Paul Andersen: Ready for the really Quiet Years?
February 29, 2004
My 11-year-old son was reading an article in The Aspen Times at the breakfast table last week about “Shorter, wetter winters.” The article predicted how global warming will impact Aspen with shorter ski seasons and winter rain.
My son glanced up at me. “Dad, is global warming melting the ice caps?” I told him it was, and most of the world’s glaciers, too. “Ocean levels will rise, right?” he posited. I nodded. “Then we had better build an arc,” he affirmed.
What a lovely father-son project. Over the next 40 years, we can scavenge enough scrap lumber from monster home sites in the Roaring Fork Valley to build a boat capable of bearing our family, plus two of every species in the world.
Then again, given today’s unprecedented rate of species extinction, our arc won’t need to be so large after all. If we wait long enough, I suggested, a canoe is all we’ll need. My son wasn’t amused, and he concluded that global warming “isn’t fair” to him and his generation.
Not everybody feels the same. Dire predictions of global warming are casually denounced by skeptics who moan over “fabricated scientific evidence.” They are quick to dispel global warming because it gets in the way of our constitutional, God-given right to conspicuous consumption.
The free-market libertarians who defend the insanity of tooling around in Hummers, who cry that every man’s home should be a castle, feel that global-warming alarmists are simply trying to spoil their fun with annoying factoids.
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These Cro Magnon conservatives are quick to denounce findings that fossil fuel burning in vehicles, homes and businesses accounts for 80 percent of atmospheric carbon dioxide, which is a stat from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and a chief cause of global warming.
These fossil fools are like the man in Egypt who jumps into the river; they are in denial. Rather than admit to capricious waste and suicidal greed, they view global warming as a scare tactic foisted by grumpy, old, dowdy environmentalists who are jealous of real wealth.
As my son and I commiserated about the slow death of skiing in Aspen, I told him about a local phenomenon that proves global warming in our very back yard. The proof lies in a rock glacier at the base of Pyramid Peak that has been there for thousands of years.
Few all-you-can-eat Republicans will make the effort to hike to the north cirque of Pyramid Peak, but if they did, they would find a sink hole at the foot of this rock glacier that has tripled in size over the last 40 years. I have photographic proof of it.
I told my son that Aspen’s current warming trend is confirmed in city records indicating a marked increase in frost-free days, which have increased 20 percent over the past 50 years. “One day we’ll grow oranges,” I told him.
The fact that most of Aspen still honors and reveres petro-pig SUVs, palatial personal hotels, fleets of private jets, and a hot tub in every room is like giving Nero a standing ovation for his fine fiddling while Rome burns. We’re killing our own life support, and enjoying it.
How nice that a warm nostalgia lingers for Aspen’s “Quiet Years,” those halcyon decades of simple serenity when the city was as peaceful as a cemetery. Once the ski company moves north to Alaska, we may revisit those days, albeit with a tin cup in hand and a sign: WILL WORK FOR SNOW.
Meanwhile, as the ice caps melt and the ocean waters rise, my son and I will caulk the final seam on our arc, load up our family and the last remaining species, and set adrift on the tides of a neo-conservative seascape looking for a higher ground.
Paul Andersen wonders when the Colorado skier will be listed as an endangered species. His column appears on Mondays.