Embracing Imperfect Advocacy: Professional Skier Amie Engerbretson Tackles Climate Hypocrisy in New Film “The Hypocrite”


By: Stacie Sullivan

Photo by Jeff Engerbretson

As climate advocates and people who love to recreate outdoors, it’s natural to feel like we could be doing something more to protect the places we love. We access trailheads by car, ride in planes and we might even hop on a snowmobile to reach remote backcountry ski lines with ease.  These actions might make us feel, dare we say, a tad hypocritical. We want to be a part of the solution, but is there a place for us in the climate conversation when we aren’t perfect? Professional skier and POW Alliance member, Amie Engerbretson, has had this internal dialogue with herself for years.

“I’ve had this struggle that’s always been rolling around in my mind as I have become more involved and outspoken about climate advocacy. At the same time, I burn a lot of fossil fuels in my life not only as a person but as a professional athlete,” said Engerbretson. “I’m flying all over the world. I’m really into snowmobiling and sled-accessed skiing and I certainly use helicopters now and then. People would call me a hypocrite for all of these things on social media in comments or direct messages.” 

Through POW’s Advocacy & Adventure Alliance Grants program, Engerbretson made a film called “The Hypocrite.” The film directly addresses these comments and feelings while finding common ground with others and empowering people who may be having a similar internal struggle.

Amie Engerbretson skiing a remote backcountry line | Photo by Jeff Engerbretson

“The Hypocrite is ultimately about unpacking the difference between individual action and systemic action,” said Engerbretson. “It also looks at individual carbon footprint, where that comes from, why we talk about that so much and the meat of the problem while looking at the potential for the most impactful changes.”

Debunking the “Carbon Footprint”

“The Hypocrite” dives deep into what the notion of the personal carbon footprint means. It’s a term that was created by the fossil fuel industry to shift the blame from the source of the problem onto citizens. This makes it easy to point fingers at each other rather than the actual culprit.

“The fossil fuel industry has created an amazing brand campaign around the carbon footprint that we’ve all been brought into,” said Engerbretson. “We need to learn more about where the term ‘carbon footprint’ comes from and where the meat of carbon emissions comes from in our world. Then, we need to think about the policies that can make the biggest difference in reductions.”

Amie Engerbretson meeting with lawmakers at a POW Lobby Day in Washington DC about the importance of a clean energy transition and protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge | Photo by Iz La Motte

For example, the Biden Administration recently proposed a suite of actions that will cancel drilling and all future oil leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Just this one piece of legislation will reduce a whopping 5 billion tons of carbon emissions from entering the earth’s atmosphere. 

“As a professional skier, I calculated all my carbon burning for the last year. I’ve burned about 27 tons of carbon, so we’re comparing the number of 27 to the number 5 billion. What should we be focusing on here?” said Engerbretson. “Should we be focusing on tearing each other down for these small decisions we make or should we be banding together to address the meat of the problem?”

To put that into perspective, a single ton of carbon is the equivalent of one car driving around for an entire year. Now, imagine if we replaced 5 billion gas fueled cars with electric vehicles? That would allow for all of Europe, India, China, the United States, Central and South America to have electric cars.

Embracing Imperfect Advocacy and Finding Common Ground

Climate advocacy has a barrier to entry due to perceived hypocrisy. It’s a big reason why Engerbretson didn’t get heavily involved with POW for a long time. 

“You might say, ‘I burn too much gas, drive a truck or ride a snowmobile… I would be a hypocrite.’ But that would make us all hypocrites because you can’t completely extract your life from fossil fuels at this time,” said Engerbretson. “I started to expand and learn on that feeling of hypocrisy, guilt and shame and that was keeping me small, and I think it’s keeping a lot of people small.”

A sledder enjoying deep powder in the backcountry | Photo by Jeff Engerbretson

In “The Hypocrite” we see Engerbretson working with the snowmobiling community as a way to empower more members of the Outdoor State to be climate advocates by gaining an understanding of imperfect advocacy. This is when we stop blaming ourselves (and each other) for individual actions we can’t control, like driving a car, and putting responsibility onto the people who create the system we live in—our lawmakers. 

“If we could just realize that we all want the same things and if we could stop pointing fingers at each other and fighting about minute small differences between individual carbon footprints, we could unify and make climate action the flag of being an outdoors person,” said Engerbretson. “If you recreate outdoors, you care about the climate period, that’s the cultural shift we need.”

The Outdoor State is 50 million strong and it makes up a diverse pool of political ideologies. It’s 30% liberals, 30% conservative and 40% independent. “It’s a hard group of people to unify politically, but if we can, it’s a big group that could move major systemic action and policy changes,” said Engerbretson.

De-Weaponizing the Word Hypocrite to Empower Advocacy

“The Hypocrite” comes from a vulnerable place for Engerbretson, but it’s important to her that the audience thinks about why the word is used in order to de-weaponize it. 

“The film is a little bold and it certainly feels vulnerable to put my face on a screen and plaster the word hypocrite across it,” said Engerbretson. “I just hope that in that vulnerability, other people can find a way to start that conversation within themselves and see which ways we’re all judging each other and how that is inhibiting the unity we need for action.”

Engerbretson hopes that this film will create space for people to find common ground with one another and accept the imperfection. 

“We need to try to get out of the self-blame and just take the next step even if that’s as simple as joining the POW newsletter so you can take an online seminar, or learn about a climate action meeting in your town,” said Engerbretson. “The reality is, if you care about protecting the planet and humanity, you belong in this conversation.” 

Grab your adventure buddies and join us on February 21 for the online premiere of “The Hypocrite!” You can watch the full trailer here.

Stacie Sullivan

Author: Stacie Sullivan

Stacie always knew she wanted to pursue a career in the ski industry from a young age, having first clicked into skis at the age of 4 and writing her 8th grade career project on being a professional skier. While her dreams of becoming a professional athlete didn’t quite pan out the way she planned at […]