Interview with Xavier de le Rue
Pro snowboarder and winner of the world’s Cross Snowboarding cup, Xavier needs no introduction. We have been lucky enough to have Xavier on Maewan’s expedition in 2017, as we were realising first descents on the virgin slopes of the Kurils Islands’ volcanoes.
Xavier has recently launched a series of podcasts where he discusses with Dr. Johan Rockström, a Global Sustainability expert, on the most pressing issues related to climate change and what we can do to make a difference.
For Maewan, we use sport to build links with the local community, allowing us to carry out our educational and environmental actions. We were therefore really keen to hear Xavier’s history and what convinced to commit to his own environmental awareness project:
Jonathan: what made you realise, as a professional snowboarder, that you could contribute to the discussion and in generating action on climate change and sustainability?
Xavier: well, to be honest, I’ve been asked for many years to take action on climate change. I have always felt a bit bad because of my lifestyle, because of traveling a lot, I felt I was not the right person to talk about it.
But then a friend of mine who is an environmental lawyer, her name is Johannah Bernstein, she’s been really convincing me about the fact that my voice was important and that no one is perfect. Through her, I met Dr. Johan Rockstrom who truly inspired me in that same sense: no one is perfect and we should not necessarily go and live in the woods. We all have some sort of impact and as long as we try to get better it’s already a great benefit and something important.
He also convinced me about the fact that I can inspire people about the beauty of nature and the will to preserve it and to bring it in the best way possible to the future generations. Slowly I’ve made my way. I am also older, I’ve got a baby now…all these things have made me want to take action and use my background and my name to do whatever I could to do things better.
Jonathan: in your podcast “The Sustainability Dialogues” you talk about your personal experience of seeing the effects of climate change, not feeling like a legitimate voice, and feeling guilty about not doing enough. Do you think this is a widespread feeling among outdoor enthusiasts? What you would say to someone in the same situation?
Xavier: indeed, I think that a lot of my fellow snowboarders and outdoor enthusiast feel the same way as I do. Some people a bit more extreme than others…and to be honest I would not really tell someone that he has to take action, because this is a decision that has to come from oneself and depends on so many factors (where you are in your life, what do you feel about the climate, what your political position is etc.). There are many faces to the problem.
For sure I would suggest that it would be nice to do something because we have the power of doing it. Through all our actions we can communicate great energy that really fits well to that dialogue.
If the person in front of me is kind of connected to nature –which is quite often the case with outdoor people- for sure I would push them to first take some action in their own life and then spread the message if they feel like it. And maybe do it step by step. I think I would recommend them to not go too extreme because I think this is quite often something that shuts down people. This is clearly what shut me down before hearing the voices of people that were really aggressive and commenting on us in an aggressive way.
I think we should just look forward to making things better and bring a bit of a drive to not be perfect but to constantly improve our actions.
Jonathan: what role do you think outdoor athletes can play in contributing to the discussion and in taking action on climate change and sustainability?
Xavier: well, as I said before I think we love nature and we do all our outdoor life in nature. We are deeply connected to it. We have a prime place to talk about it, so I think the role can be on many levels. It can be shown on a day-to-day basis for what we do in our lives. It can be influencing all the sponsors, all the partners, all the industry that works with us. For some people, it would be even to take it to a more political level like, for example, Jeremy Jones with the Protect Our Winters (POW) movement. But once again, it is up to each individual to take that decision.
Jonathan: according to a recent report from POW, outdoor enthusiasts are “surprisingly hard to activate” when it comes to climate action. The report also suggests that it is easier to rally the outdoor community around the message of saving their lifestyle rather than saving the planet. Do you think outdoor athletes should emphasise the links between their lifestyles and climate change more?
Xavier: I think that, definitively, it would be nice for athletes to be more active, and, once again, it is up to anyone to decide. It is hard to force people to do it.
I hope that the few actions that I have taken recently will inspire people to do so. Some athletes are amazing at it and have taken the position to be active in trying to promote the preservation of the planet.
I am sure that this is something that will become more and more common.
Jonathan: any exciting projects you would like to share?
Xavier: well, I had a huge project with the Sustainability Dialogues which was meant to be a series of expeditions to work with Johan Rockstrom to share all his work through the voyage that I would be taking and sharing it with the world. Unfortunately, with the situation, this voyage has been cancelled and right now I do not have anything planned. But I will hopefully come up with some new stuff in the near future.
Interview carried out by Jonathan Ambrogi, Digital Lead.