Graham, here. I’ve spent the majority of my adult life focused on putting up new climbing routes in the “Greater Ranges,” those stretches of mountains holding the highest peaks in the world. These landscapes leave nothing to hide, including the impact our warming climate is having on them. While I’ve witnessed the changes to these hallowed natural spaces over the course of my career as a climber, I never thought I could be part of a solution to help preserve them until recently. As someone who makes a living traveling great distances to climb around the world, I thought it would be hypocritical to speak out as a climate advocate.
Fortunately, I’ve realized that there is a tremendous amount of potential impact that can be made by embracing my role as an imperfect advocate. That’s actually the title of my brand new film: An Imperfect Advocate. The film traces my steps over the past year working with Protect Our Winters to help spread awareness about how to catalyze change by taking action as an imperfect advocate, and Michigan plays a huge role in the direction of the film.
In 2019, I visited the state of Michigan and was so impressed by the climbing community, especially the contingent of ice climbers I met. Michigan’s climbing community is so passionate and unique, and it was such a positive learning experience for me to step outside of my regular echo chamber and interact with climbers who truly embody the kind, hardworking ethos of the Midwest. At first, I was intimidated by Michigan, but after visiting, interacting with the community and witnessing firsthand the incredible ice climbing the state possesses, it’s somewhere I can wait to return to.
It’s a place that needs to be protected and I hope through my film, that I can inspire Michigan climbers to take up the role of the imperfect advocate. Being an imperfect advocate comes down to our stories, stories that each one of us, of you, have. It’s about engaging others with our stories, doing it together and being supportive of one another. A massive part of this equation is using our votes as complements to our individual and collective narratives to preserve the one-of-a-kind landscapes of Michigan that inspire us.
The goal is to continue to engage in the activities that drive us but to do so in a carbon-neutral or carbon-efficient way by crafting systemic change that will be driven by policy and economic incentivization and that all comes from government. Our representative democracy is under stress, because of big business, and its influence, and because people aren’t voting. How do we reduce that stress? We engage with imperfect advocacy; we all make mistakes, we’re always learning, and if we let those imperfections give us permission to totally ignore climate, then we will never solve it.
The grit and endurance of climbing, and especially of the climbing community in Michigan, apply directly to climate advocacy. If we want to preserve the natural environment of Michigan for ourselves and future generations, it’s imperative that we get out the vote this fall.
Protect Our Winters and the Protect Our Winters Action Fund have developed a few handy tools to make the voting process easier for you. Think of them as tools on your journey to the summit during this important election.