Equilibrium & Sustainability

Equilibrium/Sustainability — Pandemic brings new risk to airports

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Collision rates are rising between airliners and birds — which have taken a dangerous refuge in the unusually quiet airports of the pandemic era, The Wall Street Journal reported. 

Different airports are bracing for impact from different species: the geese of Portland, Ore.; the black kites of Bangalore, India.   

And then there are the surging U.S. populations of bald eagles, which “were involved in 44 strikes with aircraft last year, up from the previous record of 35 for each of 2020 and 2019,” the Journal reported. 

“There has been a significant increase in risk,” Phil Mountain, director of U.K.-based Birdstrike Management Ltd., told the Journal. 

Today we’ll travel to the Winter Olympics and examine how the snowy sports we watch every four years could be doomed. Then we’ll look at the uncomfortable position of crowdfunding company GoFundMe over donations to protesters occupying Canada’s capital.

For Equilibrium, we are Saul Elbein and Sharon Udasin. Please send tips or comments to Saul at selbein@digital-stage.thehill.com or Sharon at sudasin@digital-stage.thehill.com. Follow us on Twitter: @saul_elbein and @sharonudasin 

Let’s get to it. 

Global warming could eliminate winter sports 

Four-time Olympic medalist and alpine skier Lindsey Vonn says that if world leaders do not take swift action to curb global warming, sports that are today the highlight of the Winter Olympic Games will disappear.

First words: “You can’t deny that global warming exists, and that the world is changing and that we have to make a change in a huge way,” Vonn told Yahoo Finance. “Skiing is not going to exist, winter sports are not going to exist, if we continue down this path and we see it firsthand.” 

Of the 21 cities that have hosted the Winter Olympics, only one — Sapporo, Japan — is expected to be able to do so safely by the end of the 21st century, according to CNN, and as we previously reported   

Starting from scratch: At the ongoing Olympic Games, organizers built an alpine ski venue from scratch, in the Yanqing District just north of Beijing, The Associated Press reported. The newly constructed slopes of snow “stand out as ribbons of white contrasting starkly against the surrounding brown hillsides,” according to the AP.   

More than “100 snow generators and 300 snow-making guns are doing what Mother Nature did not — blanketing Beijing’s bare slopes with snow,” CNN reported.    

How, exactly, did China create the fake snow? The snow-making expedition involved flooding a dried-out riverbed, diverting water from a key Beijing reservoir and resettling hundreds of farmers and their families, according to The New York Times.   

While officials in Beijing have said that snow production will not strain local water supplies, the efforts are part of a larger investment in transforming the arid mountains near Beijing into a permanent skiing and snowboarding destination, the Times reported.  

Is machine-made snow a new phenomenon? No. It has been part of winter sports for decades, in much snowier locations like Norway, Switzerland and Colorado, according to the Times.    

However, the Beijing games is the first such competition that is taking place almost entirely with artificial snow, the Times reported. 

‘WE’RE ALL MAKING THE MOST OF IT’

Olympic athletes are disappointed in the outlook for their sports and livelihoods, but they are also trying to do what they can to adapt to difficult conditions.

“It’s not quite ideal, but I would say we’re all making the most of it,” U.S. Olympic snowboarder Jaime Anderson said at a press conference, recorded by CNN. “You definitely don’t want to fall. It feels like pretty bulletproof ice.”   

Concerns for the next generation: In Lake Tahoe, Calif., hometown of another U.S. Olympic snowboarder, Elena Hight, resorts have already eliminated the snowboarding half-pipe due to a lack of consistent snow in the region, Hight told CNN. 

“I worry that the mountains around me won’t have snow for the next generation, or maybe even in my lifetime, with the path that we’re on,” she said. 

“There are no younger generations coming into Lake Tahoe that will be able to be home and train in a half-pipe and potentially pursue those Olympic dreams,” Hight added.   

Dangers to athletes and the environment: Less training, combined with the dangers posed by fake snow, present an increasing challenge for winter sports athletes, according to CNN.  

Not only does generating fake snow still require sufficiently cold air temperatures, but it also harms the environment, CNN reported. Water-scarce Beijing, for example, estimated that it would use some 49 million gallons of chemically treated snow for alpine sporting events.    

Some hope that things could change: While Vonn, the former alpine skier, lamented the stark changes that wintry environments have incurred since her childhood, she also offered some hope.    

“I grew up skiing on glaciers in Austria since I was nine, and literally they don’t exist anymore,” Vonn told Yahoo Finance. “For us, again, it’s right in front of our faces, but to many, it’s not quite as apparent.”    

Last words: “I’m not sure how we can make a change substantial enough to fix what’s happening, but I know that sports can have a big role in it because I think that we can shed light to people that maybe don’t believe in it or aren’t convinced,” she added. 

Crowdfunders take sides in trucking protest 

Crowdfunding network GoFundMe found itself pulled into a debate over its role in political protest as a convoy of truckers and their supporters — backed rhetorically and financially by the U.S. and European far-right — continued occupation of the Canadian capital over COVID-19 vaccine requirements.

First words: “Patriotic Texans donated to Canadian truckers’ worthy cause using GoFundMe,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) wrote on Saturday on Twitter.  

“This BLM-backing company went woke, froze the funds, & failed to deliver Texans’ money. Today I assembled a team to investigate their potential fraud & deception,” Paxton added.  

Behind the lines: Paxton — who the Texas Tribune notes is facing a four-way primary challenge to keep his seat — announced the investigation after GoFundMe said on Friday that it would not send about $8 million ($10 million Canadian) in donations to the truckers occupying Ottawa, The Globe and Mail reported. 

GoFundMe said that the campaign violated its terms of service, according to the Toronto-based newspaper. 

Why are the truckers protesting? The protests began two weeks ago after the U.S. and Canada passed reciprocal regulations requiring truck drivers to show proof of vaccination before crossing the neighboring country’s border, The New York Times reported.  

But it quickly spread beyond that, as right wing political leaders and media figures from Australia, the U.S. and E.U. backed vaccine-resistant truckers and encouraged supporters to send money, Politico reported.  

An occupation: These donations have helped support the thousands of demonstrators who have effectively taken control of downtown Ottawa, according to The New York Times. 

“This is a siege — it is something that is different in our democracy than I’ve ever experienced in my life,” Peter Sloly, chief of the Ottawa Police, said on Saturday.  

The next day, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson described the situation as “the most serious emergency our city has ever faced,” according to the Times.  

Officials are getting angry calls from constituents about idling motors, honking horns and harassment from demonstrators for wearing masks — not to mention the occasional racist symbol, the BBC reported. 

Many are settling in for the long haul: “It’s an absolute disgrace when they’re bringing in bouncy castles and hot tubs and saunas. Complete insensitivity to the people who are living through this terrible situation in the residential neighborhoods,” Mayor Watson told CTV News Ottawa. 

EARLY-WEEK ESCALATION AS DONATIONS RESUME

Police began seizing fuel and vehicles on Monday in an effort to choke off the protests, which continued to block off downtown Ottawa, The Washington Post reported.   

Meanwhile, the tap of donations re-opened: With the GoFundMe funds being automatically refunded, convoy supporters turned instead to GiveSendGo, a “Christian Crowdfunding Site” on which they raised $3.5 million by Sunday, according to the Post. 

These are big numbers: “It is unprecedented in Canadian history for campaigns of this nature to be able to raise so much money in [a] short period of time,” financial crime analyst Jessica Davis of Insight Threat Intelligence told the Post. 

These quantities of money “raise a lot of questions of where is the influence of this campaign coming from and whether this crowdfunding activity is organic in nature or not,” Davis added, noting that the donations will allow protesters to buy the fuel and food to let the occupation continue “an indefinite amount of time.” 

Truckers are divided: On Monday, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) — a trade-group of largely U.S.-based self-employed truckers — sent open letters to President Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asking for the vaccine measures to be dropped.  

“Since commercial drivers spend the majority of their time alone in their vehicle and outside, there is no evidence that truckers present a higher risk of spreading the virus,” OOIDA CEO Todd Spencer wrote. 

On the other hand: Ninety percent of Canadian truckers are vaccinated, and the Canadian Trucking Alliance — a major trade group — came out against the protests. 

Last words: “It also appears that a great number of these protestors have no connection to the trucking industry and have a separate agenda beyond a disagreement over cross border vaccine requirements,” the Alliance wrote in a statement last week. 

 

Motor Monday 

Electric vehicle trends around the world  

BMW announces electric vehicle rollout in Tesla-dominated Hong Kong 

  • BMW has announced plans to launch its iX3 SUV, i7 limousine and iX1 compact SUV this year in Hong Kong, where Tesla currently dominates the market, according to the South China Morning Post. The German automaker estimates that by 2024, 50 percent of its sales in the city will come from electric vehicles, the Post reported. 

Massachusetts allocates $13M for electric vehicle charging stations

  • The state of Massachusetts will be investing $13 million in grants to install more than 300 electric vehicle charging stations in 150 spots across the state, the Associated Press reported. The grants — which will go toward building fast-charging stations — have been awarded to 54 government and private entities under the Massachusetts Electric Vehicle Incentive Program, according to the AP. 

Downtown Detroit to get magnetic mile of in-road EV chargers 

 

ICYMI

Over the weekend, Sharon and our colleague Rachel Frazin reported on a solar rooftop “firestorm” overtaking California — and how a proposed decision is pitting economic justice advocates against solar buildout supporters and fracturing the state’s environmental movement.

Please visit The Hill’s sustainability section online for the web version of this newsletter and more stories. We’ll see you on Tuesday.  

Tags Joe Biden Justin Trudeau

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File - A Chevrolet Bolt is displayed at the Philadelphia Auto Show, Jan. 27, 2023, in Philadelphia. Electric vehicles are far less reliable than gasoline-powered cars, trucks and SUVs, mainly because most automakers are still learning how to build a completely new power system, according to this year's auto reliability survey by Consumer Reports.(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
File - A Chevrolet Bolt is displayed at the Philadelphia Auto Show, Jan. 27, 2023, in Philadelphia. Electric vehicles are far less reliable than gasoline-powered cars, trucks and SUVs, mainly because most automakers are still learning how to build a completely new power system, according to this year's auto reliability survey by Consumer Reports.(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

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In this photo released by the Governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhayev telegram channel, a rescuer gestures as he helps people during an evacuation after storm and flooding in Sevastopol, Crimea, Monday, Nov. 27, 2023. A storm in the Black Sea took down power grids and left almost half a million people without power after it flooded roads, ripped up trees and damaged buildings in Crimea, Russian state news agency Tass said. (Governor of Sevastopol Mikhail Razvozhayev's telegram channel via AP)
In this photo released by the Governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhayev telegram channel, a rescuer gestures as he helps people during an evacuation after storm and flooding in Sevastopol, Crimea, Monday, Nov. 27, 2023. A storm in the Black Sea took down power grids and left almost half a million people without power after it flooded roads, ripped up trees and damaged buildings in Crimea, Russian state news agency Tass said. (Governor of Sevastopol Mikhail Razvozhayev's telegram channel via AP)

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