Living in isolation, but staying in the know

By Carly Valerious

Billy Barr is a mountain man living alone in Gothic Colorado, a place only accessible by skiing or snowshoeing, and he has accumulated data that has progressed the study of climate change.

billy barr, photo by Auguste Voss

Many documentaries in multiple countries have been made about Billy’s life. For example, The Snow Guardian. This short film is about the snow samples Billy takes and the movies he likes. But, who is Billy Barr? And how is the changing climate and changing world affecting life alone in the wilderness?

Luckily, my environmental journalism class at Colorado College got a chance to ask him. 

For 48 years, Barr has taken snow samples everyday, twice a day during the winter. When he started he did not realize how important this data would become. Now scientists use it to study climate change.

At 9,500-10,000 ft of elevation, Gothic Colorado expects to have a few days of high temperatures during the winter. Sadly, these last couple of years there have been over 30.

Barr sees climate change happening right before his eyes. It is important for him to be in the know on how the world is handling it, especially living in isolation. 

“I usually start the day angry and upset, unless Trump talks himself into a hole or something which puts me in a good mood,” said Barr.

Barr listens to politics on the radio every morning. Living isolated in the wilderness does not stop him from staying up to date on what is going on in the world.

There was a student over the summer working with Barr who said she did not know anything about politics and did not keep up with the news. 

Barr told our group of college students to keep up with what is happening in the world. It is the only way to make a change. 

Barr saw a lot of societal issues and had a difficult childhood growing up in an urban environment. 

“It takes a bit of personal disturbance to come out here,” Barr said. 

He thought the world was messed up when he was growing up and highlighted he won’t be around anymore when all of the climate impacts his data shows will get really bad.

Barr’s advice is to educate yourself and take action on the information you find.

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