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The American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation, which puts on the Birkie ski and trail events in northwestern Wisconsin, recently announced it is severing its sponsorship relationship with Enbridge Energy after members of the “Birkie community” scrutinized the relationship, according to the Star Tribune.
The Birkie appears less interested in scrutinizing their relationship with petroleum products.
Birkie’s “Milk Comes from the Store” Mindset
The Birkie’s statement announcing their decision to cut ties with Enbridge, which I have pasted below, was the epitome of the “milk comes from the store” mindset. It displayed an astonishing ignorance of, or an unwillingness to acknowledge publicly, the indispensable role that petroleum products play in making their businesses possible. It also shows they have zero appreciation for the role oil and natural gas play in improving our environment every day.
The statement was found on the Birkie’s website:
Recently, we heard from some in the Birkie community regarding our relationship with Enbridge Energy, Superior, WI. From the onset, our mutual engagement was intended as a space to foster thoughtful discussion about the environment and climate change. With our commitment to Birkie Green, an initiative designed to inspire and implement solutions to address changing climates, it was our hope that as a community we could collectively create change, over time, toward less reliance on fossil fuels in our everyday lives.
We’ve taken pause to reconsider our relationship with Enbridge Energy and have chosen to dissolve our agreement (July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021). In hindsight, we realize that this association was perhaps not a clear pathway to engaging conversation in support of education, future change, and ultimately our greater Birkie Green initiatives, nor was it in alignment with our American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation (ABSF) mission. For that, we are sorry. We never intended to cause concern within the Birkie community.
Moving forward, the ABSF will continue to promote and embrace inspiring opportunities to live a healthy, active lifestyle in the great outdoors. We will make every effort to align ourselves with our Birkie Green initiatives of addressing solutions to our changing climates; of implementing sustainability practices whenever feasible; of creating solutions to support the environment and use of the land; and to consciously choose like-minded partners who demonstrate green and sustainability based practices, whenever possible. Please visit www.birkie.com/live/birkie-green to learn more about our Birkie Green initiatives.
We are grateful to those of you who took the time to share your thoughts. We appreciate your passion and we heard you loud and clear. If you’d like to have a conversation with a member of the Birkie team, please let us know. Thank you for your care of the environment and your passionate support of the Birkie lifestyle.
Walk the Walk, Birkie
Talk is cheap. If the Birkie wants to reduce the need for petroleum products, they need to stop pretending to be morally superior and actually stop using petroleum products at their events. They can start by buying an electric bus to shuttle people around, getting rid of any propane heaters they may have in warming tents, or requiring that their participants walk or ride horses to the race.
The Environmental Benefits of Petroleum Products
Another reason that the Birkie’s statement was so simpleminded is because oil and natural gas products have vastly improved our environment over the last 100 years. Before the widespread adoption of natural gas or propane for home heating, coal and wood were the primary fuels used to keep warm in winter.
The Birkie Bros should know that burning wood is worse for the environment than burning natural gas or petroleum. These fuels burn cleaner than wood, they are more efficient, and they are safer. They also do not contribute to deforestation.
If you’re rolling your eyes right now, you shouldn’t be. Wood use in England during the 1600’s (when John Phelan was just a boy) was so great that the country almost completely deforested itself. At one point, it was importing wood from France. Then it started burning coal, and the forests were able to grow again. The same thing has happened in North America.
The Birkie can pretend to be taking a stand against oil and other petroleum products, but at the end of the day they are just as dependent upon them as anyone else, and holding their event increases the demand for the products that travel by pipeline to Northern Wisconsin. Meanwhile, the same folks who are patting themselves on the back for getting the Birkie to drop Enbridge probably heat their homes with natural gas or propane, and drive a gasoline-powered vehicle.
My barber skis the Birkie, and he sure as hell doesn’t ride a horse from Central Wisconsin to Hayward. He drives an SUV.