December 11 marks International Mountain Day 2023 around the world.
It is the 20th anniversary of the first International Mountain Day, after being inaugurated by the United Nations General Assembly in 2003.
Since then, and as per the UN, the day has been observed every year since to:
- create awareness about the importance of mountains to life
- highlight the opportunities and constraints in mountain development, and;
- build alliances that will bring positive change to mountain peoples and environments around the world.
As part of IMD 2023 and under the umbrella of its Power of Sustainability series, Eurosport has spoken to winter sports stars past and present to hear their views on what role mountains play in the overall health of the environment, how we can all help to combat climate change, and their own individual hopes for sustainability in 2024…
Ryding on importance of ‘respect’
Speaking to Eurosport about sustainability, and how visitors to the mountains can do their bit, Ryding said: “I think people are seeing that the mountains are changing and the winters are changing. So I think that in itself is opening people’s eyes.
“And once you get to the mountains, I think then people should use the local infrastructure to get around, cut down on using your own cars, but also, I think we have to try and stimulate the biodiversity of the mountains, and keep the animals, keep all the environment happy, and if we sustain the biodiversity of the mountains, then I think the mountains can also take care of themselves.
“But we have to respect the other animals and people that live in the mountains, so in the summer stick to the trails, don’t disturb the wildlife, and just respect.
“At the end of the day, it comes down to respect, and doing your bit.”
Brignone says ‘changing habits’ vital
Alpine skier Federica Brignone, as well as being a multiple Olympic medallist, became the first Italian female to win the World Cup overall title in 2020.
Talking to Eurosport about how best to tackle climate change, Brignone said: “Changing our life habits. I think that’s the most important thing.
“Obviously as individuals we cannot change the world, none of us can. But since there are so many of us, if we all change our lifestyle a little, we can make a big difference.”
Maze reveals ‘big wish’
Slovenia’s Tina Maze is one of the most decorated skiers of all time, winning double Olympic gold at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.
“I care about the mountains because I was born there,” Maze told Eurosport.
“I spent my childhood in the mountains, I do the sport that is done in the mountains, so I like to be in the mountains. They are pure, you have the silence and I really love to be there.
“My hope for the coming years is that we will still have a lot of snow and enjoy it. These childhood dreams that are always bringing sparkles to the eyes, enjoy the sun and the snow, it’s – for me – the best days you can have in the winter.
“And as we have winters with less snow lately, I really wish that would come back, and probably it’s a big wish – but why not.”
Key messages for IMD 2023
Mountain ecosystem services are vital to life
As natural water towers, mountains supply freshwater to an estimated half of humanity. Mountains’ role in capturing, storing and releasing water sustains ecosystems, supports agriculture, and provides clean energy and medicines.
Healthy mountains matter for biodiversity
Mountains cover about 27% of the earth’s land surface, hosting 25 of the world’s 34 biodiversity hotspots as well as rare plants and animals such as snow leopards and mountain gorillas.
Resilient mountain ecosystems are key for adaptation to climate change
Healthy mountain ecosystems help mitigate the impacts of climate change and the related risks. Of the global mountain area, forests cover 39%. Mountain forests and grasslands cool local temperatures, increase water retention, provide a vital carbon store, and reduce the risk of erosion and landslides.
Mountain people are negatively impacted by land degradation
At least 311 million rural mountain people in developing countries live in areas exposed to progressive land degradation, 178 million of whom are considered vulnerable to food insecurity.
Mountain ecosystems are under threat from pollution
Mountain ecosystems are at risk from uncontrolled dumping and open burning of waste, including plastic waste. Microplastics have even been found as high as the summit of Mt. Everest.
Mountain farmers and pastoralists are critical in the sustainable management of mountain ecosystems
Mountain people are stewards of biodiversity. Indigenous and local populations in mountains have unique and valuable local knowledge, traditions and cultural practices that contribute to effective land management strategies and sustainable food systems.
Source: Euro Sports