‘We’re just our own worst enemies’: Spokane conservationist sees dramatic impacts of climate change first-hand

SPOKANE, Wash. — From the summit of Mt. Everest to the Columbia Icefield, John Roskelley has spent his life seeking out some of the snowiest, iciest and most treacherous places on the planet.
The pioneering mountain climber, conservationist and Shadle High School graduate has seen first-hand some of the most dramatic impacts of climate change in the wintery playgrounds that he loves.

“I think that Mt. Spokane is going to be the prime example as we go through 10 years, 20 years,” he said.

Roskelley lives on the Peone prairie. His home has a beautiful view of Mt. Spokane, which was uncharacteristically brown on a recent mid-November day.

“They predict that lower-level ski areas will have to close or open later and close sooner as we get warmer. There’s going to be more rain at altitude and less snow. So, these things will close or open later and close sooner,” Roskelley said.

Roskelley said many of the sacred spots he’s scaled over almost six decades of mountaineering have fallen victim to a warming planet.

“Canada is the perfect example of climate change because you have all these glaciers in the Canadian Rockies, and throughout those 57 years I’ve been climbing, I’ve seen those glaciers disappear and they are completely gone now,” he said.

Roskelley shared a photo of Oregon’s Mt. Hood; a peak that used to be covered with glacial ice year-round, but is now almost bare in the summer. He said there’s no doubt that what is happening is more than the natural climate variations of our planet

“That’s something that I learned in my geology classes at WSU in the 70s, that yes the earth warms and cools at various times, and that’s why we had ice ages, but what we’re doing is accelerating the warming of the earth,” Roskelley said.

Roskelley and his daughter Jordan took an emotional trip to the Village of Lata in Northern India, 37 years after his historic 1976 summit of Nanda Devi. The glacial ice is disappearing fast from the mountain, and it’s taking a toll on the way of life for the vulnerable population in the village

“We have the resources to change. We can put in solar panels, we can put in windmills, we can change the way our turbines work on hydroelectric dams, in India, that’s not the case. They cannot do that,” Roskelley said. “We can all do our own little part. But somehow, we have to bring everyone into it. It’s a global issue. It’s not just the United States issue. It’s not just Republicans and Democrats. It’s everyone”

The life-long conservationist said getting other people to acknowledge the problem and getting them to take action might be the steepest climb of them all.
And unfortunately, it’s our kids and it’s our grandkids who are going to have to put up with our reluctance to pay attention to mother nature.

Why don’t we all agree that we want to save this when we can see what’s at stake?

“That is a difficult question to answer for anyone. Personally speaking, I don’t know why they wouldn’t see that,” Roskelley said. “And to think that we are dirtying our own nest. We’re just our own worst enemies.”

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