Newell Rallies Alongside 400,000 at World’s Largest Climate March

Lander KarathSeptember 25, 20149
Andy Newell (l) holds the Protect Our Winters banner as he joined 400,000 others on the streets of New York City for the People's Climate March on Sept. 21. (Photo: Protect Our Winters)
Andy Newell (l) holds the Protect Our Winters banner as he joined 400,000 other protestors on the streets of New York City for the People’s Climate March on Sept. 21. (Photo: Protect Our Winters)

Four-hundred thousand demonstrators gathered on the streets of New York City for the People’s Climate March on Sunday, Sept. 21. Timed to occur just days before the United Nation’s climate summit, the event boasted high-profile attendees including former Vice President Al Gore, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jane Goodall, and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who wished to demonstrate the world’s necessity to combat climate change.

Amongst the crowd was a lesser-known figure who has been diligently working in the environmental movement for several years — U.S. Ski Team member Andy Newell.

Newell wasn’t always an activist and says that he used to be indifferent to political action. However, as he began to witness environmental activists fighting to raise awareness about climate change, he realized that he had the power to make a difference.

Recognizing that the sport he loved was in jeopardy if major action didn’t take place, Newell began to get involved with environmental organizations like Bill McKibben’s

As Newell worked with the movement, he saw a unique opening for him to create real change, and in 2013 he started Athletes for Action. Using his status as an Olympic athlete, he created the organization to ensure that he and other winter athletes’ voices were heard at the upcoming 2015 U.N. Framework Convention in Paris.

A group of activists with Protect Our Winters marches in the 2014 People's Climate March in New York City. (Photo: Protect Our Winters)
A group of activists with Protect Our Winters march in the 2014 People’s Climate March in New York City. Event organizers estimate that roughly 400,000 protestors attended the event. (Photo: Protect Our Winters)

Working together with McKibben, Newell drafted a letter for fellow athletes to sign that was addressed to world leaders, urging them to recognize climate change and take action.

“It sounds like a small step, but even getting governments to recognize the problem and take it seriously can be a big step,” Newell wrote in an email. “We are still working on that even here in the U.S.”

Athletes for Action received extensive attention during the Olympic year and as a result, Newell was asked to Washington D.C. to meet with Todd Stern, who is special envoy for climate change for the Obama administration and leads talks at the United Nations climate change conferences.

As Athletes for Action gained awareness, Newell partnered with an organization called Protect Our Winters, which was founded by snowboarder Jeremy Jones.

“Since they are an organization that has a pulse on the winter sports community they have been incredibly helpful in aiding me organize and get these projects off the ground,” Newell said.

He added that the partnership with Protect Our Winters has allowed him to continue to be involved with climate change activism, while being a full-time athlete.

As part of the the partnership, Newell marched alongside the Protect Our Winters contingency at the People’s Climate March.

Despite having completed the SMST2 100 k Ski-A-Thon only a day before, Newell boarded a train to New York at 6 a.m. and arrived at the largest-ever march on climate change. He said it was an experience he would never forget.

Andy Newell (l) participating in the People's Climate March in New York City on Sunday Sept. 21. (Photo: Protect Our Winters)
Andy Newell (l) participating in the People’s Climate March in New York City on Sunday Sept. 21. (Photo: Protect Our Winters)

“It was crazy to see the energy of that many people and also pretty interesting to see how many different organizations were involved in the march,” Newell wrote. “As a skier we can get caught up in the winter sports side of climate change, but there are so many other reasons to get involved and they were all represented on the streets of New York.”

After departing New York that evening, Newell said that the energy from the event further fueled his aspirations for his organization. In the next year he plans for Athletes for Action to make some noise around climate change while creating an environment where it’s easier for athletes to get involved.

“We as individuals can continue to recycle and conserve and work toward a more sustainable life, but the only way we can see big progress and change is if there is better legislation coming out of the U.S. and internationally to reign in big business and big oil,” he urged.

With his continued work with Athletes for Action and Protect Our Winters, Newell hopes to foster new growth of athlete participation.

“It’s funny because I used to be a person who could care less about politics and I feel like there are a lot of professional athletes out there who are in the same boat,” Newell said. “There are plenty of people out there who claim to be ‘green’ athletes but at the same time have no idea who represents them in congress or how most of these big environmental decision are made, which is something that needs to change.”

Lander Karath

Lander Karath is FasterSkier's Associate Editor from Bozeman, Montana and a Bridger Ski Foundation alumnus. Between his studies at Middlebury College in Vermont, he is an outdoor enthusiast and a political junkie.

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  • spridle91

    September 25, 2014 at 1:24 pm

    You’re right, this makes climate change so much better!

  • kwikgren

    September 25, 2014 at 5:45 pm

    Oh, Oh, volcanic eruptions, and the low sun spot cycle that we are now in, could actually be a cold trigger that sends us into another “Little Ice Age” ( or, along with the so-called “global warming greenhouse gases”, could actually in the long term lead to “instantaneous glacierization” and full scale ice age for parts of the world. Where I live (Upper Michigan) we are only around 10,000 years out of the last ice age where the continental glacier covered everything up to a mile thick. I have every reason to believe that we are due for the beginning of the next ice age any time now. A mile of ice would provide a good base for skiing, but not a very hospitable place to live. Fortunately, geologic change happens very slowly relative to human sense of time. Regardless, global climate change is certain, and the ability to adapt to our changing world will be the key to survival just like it always has been,

  • Tim Kelley

    September 26, 2014 at 4:37 pm

    Seems like the previous two comments are a bit obtuse. Not sure what the points being made are.

    How come the “Protect Our Winters” banner doesn’t also have the message displayed in Chinese? Why doesn’t have web pages written in Chinese? If you want to send a global message, you need to communicate with the polluters of the world that are the worst or on course to get much, much worse. People in China read and speak Chinese.

  • kwikgren

    September 26, 2014 at 7:41 pm

    Sorry to be “obtuse”. Not really my intention. My primary point is to point out that according to some scientists we should actually be in a global cooling trend right now, but the warming effects of global deforestation and pollution might simply be delaying the onset of a global cooling trend, or possibly even trigger rapid cooling in the slightly longer term. The inevitable global climate changes won’t necessarily be the end of skiing or winter as suggested by the protest movement. The skiing could be better in some locations and get worse in others. No one knows for sure from our short term perspective. Right now, world class skiers are (or will be shortly) globetrotting to get on that early season snow, which can be a rare commodity this time of the year. But back in late April into early May 2014, we had extraordinarily good skiing conditions here in Upper Michigan, but only a handful of skiers such as myself here to enjoy it. I realize the importance of peaking for early season races and all, but it seems kind of ironic that everyone wants to ski when they can’t, but then they don’t always take full advantage of it when they can.

  • kwikgren

    September 26, 2014 at 8:03 pm

    And, btw, I do support the anti-pollution and pro-environment agenda as much as reasonably possible. I also believe that the natural geologic processes will have the final say. The best we can do is to continue to adapt to our changing world, making lifestyle changes if needed to make the world a better place for all, even if that means to quit buying Chinese until they get with the program.

  • bill mckibben

    September 27, 2014 at 8:31 pm

    Just to say
    1) many thanks to Andy for being a standup guy
    2) the world is not cooling. We’ve taken its atmospheric concentration of co2 from 275 ppm to roughly 400 ppm and every scientific academy on earth is on record insisting that that is a huge danger. Apparently Arctic ice, the chemistry of seawater, and the payout records of insurance companies agree
    3) has staged hundreds of rallies in China and every other country on earth (except North Korea). China is leading the world in renewable energy installation. Its co2 emissions per capita are considerably less than half the U.S.; by far the biggest source of co2 currently residing in the atmosphere is the U.S. So it would be nice if more Americans lined up behind Mr. Newell.

  • kwikgren

    September 28, 2014 at 8:38 am

    Thanks also to Andy and all the other people trying to make a positive difference in the world. I agree with the effort, and the intention is good.

    People are idiots, One of the problems with catch phrases that imply that something dramatic is going to happen (winters are going to end) is that if it doesn’t happen immediately, the majority of people tend to blow it off. We all see things in a short term perspective. Extremely short term perspective geologically speaking.

    As a scientist, I try to base my projections for the future based on what has happened in the past thinking that things go in cycles and history will probably repeat itself. Catastrophic natural disasters and other influences are not predictable in the short term, so changes and cycles are never linear. Man made influences make the future even harder to predict.

    One of the paradoxes is that the “industrial revolution” that enables us to be having this discussion is one of the causes of the problem. Another paradox is that most people live in large cities which for the most part are in milder climates most susceptible to long and short term climate change. People that want to ski live there because that’s where the money is. People that organize large events want to have them there because that’s where the money is. Places that have the best winters and skiing conditions generally have lower populations and less money so it is hard to get large ski events there.

    The other sad reality is that most people in this country don’t care about skiing. So the threat of winters coming to an end doesn’t scare them all that much.

    Besides awareness, what can the average concerned skier do? It might be helpful to share what people are doing in their lives to make a difference, so that others can follow.

  • highstream

    September 28, 2014 at 10:19 am

    I’ll be impressed when a skier shows up in Ferguson.

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