIFT thing to use that voice in responsible way to motivate people. But it’s a tricky lifestyle … It is the world we live in.
Q: How can you inspire the next generation of skiers to become conservationists?
A: That’s the big question that our panel is going to be talking about for SHIFT Drinks Happy Hour at Asymbol with the Jones brothers [Wednesday, 5:15 p.m.]. The old way is forced action. The new way is a want to change, to make people think about what they care about. Events like SHIFT are awesome because they allow people to speak up and give their input.
Q: What will you do with the $10,000 if you win the Shift Forward Award for the most innovative, impactful, replicable project that leverages outdoor recreation for conservation?
A: Ten thousand dollars is just a little more than one week in Alaska, which is crazy. We don’t really get paid that much. So much of it goes to the travel. I think I would give it to my parents who put the down payment on our house so that John [Collinson’s brother] could do the Seven Summits.
“Cool Skiing, Hot Planet,” featuring Collinson, Debari and a screening of “The Little Things,” a film about snowboarding and climate change, is 7 to 10 p.m., Wednesday at Center for the Arts after a 5:15 p.m. happy hour and discussion at Asymbol.
Journalist David Quammen is the sole author of National Geographic’s Yellowstone issue, which will be released in May. It is the first time the 127-year-old magazine has dedicated an entire issue to one topic with one author. Quammen is also writing a series of articles, which will appear in the magazine over the next year on other national parks to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in 2016.
Q: What makes the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem unique for a conservation summit?
A: The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is absolutely unique. It is the largest, nearly intact, temperate ecosystem as well as being the site of the first national park and it has big carnivorous animals. … We can learn a lot about what an ecosystem is and how it works as a complex system from it. If you remove one element you are going to have unpredictable consequences. For instance, eliminating wolves and reintroducing them in 1995 — just because we put the wolf back doesn’t mean it automatically solves problems, like introducing lake trout in Yellowstone Lake. That had terrible consequences and nearly eliminated cutthroat trout.
Q: As a Bozeman resident and author of National Geographic’s issue on Yellowstone, what was the most interesting fact you learned about the first national park that you didn’t already know?
A: There were a lot of things that I had been vaguely aware of that I got to see close up. I had already heard grizzly bears eat great quantities of army cutworm moths. But on a pack trip into the Absarokas with a grizzly biologist, we spent five days watching grizzlies on high scree slopes feeding on moths that migrate in from Kansas then migrate home to feed on wheat. That was just one of a number of things made concrete for me. I’m touching on a lot of things in the special issue, but the grizzly bear and grizzly ecology is at the center of what I’ve written. I use grizzlies as axles to a wheel with spokes going out in different directions to talk about bigger issues like climate change.
Wildlife photographer and filmmaker Charlie Hamilton James, the star of the film “I Bought A Rainforest,” just returned from living with a tribe in the Amazon and is considering moving to Jackson Hole after a stint living here while working on National Geographic’s Yellowstone issue.
Q: How is Yellowstone a laboratory for the world to learn from and teach people about climate change?
A: I think we have quite simply learned that climate change is happening, anyone who continues to deny clearly has [his or her] eyes closed — this year is the hottest on record globally. America is interesting to me, especially Wyoming where climate change is a political issue that divides people. However, even the doubters are starting to realize the overwhelming evidence that climate change is happening. I often say to people who doubt it, “I can think of a million reasons to deny climate change, I cannot think of a single reason to make it up.” Anyway, don’t let me go off on one! Yellowstone is interesting because it is so heavily studied at all levels of the eco-system. This means that data stretches back and data continues to be gathered. It is managed and funded in a way that allows this scientific investigation to continue and long may it do so.
Q: What interests you most about SHIFT?
A: Part of my job is to inspire people about the natural world. Not just so that they can enjoy it but so they can make an effort to protect it. Anything that champions that premise is good in my opinion and that’s what SHIFT is doing.
Quammen and James will speak at the Center for the Arts from 7 to 9 p.m., Thursday.
Food Author Mark Bittman writes about nudging people back into the kitchen and getting more real food into the American diet. His weekly column was one of the most read online articles in The New York Times. He recently relinquished his column and is working on an undisclosed start-up.
Q: What’s the easiest way that you explain the impact of food on our environment?
A: All agriculture has an impact on the environment, like all human life. We have so ignored how we produce our food and given so little attention to the impact agriculture has on not just climate change but nature in general. When you talk the environment, everyone is constantly saying, “Fossil fuel, fossil fuel.” Agriculture is also a major factor. I think this is a great opportunity for me to talk at a non-food oriented conference and talk to a non-food oriented audience.
Q: Local, organic, grass-fed, cage free — food choices can be overwhelming and costly. What is the most important thing we can do to change our diet on a daily basis without breaking the bank and how will that save the planet?
A: It’s not complicated and not expensive. It has nothing to do with organic. People think we are saying you should eat organic. I don’t say that, Michael Pollan doesn’t say that, Marion Nestle doesn’t say that. First, eat as little junk food as you can — anything with more than five ingredients and everything that is not recognizable as food. [That means] passing on 60 percent of the items in the grocery market. The second great decision is to eat more fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds than you ate last week, last year. It’s not quite as simple as shopping around the perimeter of the market. It’s also about freezer [foods].
Q: What does sustainable really mean when it comes to food?
A: It means the ability to endure. If you look at the way we use resources, they are not infinite. Nature can only absorb so much of our refuse. It is a goal, not something we can get to tomorrow. We have to be more sustainable than we are now.
Bittman will speak during the People’s Banquet, happening 5 to 10 p.m., Friday at Center for the Arts.