The relocalization of sport
by Bill Henderson
Apr 19 2007


David Suzuki will be guest editor for the whole Vancouver Sun on Saturday May 5th. Dr. Suzuki has always been an eloquent voice in the vanguard of environmental education. He is as knowledgeable about the 'slow motion catastrophes' threatening mankind's very existence as anybody on the planet.

But can he get the possibilities of relocalization into print in the Sun Sports Section?

"What I would love to do is put a green slant in every area," [Suzuki said], explaining he thinks the mainstream media do not do enough to highlight how the environment is connected to all areas of the news.

"You may get [stories] about floods in Bangladesh, drought in Ethiopia and forest fires in northern Alberta, and they are all reported as if they've got nothing to do with each other," he said, adding he would like to start making those connections.

"One of the challenges we face is we are not seeing the world as a single entity and seeing how interconnected things are."

Suzuki also said he wants to get green stories into the sports and arts and life sections.

Suzuki to be guest editor for a day (Vancouver Sun, March 24, 2007)

Hundreds of pro and college teams criss-cross the continent by plane, play in huge stadiums lit at enormous energy expense, in front of fans most of whom have driven miles to the game.

I'm a jock and a fan; I live and die with my beloved Canucks (we're just starting the playoffs). I empathize with Man U fans, Cowboy fans and Sonic fans. But the dangers from climate change and peak oil are so serious that we must reduce our use of fossil fuels radically and immediately.

Climate change isn't just bad weather a century from now but the increasing probability of human extinction from runaway climate change. The end of cheap oil has the potential for escalating resource wars including a final nuclear war. The Stanley Cup is the Holy Grail but... we must change and NOW.

I have argued (links at bottom) that the presently evolved pro sport configuration is a luxury we can no longer afford.

Instead why don't we relocalize sports, just as we're beginning to relocalize the food system?. Why not support local stars playing in local leagues at venues that are modest and close-by? Playing daylight games would further cut energy consumption.

Relocalizing sports would reduce both greenhouse gas emissions and oil use. In addition, just as relocalizing food can improve quality of life, so would relocalizing sports. Little league and soccer coaches will understand that returning the emphasis to local diamonds and playing fields will bring more players and fans out to the games played in the neighbourhood.

Local sports are great community builders. They are ladders for kids, and home for Old Farts, Use2Bees and Snocaps like me.

On sunny game days at my old Capilano Rugby Club, hundreds of fans watch the day's series of games, drinking beer in the grandstand. Talented local kids and wily vets play big games. The Cap Premier team is best in BC and one of the best in North America.

After we play the Kats, I love walking around their clubhouse looking at the old newspaper clippings from the 50s- and 60s-era Van Sun when local games with local teams like the Kats appeared on the front page of the Sports Section.

You could relocalize pro leagues and still have Nash and A-rod. You could then have regional and national championships but with a much smaller carbon footprint. Every game could be available on the Net. When a clean-energy, low-footprint economy is flourishing, we could reconfigure back to the leagues we love so much now.

But can Dr. Suzuki get discussion of relocalization into the Sports Section?

I e-mailed the question to Dr. Suzuki's press secretary at the David Suzuki Foundation. The response:

We are currently working with all sections of the Vancouver Sun (including the sports section) to develop stories about environmental awareness and sustainability. The staff and management of the Vancouver Sun have been overwhelmingly supportive and enthusiastic about Dr. Suzuki's guest editorship and I think you will see that reflected in all sections of the newspaper.

So I think we will have an interesting experiment, because right now relocalization is not on the menu of public debate.

Why not?

Don't expect a bulletin from the Yankees or the Lakers management admitting that their carbon footprint is inexcusable given the seriousness of climate change. They won't offer to suspend operations in favor of local leagues until clean energy is available. Hundreds of million dollar operations. It won't happen.

And no government has the power to force the relocalization of sport. Not without substantial governance innovation. Not a chance at the moment.

So supposedly sharp minds automatically delete possible relocalization as a mitigation option. On May 5th, check the Van Sun Sports Section and I think you will find stories about environmental awareness and sustainability that will be completely within MLB, NHL, NBA, NFL, etc. business-as-usual. I'm guessing maybe sports franchises going climate neutral. Hopefully I'm proven wrong!

Containment strategies especially by the Church of Business groups are one of the main reasons the full spectrum of possible futures and paths to get there aren't on the menu.

But relocalization will happen - is happening. A oil price spike that is high enough could crash pro sports. Relocalization may seem like a long shot now but witness the rebirth of gardening in our neighbourhoods.

Relocalization of sport is reasonable, practical and an opportunity gateway. But will we read about it in the May 5th Vancouver Sun - and what does that tell you about our future on this planet?


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