Right to Breathe ... more Right To Play
There’s a number that the stellar skiing duo Sara Renner and Thomas Grandi want you to know about – it’s 350.
The number 350 is considered the safe level in parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide for the global planet. Scientists say that CO2 levels now stand at 387.
Renner, an Olympic silver cross country skiing medalist, and her husband Grandi, a two-time winner on the World Cup alpine circuit, are staging an event on Sunday in Banff, Alta., to help create more awareness of the problem.
Calling it the “350 Ride,” they are planning on leading a group of 350 cyclists on a 20-kilometre recreational ride. They are hoping it will inspire political leaders to act and remember the critically important number, 350.
They were inspired when they heard environmentalist Bill McKibben, who launched the 350.org initiative, speak in Banff this year. Afterwards, they talked with their friends about what are the biggest differences they could make.
“The biggest difference we can make now is inspiring political change,” said Renner this week. “He started getting people involved and started to get people to know why the number 350 is so important and why everybody should know about it.
“It’s universally decided by scientists that this is the safe line for human life on earth. It seems to be such a huge issue and yet we have so little knowledge and so little political will to make differences.”
They decided on the idea for the ride while walking back from the conference.
“We did it on a whim and it’s good timing because of the election,” said Renner. “It’s just something we feel is important and I think a lot of people do also, so hopefully we get a good turnout and ultimately it sends a message to our soon-to-be government that Canadians really feel that this is an important issue.”
Renner and Grandi's passion should be admired. It's not like they're sitting on a ton of free time. Renner will just be getting back from a high altitude training camp in Mammoth Mountain, Calif., before the ride and Grandi's in the midst of a comeback after retiring following the 2006-07 season. They have a one-year-old daughter, Aria.
If you want to see one of Renner's speeches on the subject in 2006, check this out.
Renner and Grandi are both also members of Right To Play, the athlete-powered humanitarian organization that is being kept out of the athlete’s village for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics because it has sponsors conflicting with the organizing committee (VANOC).
Rumball on Right To Play: Speaking of Right To Play, among its athlete ambassadors who believe the organization will be hurt by its banishment from the village is rower Jane Rumball, a fervent supporter who’s just started medical school at the University of Toronto.
Here’s Rumball’s take on things:
“My feeling is it’s a real loss to Right To Play if they’re not able to have a presence in the Olympic village. Just noticing coming back from Beijing, they do have a real presence and a lot of athletes are just very interested once they see the signage. I think they had a sign about the fact your influence as an Olympian never ends.
“They’re really giving an opportunity to Olympic athletes to be able to give back. I think that’s really important. It’s the one sign in the Olympic village that your platform can be used for something beyond your own aims and goals.
“That’s the chord it struck with me when I first heard about Right To Play. That would have been about a year and a half ago. I’ve always wanted sport to be something beyond just self gratification, this idea of using sport as something to contribute to a worthy purpose.
“I struggled for years thinking ‘I have this sport, I want to use it for something good, I have this platform and limited window of opportunity, how do I then channel it, where’s my voice going to be?’
“Then when I heard (founder) Johann (Olav Koss) speak at a sports celebrity dinner in Hamilton and I heard him tell the story about Olympians being able to use that platform, to use this idea for sport for development.
“Intuitively, it makes sense that kids learning, playing, developing teamwork and learning the skills you use playing sport is going to help contribute to development later on. I think what was great about that celebrity dinner is I finally heard Johann’s vision and was able to say ‘Hey, this is something I can really relate to and get involved with.’
“I think that the problem is that people may not be able to see this as well if they don’t get to the Olympics and see this booth and say ‘Hey, what’s this about?’ … I mean anyone knows the more attention you can get to something, the more presence that you have, especially in a place like that.
“When the Games finish, when your races are over, it is a real time for self reflection because you’ve just accomplished a goal, you’ve just finished something you’ve been training for for at least four years. They have a chance to look around the village once or twice more before they leave. The presence of a charitable organization like Right To Play I think is crucial at that time.”