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Snowboarder Jeremy Jones wants climate concerns to fuel the youth vote

Snowboarder and Protect Our Winters founder Jeremy Jones addresses the University of Utah crowd Wednesday, Oct. 19 on why he thinks voting in the midterm election matters.
courtesy of Protect Our Winters
Snowboarder and Protect Our Winters founder Jeremy Jones addresses the University of Utah crowd Wednesday, Oct. 19 on why he thinks voting in the midterm election matters.

World-renowned snowboarder and Protect Our Winters founder Jeremy Jones brought his “Stoke the Vote” college tour to the University of Utah on Oct. 19.

The nonprofit was founded to mobilize the snow sports community to act on climate change. After all, it’s hard to ski or ride if resorts are closed due to a lack of snow. Back in 2017, Jones himself even testified before Congress about the need for lawmakers to act.

“We can sadly see it out our front door right now, and it's really clear that to get the CO2 reduction that is required to slow down climate change, we need to do it through policy,” Jones said. “The frustrating part is that acting on climate has become a political issue.”

Now he’s on a nonpartisan mission to encourage outdoor recreation lovers, especially young people in their 20s, to get out and vote on Nov. 8.

“To protect our winters, we try to unite what we call the outdoor state, which is 50 million people that really identify with the outdoors to try to get out the vote to support climate champions,” Jones continued. “And, this recent tour and why I was in Utah, was talking to this younger generation of voters that traditionally are poor voters and don't think their vote matters …”

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Pamela McCall: What success are you having in getting beyond voter apathy or pessimism to actually changing some minds out there?

Jeremy Jones: If you look at these midterm elections and in 2014, there was a poll that showed 12% of people under 25 voted in the midterms and that's juxtaposed to over 70% of people over 70 voted in that same election. So it's really hard for us to get someone who, you know, maybe is entrenched politically in their views to cross the aisle, to take a climate friendly vote. So our energy is really on this outdoor, loving, younger generation that traditionally doesn't vote. It's a much easier way to sway someone and explain. Democracy requires participation, and we need to hear from your generation.

PM: What are you seeing from Republicans and Democrats that has you excited about protecting wild places that we love to recreate in?

JJ: It's really sad that the current state of climate is a very politically divisive issue. And Republicans never lost an election due to their stance of zero action on climate and in often cases being a climate denier. But the wind is changing on Capitol Hill. When we go there, we do talk to these moderate Republicans and some of them like Utah congressmen [Rep. John ] Curtis say climate change is real and we should do something about it. And I think the only way we're going to get that urgency is sending a clear message to people running for office that we don't have space for fossil fuel funded climate deniers running our country.

PM: What’s your best case scenario when it comes to the 20-year-olds that you've been speaking to at universities across the West when it comes to getting them to the polls?

JJ: Obviously it's just getting them active because we have this illusion and we're just lacking the political will. And I do think these 20-year-olds and this new generation, like they are not OK with the status quo. They know that our current path is the wrong path and they are becoming much more invigorated and hopefully we're going to see it at the polls this fall.

Pamela is KUER's All Things Considered Host.
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