Boarders Across Borders: small steps up a big mountain

Boarders Across Borders: small steps up a big mountain

By Tamo Campos

May 29, 2012

The following is a special guest post by Tamo Campos, co-founder of Boarders Across Borders, an organization "dedicated to spreading interest in humanitarian work within the snowboarding community.  Our goal is to encourage snowboarders to channel the positive energy inherent to our sport in ways that genuinely help the people in our world who face adverse living conditions."

Does it take a full overhaul of society to get us off our addiction to the fossil fuels that have contributed to climate change? Will it take losing the things we value most — clean air, clean water, healthy forests and oceans and, ultimately, healthy people — to make us realize we need to change? We can’t and don’t need to wait for the big solution to come from government or big business. By doing a little bit of research, we can find and support solutions that are already here.

Our group, Boarders Across Borders, decided to take a different route. Made up of students, professional videographers, snowboarders and skiers, our group works to educate the youth and outdoor community about social and environmental change. We discovered, to our surprise, that it was fairly easy to change aspects of our lives without changing who we are.

This year, as big energy projects were gaining media attention (such as the expansion of the Kinder Morgan oil pipeline in Burnaby and Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Project in northern BC) members of the BAB crew, Tamo Campos, Lewis Muirhead and David Mackinnon grew increasingly concerned. We felt society was going in the wrong direction and that rather than changing to new energy sources, Canada was putting all its time and money into a dying industry. It was not only putting the environment at risk but also jobs. The huge increase in tanker traffic would eventually cause an oil spill that would destroy the fisheries and tourism industry and the pipelines running through avalanche and earthquake country could destroy native land and other industries. On top of all this, a huge carbon load would be added to the world despite Canada’s supposed promise to cut back on greenhouse gases.

Boarders Across Boarders friends Leslie, Alex, Dave, and Lauren with the veggie camper

We became passionate about opposition to the tar sands projects but realized that our profession, one that involves traveling all over BC filming surf and snow adventures while using trucks, snow mobiles (sleds) and chairlifts, seemed a contradiction.  How can you be concerned about climate change when your career and hobbies depend on oil-powered transportation?  The answer came when we realized we could still get to the same places using different sources of power. After a bit of brainstorming, we decided to try an entire winter season without producing any transportation carbon emissions.

We converted an old 1990 Ford diesel F250 camper to run off used vegetable oil donated or sold from local restaurants. We also made splitboards, a snowboard that splits to climb uphill and then snaps together to ride down hill. We used these instead of chairlifts to get up the ski hills or instead of the sleds to get into the backcountry. Our journey took us all over the West Coast to Nelson, Manning park, Cape Scott, Mount Cain , Whistler, Squamish, Baker, Westport, and Apex mountain.

We didn’t use fuel from the tar sands and the veggie oil had already been used once for food (so wasn’t taking agricultural land away from the food industry). By split boarding, we explored mountains not accessible by snowmobiles.  The joy and exhilaration of exploring beautiful peaks, wild forests and pristine powder without the roar of a motor or the smell of exhaust produced an even greater love of the natural world.

Filling up with used vegetable grease from local restaurants

Some will argue that there is not enough used vegetable oil for everyone to make a 100% switch over from fossil fuels, but this argument is misleading. We have barely even started to access the vast amounts of vegetable oil currently being dumped or fed to cattle. It could be used to drive our cars and each converted vehicle would be taking one more fossil fuel driving car off the road.

As for providing all the fuel for everybody, it is unhealthy to be reliant on one resource. Having one alternative energy solution will not be the answer to climate change. The world needs many different solutions that can be taken up by everyday people that will move us towards a sustainable future.

The conversion of our truck and snowboards were just small steps. However those steps felt extremely rewarding and we began to see the potential for how such steps could help the world. Tamo began giving talks in schools using his influence as a high level local snowboarder. His talks were focused on teens, especially boys, who were at the age when they are ready to get their first car.  Tamo showed videos of his adventures and then talked of how he was a grassroots advertisement for sustainability and an alternative to the flashy ads for big oil and car companies. In addition to our work in education, the group began changing their bank accounts. We moved our funds from private banks in which our money was used without consent to fund big energy projects such as Northern Gateway, to small-scale credit unions where profits were invested back into community. We discovered, to our surprise, that the small changes we made didn’t affect our lifestyles but rather raised our awareness and decreased our footprint on the world.

Tamo riding after a long hike up the Callaghan Valley

Is it so hard for us to climb past the status quo whereby we refuse to be aware of what we are doing every time we stop at a gas station? What if getting off fossil fuels gave us a greater appreciation of the natural world around us? What if we pushed ourselves out of our comfort zone and tried something new?

Not everyone has to split board and skip the chair lifts, but if people were to try it, they may be blown away by the beauty of the mountains that are not drowned out by the roar of motors. Similarly, while not everyone is able to convert their truck to used vegetable oil, many would find that it is surprisingly easy. We did everything on our own but there are small companies who will convert your car and others who will collect, clean and deliver the used cooking oil to your door. They are small so far only because there aren’t enough people who know about them and they can’t compete in advertising with the oil or the car industry.

What if those first steps of a small group of people showing that it is possible to get off our oil addiction were to lead to other people also taking these steps?  The fossil fuel industry has a huge amount of control over the media and, to an extent, our government, but we can’t forget that the reason they are as big as they are is that we invest in them on a daily basis. The change will have to come from the consumer. There is a point when a movement takes on a life of its own and that is when government and industry have to listen.

(Icon photo courtesy of Lewis Muirhead, camper photo and pump photo courtesy of Lewis Muirhead, snowboarding photo courtesy of Eliel Hindret)

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