15 Disc Golf Professionals Make Bold Statements on the Environment

By Josh Woods and Bill Newman ~

Cover art

Politics and disc golf simply do not mix.

Like gum and sweaters. Orange juice and toothpaste. McBeth and bogies. Some things just do not go together.

But is that really the case when it comes to the environment? When faced with matters of extreme environmental importance, should disc golfers leave their politics in the parking lot?

While political rancor may lurk around every corner of society, are disc golfers really divided when it comes to the environment? Even if the answer is yes, and it may be, why should we be afraid to discuss these topics as a community that relies on the great outdoors for … well, everything?

Parked and the PDGA Environment Committee recently decided, at the risk of being a buzzkill, that more shout outs to mother earth were in demand. Over the last weeks, we reviewed results from a survey of 151 PDGA coordinators and disc golf course designers. Turns out, disagreement on environmental issues is rare. Based on their answers to closed-ended questions, these folks are clearly concerned about the environment, both on and off the disc golf course, and they are willing to sacrifice some green to keep the world green.

Surveys like this one have advantages, but they also have limits. Using closed-ended questions forces people to give simple responses to complex issues. They curb creativity and reduce the richness of self-expression.

We wanted to figure out how disc golfers really think about the environment. So, we reached out to several pro players and disc golf stakeholders and asked them for statements. Below, you’ll find our collection of fifteen quotes on a range of environmental issues. Though we edited some for length, these statements, gathered via email and texts in February 2020, are in their original forms.

If you only have a minute, check out the video below.

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Juliana Korver

Korver
Juliana Korver, professional disc golfer, five-time PDGA world champion, Innova-sponsored player and hall of famer. Photo Loretta Van Valin Rarick.

“I wish the government would put environmental issues above most. We are heading down a very dark path and I am truly frightened by where it might lead. Our world is already experiencing the very negative and deadly effects of climate change. I do believe that we can turn things around because to believe otherwise is simply too depressing. But I’m afraid it is going to take Herculean efforts.”

“Admittedly, I am not a great steward of the environment. I could do much better. Ideally, I want to live without the need of a car and take my bike to the market to get the groceries that I need for just tonight’s meal. But that is not the life I live. Instead I fly around the world multiple times a year to simply play a game. It is not ideal, and it does not benefit the world. I can buy carbon offsets to justify my flights, which is better than nothing, but of course, not going in the first place would be best.”

“I did go Vegan six years ago for what I perceive as health benefits but in equal parts to lower my carbon footprint. In my will, I have named a handful of nonprofits whose goal is to clean up the ocean, help the animals, and further green energy as beneficiaries, but ideally the funds will not be put to use for another half century.”

—Juliana Korver

A.J. Risley

AJ Risley
A.J. Risley, professional disc golfer, sponsored by Dynamic Discs. Photo PDGA.

“When it comes to climate change, we can only focus on the present and the future when it comes to making decisions. The past only serves us as a lesson to learn from. We, as a society, need to make our decisions based on scientific facts and evidence, not business ventures. But, to each person reading this, we can’t make those big decisions or changes individually. What we can do is make a small effort within ourselves to choose wisely when it comes to our individual impact on the environment. Two clichés: ‘leave the world better than you found it’ and ‘it all starts with one.’”

“… when it comes to speaking about politics, I know that I give myself a short leash on bigger platforms. But issues that pertain to our planet affect everyone, so hopefully we can make a difference.”

—A.J. Risley

Simon Lizotte

Simon Lizotte
Simon Lizotte, professional disc golfer, previous distance world record holder, sponsored by Discmania. Photo PDGA.

“All I can say is, be kind, don’t litter and don’t be an idiot.”

—Simon Lizotte

Dan “Stork” Roddick

Dan Roddick
Dan “Stork” Roddick, PDGA #003, Godfather of Frisbee, PDGA hall of famer, flying disc pioneer and community leader. Photo Janet Capanna.

“I believe that we each have an individual responsibility to do what we can to combat the threat of climate change. I am afraid that we have vastly underestimated the impact that these changes will have on our future. I am encouraged by the fact that many of these problems can be solved if we simply have the will to do so. Therefore, I hope that we can each contribute toward that goal both through our own practices and by clearly communicating our priorities to policymakers at all levels.”

—Dan “Stork” Roddick

Ron Convers

Ron Convers
Ron Convers, professional disc golfer, three-time PDGA world champion, sponsored by Dynamic Discs. Photo PDGA.

“As an older outdoorsman and disc golfer I have two pieces of advice. First, pay it forward by leaving your park better than you found it. Get the good karma by packing out extra trash, and maybe that chancy putt will fall! Secondly, push towards keeping our air and water clean and useable. Water is becoming a very limited resource. Our legacy needs to be backed by responsible actions.”

—Ron Convers

Seth Munsey

Seth Munsey
Seth Munsey, disc golf performance coach, founder of Disc Golf Strong.

“Growing up in the 1990’s, I had very limited access to computers and the internet since we didn’t have it in my house, so my days were spent outdoors in the woods hiking and exploring. With the ever-increasing number of indoor activities and technological gadgets, we are in danger of losing our connection to the outdoors.”

“This can lead to apathy when it comes to very serious issues affecting the protection of our environment. If you don’t spend time outdoors, then protecting it isn’t a top priority. As disc golfers, we have an opportunity to change the relationship and conversation within our communities when it comes to protecting our environment. As we introduce new people to our sport, we are opening the door for them to reconnect with the outdoors and feel a personal responsibility to protect it.”

—Seth Munsey

Sarah Hokom

Sarah Hokom
Sarah Hokom, professional disc golfer, PDGA world champion, two-time US women’s champion, sponsored by MVP. Photo PDGA.

“As a nature-lover, the environment is important me. I try to reduce my footprint by recycling, using reusable water bottles and grocery bags, as well as rejecting consumerism in general, by only purchasing quality goods with long lifetimes as well as thrift store items. It helps that I live in a van and am always on a strict budget, so I have no space or funds for modern consumerism.”

—Sarah Hokom

Jeremy Koling

Jermey Koling
Jeremy Koling, professional disc golfer, PDGA amateur world champion, US men’s champion, sponsored by Innova. Photo PDGA.

“I believe first and foremost the government should accept global warming as fact. Simply dismissing it as a theory is irresponsible to the future wellbeing of our planet. The government should also hold large businesses more accountable for their emissions. Ideally the government would also be able to place a higher priority on providing recycling services to large suburban areas. Less reliance on fossil fuels would pave the way for more sustainable sources of energy including solar and wind powered energy. To answer your question, yes, the government can do a lot more to protect the environment!”

—Jeremy Koling

Scott Stokely

Scott Stokely
Scott Stokely, professional disc golfer, previous distance world record holder, author of Scott Stokely: Growing Up Disc Golf. Photo from the front cover of his book.

“I am a die hard, libertarian, capitalist but am wise enough to recognize that the free market will never protect our environment. Saving the planet is one of the few powers the government needs to have in order to literally save our species from ourselves.”

“That’s from the heart. I HATE the government but there are a few things only they can do.”

—Scott Stokely

Elaine King

Elaine King
Elaine King, professional disc golfer, eight-time PDGA world champion, hall of famer, sponsored by MVP. Photo PDGA.

“Humans are affecting the planet at an unprecedented rate. Demands of an increasing population and worldwide industrialization have led to exploitation of the planet’s resources, destroying massive tracts of vegetation and pushing wildlife into increasingly smaller areas. Although international cooperation has been secured to mitigate the most egregious offenses (for example poisoning our planet with DDT and destroying the ozone layer with CFCs) humans are continuing to remove the oxygen-producing vegetation from our planet with the result of climate change, loss of diversity of species, and death of coral reefs.”

“I am a firm believer that everyone can make a difference to slow down and reverse our impact on the planet. Reduce, re-use and recycle, in that order. Plant a tree. Give your unwanted items to Goodwill instead of a landfill. Purchase products that fulfill sustainability objectives. The planet has an amazing capacity to recover if we give it a chance.”

—Elaine King

Justin Menickelli

Justin
Justin Menickelli, PDGA board of directors president, associate professor of health and physical education at Western Carolina University and co-author of The Definitive Guide To Disc Golf. Photo WCU.

“As a group, disc golfers appear to be dedicated to environmental activism. Examples include the PDGA’s progressive Throw Green initiative, recent research on soil compaction, the internationally adopted Disc Golfer’s Code, and the thought-provoking artwork for the 2020 Ice Bowl. Perhaps it is time we become politically active as well.”

“Perhaps it is time that we recognize that Donald Trump, who once described climate change as a ‘hoax,’ has been the worst U.S. president for our environment in history. His narrow-minded policies threaten our air, water, public lands, wildlife, and oceans. Earth’s climate crisis will only be solved by electing people that support forward-thinking treaties, regulations, and laws. Corporations that have made billions off our shared atmosphere must be held accountable. We must decrease our irrational reliance on fossil fuels and focus on sustainable energy sources.”

—Justin Menickelli

Jeff Spring

Jeff Spring
Jeff Spring, Disc Golf Pro Tour CEO and director. Photo PDGA.

“I’ve dedicated most of my life to environmental education and advocacy because I believe that exposure to the natural world is so very crucial to the human experience. Exposure to nature, when curated and cultivated in an accessible manner, expands everyone’s understanding of their place in the world and helps to connect us to how our environment sustains humanity.”

“For me, immersion in nature has delivered me even more benefits. Through my experiences backpacking, I’ve had the space to slow down and let my individual troubles take a back seat to being present in the moment, a great gift that would not have been available to me without an extended period of time in the woods, which let me see that I was a small part in a big picture.”

“Disc golf is a gateway to the appreciation, that becomes the love, that becomes the understanding of our place in the bigger picture of the world and how beautiful that can be. I’m thankful for the time I get to spend in beautiful and natural places because of the sport. I’m thankful that the sport is so versatile that it can get people outside even in the heart of cities. I’m thankful for any time I get to spend alone, reflecting on my place in the world, in the middle of the wilderness.”

“I’m always wanting to do more for this topic … I am interested in making every DGPT event a ‘Throw Green’ event. How can we make that happen?”

—Jeff Spring

Madison Walker

Madison Walker
Madison Walker, professional disc golfer, sponsored by Innova. Photo PDGA.

“I think the government should do a lot more than what it has done, but it is especially important right now towards the end of the current presidential term where many environmental policies have been reversed or greatly reduced (i.e. pulling the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement, reversing the Clean Power Plan, reducing the number of waterways protected by the Clean Water Act, and opening protected land in Bears Ears and Escalante National Monuments to fossil fuel harvesting). I think it’s important that the government step into a leadership role when it comes to protection of our natural resources and beautiful native habitats.”

“… By educating our youth about reducing consumption, repairing or reusing what we already own, and recycling what we’re done using, we can enable young people to develop good habits from an early age. Hopefully, with good habits and good knowledge about the subject, they will also feel more in control and more positive about the future of our planet and our effect on it.”

“Once I decided to educate myself on today’s state of the environment and where our current trends are taking us in the future, I realized how important our actions are and that every little bit matters … if everyone keeps that attitude, we do not have a chance. I use a metal water bottle, I carry a recyclable bag and reusable silverware and straws with me in my purse, and I bring my own to-go containers to restaurants.”

“I also try not to be a part of the consumerist mentality that the current economy encourages, and instead buy only second-hand or from small businesses. I try to minimize how many different products I use, and try to only use soaps and detergents that more easily biodegrade. Lastly, I bother all my friends to adopt small lifestyle changes, educating them on the reasons why I carry a small picnic basket of utensils in my crappy old purse while rocking my odd-fitting vintage corduroy jacket.”

—Madison Walker

J. Gary Dropcho

J Gary
J. Gary Dropcho, professional disc golfer, course designer, hall of famer, founding member of Disc Golf Foundation, founder of Grip it and Rip it Disc Golf, sponsored by Innova. Photo J.G. Dropcho.

“The not-so-revolutionary solution to our existential global crisis is to know the link between climate change and human pollution and do something about it. Humans are the invasive species, but humans can solve this.”

“The global crisis is our great opportunity that requires the temerity of many, many local people and their organizations to reconnect the fabric of our society and of our politics. The soul of democracy is now rising to change the makeup of school boards, state houses, the congress and the presidency. The tide changes locally, and it swells to the top. At the top we need leaders who will join the rest of the world in the climate accord that commits nations to environmental action.”

“We can register voters, identify voters, and turnout voters for the environment. We can build coalitions with workers, unions, corporations and organizations to create environmental jobs that eliminate methane and carbon emissions and capture and recycle the waste of our industries.”

“We will school our youth with the skill and knowledge to build and repair our information, mass transit, mechanical, water, and electric infrastructures.  America can use money in the biggest-in-human-history military budget to fund a national service system to train worker-soldiers to build the renewable energy research, technology and manufacturing industries that will replace fossil fuels. Putting military dollars into a national service corps to engineer and build renewable energy production and transmission infrastructure will give America the power that failed foreign wars has drained.”

“Government should incentivize corporations to employ thousands of workers that produce green technologies, and government should wield the stick for failures of pollution control.”

“The corporate socialism those companies enjoy in subsidies, tax-incentives and rules that encourage stockholder profits must be regulated by the federal government and insure that the workers of those corporations are guaranteed the right to organize and negotiate for living minimum wages, comprehensive health care, paid family leave, and safe working conditions.”

“The fatal flaw of communism – the human nature of wanting more for oneself over the good of the group – is also the capitalists’ downfall. The financial crisis and Great Recession of the 2000s was at its core a sin of greed. Government is formed by the people for the people to have power, and corporations are not people. Although corporations can be successful, people must rule.”

“… Experts say we have LESS than 20, maybe as few as 14 years, to stop ourselves from catastrophically changing the world’s climate. All else in life is lost if we do not have clean, safe water and air to drink and breathe. We are poisoning the world and exterminating species in our circle of life.”

“We must have the will to speak publicly, and we must venture out into our physical and virtual neighborhoods to talk with people who may have good ideas, who we may not agree with on other issues, or who may feel disenfranchised. We must register voters. We must educate voters using League of Conservation Voters scores. We must persuade, and we must be persuaded to act courageously and vote for the environmental job creators running for elected office in 2020.”

“We all live downstream, and we all need to be woke. NOW.”

—J. Gary Dropcho

Jeremy Rusco

Rusco
Jeremy Rusco, founder and CEO of Dynamic Discs. Photo J. Rusco.

“One of my favorite things about disc golf is just how conscious and considerate most disc golfers are towards the environment. It is evident that disc golfers take great pride in the parks that they are able to enjoy. After every disc golf round, I find it important to leave the park just a bit better than it was before by picking up trash or working with the local parks department to plant new trees.”

“At Dynamic Discs, we continue to utilize recycle bins in our facilities so that we can reduce our waste and continue to find ways to reduce the amount of energy that we consume through building and lighting improvements. We have researched wind and solar energy solutions and hope to be able to move forward and implement this improvement at some point in the future.”

—Jeremy Rusco

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Parked is made possible in part by a grant from the Professional Disc Golf Association.

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Author bios:

Josh Woods, editor at Parked, is an associate professor of sociology at West Virginia University. He is the author of four academic books, several journal articles and numerous publications in popular media. His most recent research examines emerging sports communities, with a special focus on disc golf.

Bill Newman, PDGA #1603, has been playing disc golf since his days in college in Boston. With degrees in Geography, Law and Education, he is the Chair of the PDGA’s Environmental Committee.

 

One thought on “15 Disc Golf Professionals Make Bold Statements on the Environment

  1. I’d prefer not to see environmental activism overlapping with disc golf. In fact, keep politics out of disc golf. It’s a sport, not an alt-avenue for a political crusade. It’s the place we get to go to turn off the ever bleating chorus of those around us who think that an opinion needs to come with every action or inaction they take or witness.

    The 2020 ice bowl stamp was a monstrosity. Disc golf should be about disc golf. Not saying that we shouldn’t be respectful stewards of whatever land we use or that we shouldn’t encourage others to do so as well, but that stamp is pandering to a broader societal issue that has *nothing* to do with disc golf. It’s someone’s political crusade.

    Let people enjoy each other for the sport and their shared interest instead of trying to infuse the thing with the divisiveness that permeates the rest of our lives.

    Like

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