I’ll start this post by being completely honest—I had a long day on Wednesday and was feeling exceptionally tired when it was time to attend my first SHIFT JH event at the Center for the Arts. Upon walking in, I found a seat in the back of the auditorium and quietly waited for Auden Schendler’s Climate Change presentation to commence. I had no idea what to expect and definitely did not anticipate the dynamic trio that took the stage.
Christian Beckwith of the Venture Collective started off the night with a poetic description of his love for the Jackson Hole landscape. An avid skier and family man, Christian shared his memories of hiking amongst snow-laden trees and feeling so peaceful in the cathedral-like stillness of the winter forests. He also expressed concern that his 4 year old daughter won’t get to experience the same version of this natural bliss. Immediately, I realized that Climate Change may be scientific at its core, but it’s loaded with emotional significance. Despite the long day, I started to sit up straighter in my chair.
After Christian’s opening remarks, Jerry Blann, CEO of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort shared his perspective before introducing Auden Schendler, VP of Sustainability at Aspen Skiing Company. Blann recognizes that enacting sustainable practices as a revenue-driven business is a difficult, but crucial component of long-term success. Being a Jackson based company can make sustainability decisions even more logistically difficult due to geographical location. Much to my amazement, he said that Jackson feeds over 3 million people over the course of a year, and 96% of that food is imported. 96 percent!? That fact had my undivided attention.
Then, Auden Schendler took the stage. The SHIFT program called his presentation a “talk”; I would call it an awe-inspiring performance. His use of history, philosophy, personal anecdotes and science had the entire audience absolutely captivated and, at times, rolling with laughter.
According to Schendler, climate change is not a policy problem or a technology problem, it’s a people problem. To tackle the issue of global warming at large-scale, individual businesses need to take sustainable steps and act as mentors to other organizations. Instead of feeling paralyzed by the greater issue of global warming, they can turn inward and look for small ways to adjust company policy, and like anything, small steps will eventually lead to big progress.
Unfortunately, this blog post can’t capture the electricity that was in the air last night. Over the course of 90 minutes, I went from exhausted to exhilarated, and I am confident that every day of the SHIFT will have a similar effect. How refreshing to sit in a room and learn while surrounded by other smart, passionate, global-minded citizens.
Many thanks to Christian Beckwith, Jerry Blann, and Auden Schendler for a mind-enriching evening. Noteworthy upcoming events at SHIFT include the Mix’ed Media Masquerade Ball with Asher Jay and the foodie favorite, People’s Banquet. For more information on all upcoming shift events, please visit http://shiftjh.org/.