Feast or Famine
By Mike King
Growing up I didn’t necessarily think about my impact. Not that I was ignorant, but I just didn’t know much. I remember the first day I learned about “global warming.” My brother Frank and I were swimming at Torch Lake, just down the road from our house. He told me that the temperature of the Earth is rising, and that the glaciers are melting, causing the sea level to rise. It terrified me. I don’t really know why, or how I thought I was going to be affected. But I knew it was something serious, for it’s still such a vivid memory today.
Central Lake, Michigan is a blue-collar town of 1,000 residents, and I went to school with just 33 kids in my class. I started working full time on the family orchard when I was 13, but really was always running around helping for as long as I can remember, for the farm house where my three siblings, parents and I lived is right in the heart of the orchard. I spent my summer dreaming of the mountains, and in the winter I spent every bit of free time after school on the hill or getting creative in my backyard with old scraps of PVC or metal my brother Frank and I would dig up in the junkyard. I ski raced through high school, but my mom always loves to remind me of the time she saw my Astro Van leaving the parking lot while she was still up on the hill working gates in the cold during my race. Once I was done with my duties on the race course, I’d go straight to the Boyne Mountain terrain park.
I now divide my time between overtime packed work weeks at home and the annual migration to more abundant snowfall and the mountains of the northwest.
I lived in Breckenridge, Colorado for five years after moving out post high school when I was 18. After a couple seasons I moved into a swanky old house with a hot-tub. Part of owning that tub came with the heavy rule to close the top when it was not in use so as to not steal from the Denver water supply. This came as a shock to me coming from a place where water is so abundant, and made me realize the incredible value of the Great Lakes.
From there my interest in the environment began to span. I started paying more attention to the hardships on the farm. We are dependent on the predictability of the weather, so a changing climate introduces endless new problems. Early spring warm ups and freeze events kill the buds on our trees. We experience painful periods of drought and then extreme rain events that cause erosion and flooding. Not to mention the destructive fungus and adapting insects that thrive in a warm, wet climate. The more rain, the more pests, and the more frequently we have to combat them, meaning more fossil fuel consumption. My father has seen more problems than ever now than ever in his life of farming. Climate change was right here in my backyard all along.
I became more active when I learned about the Line 5 Oil Pipeline owned and operated by Enbridge, the same company responsible for the 2010 Kalamazoo oil spill, the largest inland oil spill in the U.S. Line 5 is 66 years old, heavily corroded and was designed to have a lifetime of only 50 years. Despite the easements broken by Enbridge, the pipeline still moves 23 million gallons of crude oil and natural gas liquids through the state of Michigan, as a shortcut from and back to Canada, every day. The family farm, King Orchards, joined the Great Lakes Business Network to stand up for the lakes, and against Line 5, which is how I got more involved in politics; joining protests, lobbying and having formal conversations with lawmakers. It is my role as a farmer, and as a Great Lakes surfer, that drives my passion to stand up for the lakes.
I have always been a big fan of POW and the advocacy work they do, so when I heard they were expanding their reach to Michigan, I knew I had to get involved. It was the perfect way for me to combine my love for skiing and the need for environmental protection and education.
I was sitting on a bunch of ski footage I had collected over the past couple years and thought, “This is it! I’m going to make a film that connects all my passions, my story and to show how I personally am being impacted by this global crisis.” The goal is to inspire people to stand up for the areas we love and recreate in; to look around us because these changes are not some far out thing. And you don’t have to give up what you love to be an advocate for clean water, air, and a healthy environment. I feel this message needs to be put out there now more than ever. People are often quick to judge someone for advocating for the environment if they too, use fossil fuels. In our carbon-based society we are using the only system we currently have in place. And the only way we are going to see change, is if we the people demand it.
I live out of a 6’x12’ cargo trailer I converted into a mobile living quarters, powered by solar energy, and very minimal propane for cooking and heat. I have a plant based diet, try to avoid single-use plastics, pick up trash and am a steward of the places I visit. But I am not flawless. Using my skiing and my interest in filmmaking as a way to get the audience’s attention and help inspire a perspective change, action or advocacy, is how I can be the most effective. I am no expert. I am a skier, a surfer and a farmer, but I listen to the experts and the science. It’s time to act. “Feast or Famine” is such a strong representation of my life, and is so important to me, because if we don’t change our ways as a society, the places that feed our soul and stomach are bound to change.