At first glance, a Tennessee law firm and Colorado nonprofit might not seem likely partners. Even less so, a technology and intellectual property centric firm and a nonprofit focused on (ice, rock, and alpine) climbing and conservation. But, in our case, marrying the practice of law with support of climate change awareness and study through just such a partnership is a natural orientation, an obvious way of doing business. 

As a Certified B Corporation, Rockridge Venture Law, like all other B Corps, promises to consider the environment and community as stakeholders in our business metrics. This is often referenced by the shorthand “People + Planet + Profit.” Basically, we recognize that all commerce creates social and environmental impact, and that we want to do our part in minimizing impact. We can best do this by focusing on making our communities better places for our employees and neighbors to live, work and play, and protecting our planet for the future. 

One way we achieve that is through supporting nonprofits that align with RVL’s mission and values, investing in causes that are important to us, while building awareness of our mission-minded business and its services. This year we sponsored the American Alpine Club (AAC), the aforementioned Colorado-based nonprofit. More specifically, our firm, alongside the National Renewable Energy Lab, Four Points, and Kavu, sponsored AAC’s research grant program funding a range of activities including investigations of climate change impacts on mountain ecosystems. By funding environmental studies around the globe, AAC aims to protect and preserve mountainous areas so they can be enjoyed indefinitely by adventurers of all age, color, and origin, and so nearby communities can continue to prosper from such activity. We’re a proud supporter of AAC and want to highlight the grantees and research that RVL helped through this year’s donation.

Climate Change Impact on Glaciers in Chile

Bernardo Fjord, Chilean Patagonia. Location of field work in September 2019.

As a Ph.D. student in the School of Earth and Climate Sciences and the Climate Change Institute at the University of Maine, Scott Braddock is taking his focus to the deep south: specifically, the Southern Patagonian Icefield in southern Chile. This fall, he and a university team will head to this remote icefield, where they will work with two Chilean partners—CONAF and Round River Conservation Studies—to collect data on the icefield and how warming oceans and air temperatures may affect its health, and how icefield melting may affect global sea levels. 

“Glaciers flowing from the western flank of the ice field terminate in deep, water-filled fjords that create a direct connection between the Pacific Ocean and glacier fronts,” Braddock says. “With warming oceans, we expect increased melting of these glaciers.”

As Braddock and the rest of his team make their first trek to the icefield this fall, they plan to establish relations with local organizations and researchers and collect preliminary data. They will return at least once a year to monitor the icefield’s health and continue to collect information on what is driving changes in this region.  

Braddock says the AAC grant is critical to the launch of this project. “Funding for research efforts in remote, mountainous regions are limited even though these areas are experiencing some of the most profound changes because of a changing climate,” he says. “This grant will help to get this research off the ground and provide critical data on this important body of ice.”

Climate Resilience in the Andes and Alps

Anaïs Zimmer collects data in the deglaciated terrain of Uruashraju glacier, Cordillera Blanca, Peru, June 2019.
Photo by: Carlos Ly

As a doctoral student in the Department of Geography and the Environment at the University of Texas at Austin, Anais Zimmer takes a long-term view in her research and with her professional goals.

She’s using her AAC grant for research in the Andes and Alps, where she is examining post-glacial landscapes and their societies. More specifically, Zimmer is studying how land management and ecosystem rehabilitation can help residents and enhance climate resilience in affected areas.

“There is a specific need for enhanced monitoring, modeling, and detailed case studies to better predict local hydrological and ecosystem responses to climate change impacts in mountain regions,” she says. 

Her research examines what happens after glaciers retreat because of climate change, including the impacts on people who live in high alpine areas and the ecosystem, and how these changes affect political processes. 

“The support of Rockridge Venture Law for my project means that research is not forgotten or left behind,” she says. “It highlights that my research focus is a global and urgent need. I am so glad that corporations like Rockridge Venture Law have an interest in climate change, ecosystem adaptation and the mountain environment.”

Zimmer recently returned from a research trip to the Alps and plans to analyze her data this fall. In May 2020 she’ll return to the Alps and Andes to monitor her experiment and collect additional data. 

Effects of Air Pollution on Peruvian Glaciers

Wilmer Esteban Sanchez Rodriguez gathers snow samples during field research at the Vallunaraju glacier in Peru.

Glacial changes also are the focus of research by AAC grantee Wilmer Esteban Sanchez Rodriguez, who is working with the American Climber Science Program in Peru. His research delves into the effects of air pollution on the snow of the Vallunaraju glacier near the city of Huaraz and the Cordillera Blanca mountain range. Because the glacier is close to a populated area—Huaraz has nearly 120,000 residents—Rodriguez says the glacier likely will feel the effects of air pollution, such as black carbon produced during combustion of fossil fuels, biofuels, and biomass.

“In simple words, black carbon is accelerating the melting of the glaciers of the Cordillera Blanca, and due to the proximity to large cities they are more vulnerable,” he says.

His research at the glacier will measure the concentration of black carbon, simulate reduced sunlight reflection, estimate the amount of melted snow, and create a model of atmospheric dispersion to estimate the source of the contaminants affecting the glacier. Rodriguez previously collected snow samples on two other glaciers in the Cordillera Blanca, so this round of research will be used to compare results with his earlier data. 

Rodriguez says the AAC grant is crucial to advancing his studies, as local authorities have not shown an interest in financing the research although the glacial changes are likely to affect nearby communities.

International support is very important,” he says. “In turn, this will allow presenting results to decision-makers to adapt normal or rules to mitigate pollution.”

There’s more work to be done, he says, as his future plans include continued research in the Cordillera Blanca with an expanded scope to analyze other pollutants in the ice and model the melting process.

How You Can Support This Work

The forward-focused environmental studies that these AAC researchers are pursuing inspires me and the rest of the RVL team in our everyday work. Through our donation to the AAC, we feel a connection to the adventurers and their research to maintain the health of climbing landscapes around the world. And as a B Corp, this donation is part of our commitment to protecting the environment and creating a better future. =

If you’re interested in supporting this type of research, the American Alpine Club is always looking for new partners in its effort to fund cutting-edge research in mountain ecosystems. Email grants@americanalpineclub.org for more information on how you also can contribute to this valuable work and help drive the conversation around science-based solutions for our changing mountain landscapes.

 

About

Kevin Christopher is an entrepreneur, reformed rock climber, and principal of Rockridge Venture Law, Tennessee’s only Best for the World Certified B Corp. In 2019, Kevin was named a national Top Business Leader by Conscious Company Magazine for his actions in support of entrepreneurship and environmental conservation in Southern communities. 

Rockridge Venture Law® is an intellectual property and technology firm, representing unbridled innovators and disruptive technologies around the world. We’re also proudly a B Corp Best for the World honoree, recognized for community impact through giving and service. Building Today’s Companies for Tomorrow’s Economies®, at venturelaw.org. 

Kevin Christopher

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RVL® is a business, intellectual property, and technology firm, building today’s companies for tomorrow’s economy.