Canary Initiative leader taking flight | AspenTimes.com

Canary Initiative leader taking flight

Abigail EagyeAspen CO, Colorado

ASPEN One might think that helping Aspen give its nascent Canary Initiative wings would give a man the feeling he’s doing his part to combat climate change.Add to that the fact that Dan Richardson, Aspen’s first global warming project manager, can boast that in a year and a half he’s never driven his car from Glenwood Springs to his job in Aspen.But as Richardson looks toward the future through the eyes of his two young sons, that’s still not green enough.Despite taking the bus to work every day, Richardson said the commute is one of his main reasons for taking a new job in Glenwood Springs.”Even RFTA has a carbon footprint,” he said. “Granted, it’s one quarter of my car, but there’s still a carbon footprint for that commute.”Traffic and weather have conspired to keep him away from his family on a regular basis as well, he said, especially in winter. But Richardson, who always includes a picture of his two sons in his presentations on global warming, said he felt the hypocrisy of not practicing what he preaches to the full extent.”Some day, they’re going to ask me why I didn’t do more about it,” he said. “It sounds kind of corny, but [having kids] has been my main driver.”Aspen has seen temperatures rise 3 percent in 25 years, while the global average has been a 1 percent increase.”That tells me we really should have acted 30 years ago,” he said. “Urgency now is an understatement.”Richardson has other reasons for changing jobs as well. He feels he can work more effectively as a consultant in the private sector – which might include some projects for Aspen. Maneuvering within the public process to implement plans is not his strength, he said.The city hired Richardson in June 2005 to help implement its Canary Initiative. Under his guidance, the city has taken that initiative from a general goal to a specific action plan, which he will present to the City Council next month before he leaves.In addition to helping draft a Canary Action Plan, his accomplishments include helping stage the Aspen Climate Action Conference and creating the city’s first greenhouse gas emission inventory and the Aspen Climate Impact Assessment.”Dan’s commitment to climate protection, renewable energy and sustainable development brought Aspen’s Canary Initiative to live,” Mayor Helen Klanderud said in a news release. “We will miss him.”Richardson said the biggest challenge for his successor will be resolving the Entrance to Aspen issue.”It’s no longer reasonable to think about this as a future problem. It’s urgent,” he said. “I would argue that it’s past that point.”Although Aspen can do plenty to increase its use of renewable energy and decrease its greenhouse gas emissions, Richardson said that work is “a piece of cake” compared to fixing the Entrance to Aspen, which requires cooperation among many parties.That can take time, as evidenced by the fact that the Entrance issue has dogged Aspen for nearly four decades, and the city still hasn’t committed to move ahead with a specific plan to resolve clogged traffic at the entrance to town.Richardson said Aspen probably should move forward immediately with the “preferred alternative,” which includes public transit corridor plus a two-lane highway.”Scientists a year ago were saying we have 10 years to lay the groundwork for the major changes that have to occur,” he said.Voters approved the preferred alternative, but the state had no money to build it, voter support waned and the environmental studies that supported it grew stale.Nonetheless, Richardson couldn’t stress enough that the city should have solved the problem years ago.Richardson has accepted a position with the Glenwood Springs engineering firm Schmueser Gordon Meyer, where he will help businesses and governmental entities focus on using renewable energy and other carbon mitigation strategies.”We’re excited that Dan is coming on board,” said Louis Meyer, president of the company. “We feel the new Sustainability Group is the next step in offering value-added services to our existing and potentially new clients.”Richardson will begin his new job next month.Abigail Eagye’s e-mail address is abby@aspentimes.com

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