“Sports matter. They hold a singular position among leisure time activities and have an unparalleled impact on the everyday lives of billions of people…Sports shape and stabilize social and …political identifies around the globe…to an unprecedented extent…Sports’ major protagonists…[are] global icons.”
So say the authors of a recently published book titled Gaming the World: How Sports Are Reshaping Global Politics and Culture.
Given the cultural influence of sports it is noteworthy that in the past month every major professional sports league in the United States has distributed the Solar Electric Energy Guide for Stadiums and Arenas recently published by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Bonneville Environmental Foundation. Every league is now encouraging the development of solar power to all 140 professional teams and the operators of their stadiums and arenas.
Think of the potential it offers to environmentally minded consumers and businesses to have the support for environmentalism coming from Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, and Major League Soccer. NRDC is the principal environmental advisor to all these leagues. We have joined with professional sports to advance environmental goals because the most potent barriers to sustainability just might be cultural barriers more than they are financial or technical barriers.
Sports is culturally iconic and to address our ecological crises, we must change the cultural assumption that it is OK to pump more and more climate changing chemicals into the atmosphere each and every day and expect nothing to happen. We must change the cultural assumption that it is OK to rely on an economic system that forces more and more species into extinction. We must change our cultural assumption about how we relate with the organism that provides air to breathe and water to drink.
Emitting carbon and instigating biodiversity loss by thoughtless purchasing and thoughtless production should become the cultural equivalent of drunk driving, of racism, of child abuse, of sexual harassment. Damaging the Earth must become culturally unacceptable. Sports’ embrace of environmentalism can help us get that message out.
It is rare for all professional sports leagues to join in a common initiative. Throughout U.S. history, professional sports leagues have joined in supporting our troops in times of war. They have joined to support racial equality. And now they are stepping up for the environment.
The promotion of solar power to all professional sports teams by all professional sports leagues reflects a meaningful cultural shift in our nation’s thinking about energy and the environment that is taking place throughout the business community and the nation at large. It’s not about politics; it’s about what is right for the world. Yes, it is true that Congress failed to pass a bill limiting the emission of global warming pollution. That is an awful abdication of governmental responsibility.
However, what the distribution of the NRDC/BEF Solar Guide points out is that the private sector does not have to wait for government action in order for it to address the urgent issue of climate change.
To date, seven teams have installed solar arrays at their stadiums or arenas, and these include AT&T Park (San Francisco Giants), STAPLES Center (LA Lakers/Clippers/Kings/Sparks), US Airways Center (Phoenix Suns), Progressive Field (Cleveland Indians), Pepsi Center (Denver Nuggets), Coors Field (Colorado Rockies), and Fenway Park (Boston Red Sox).
Hopefully, most if not all professional stadiums and arenas will follow their example and will install some type of solar array within the next five years. It doesn’t need to the largest solar array in the world to be meaningful, especially it if it is built on a visible structure like a sports stadium or arena.
Indeed, the fact is that there is not any one single answer to the ecological crises that we face. It is not a matter of just reforming China or just changing consumption in the USA or just eliminating Hummers from the marketplace. The fact is that we will solve our ecological problems when billions of people and millions of businesses shift towards ecologically intelligent procurement and operations. The example of professional sports today confirms that we don’t need to wait for government to act in order to advance that agenda.
The embrace of environmentalism by professional sports provides us all with a new and large opportunity to educate people worldwide about the need to do something, however small it might seem, to protect our biosphere.