Big trophy homes, bigger problems
Editor’s note: This is the first week of guest opinions called Soapbox on the Sunday opinion page. This spot will be a forum for valley residents to comment on local topics each week. If you’d like to contribute, contact Catherine at The Aspen Times at 925-3414, extension 17608. What’s wrong with big homes? (Times Letter, March 24) Well, there are about 3,000 delegates and 100 ministers in charge of biological diversity from all over the planet who all met in Curitiba, Brazil, recently who would probably thoroughly love to address your complaint of not being able to make trophy homes even bigger! The eighth meeting of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity is working on figuring out ways of reducing the pace of global extinction by 2010 (that’s just one year past the current presidential term, by the way). Global extinction that, somehow, people don’t think affects them (you?). You can dream up whatever conspiracy theory you want in order to justify your anger against some forward-thinking politicians in this county, but you would be dead wrong. It seems that you require more information (you did ask a question), so here it is: the Global Biodiversity Outlook 2 report, available online at http://www.biodiv.org/doc/gbo2/cbd-gbo2.pdf. Since you did not go to the UN to ask your UN-worthy question, I brought it to you. What does the UN or extinctions have to do with Pitkin County? How about a quote from the report (with pop-ups as visual aids)? Try to stick with me here: “The direct causes of biodiversity loss – habitat change (that’s your landscaping services, razing riparian ecosystems for views, impervious surfaces, and hydrologic alteration and consumption), overexploitation (that’s your massive footprint on the land with your trophy home and the road bulldozed and paved leading to it, encroaching into formerly pristine land), the introduction of invasive alien species (the construction process, and the introduction of non-native landscaping plants, which is how species such as tamarix, thistle, and Kentucky bluegrass spread like wildfire throughout the West), nutrient loading (fertilizers that flow into our streams from your landscaping and the golf courses your clients demand and enjoy in our valley) and climate change (that’s the greenhouse gasses that your thousands of hardworking construction, house management and housekeeping services employees cause every day by driving from the “bedroom counties” because they can’t afford to live in the same county as your clients, not to mention how much more the massive houses generate in myriad ways) – show no sign of abating.” Consider recanting your question? I thought not, so here’s one more conclusion from the same report: “Unprecedented additional efforts will be required to achieve, by 2010, a significant deduction in the rate of biodiversity loss at all levels.” See that? Unprecedented efforts … at all levels. I, for one, since it seems not too many others are, stand and applaud the job that Pitkin County has performed at staving off environmental predators and anarchists up to present day. Seems to me that Pitkin County is spot-on for considering the bigger picture of providing for and protecting the public … and of course, not just the current public who would like to exploit the land. They have the difficult job of standing up to naysayers like you who threaten them in the here-and-now, but they understand their jobs are to protect the future well-being (including and especially environmentally speaking) of Pitkin County inhabitants. This is to say nothing of how this county fits like a puzzle piece into the rest of the globe.Kind sir, money and jobs are not everything. If this is the only motive, the UN seems to think that it needs to be stopped. Just because your trophy home construction practices are legal in other counties, that does not mean they should be legal everywhere. Biologically speaking, we are solar-powered beings that depend on our environment to sustain us. There needs to be a balance if we are to live sustainably for all generations. Your clients (you, too?) buy real estate here because of the environment the real estate exists within. Well, there is such a thing as loving something to death. The haute couture clients you represent may not understand what it means to be a considerate member of a community, but I am positive you have it within you to be. Believe it or not, I am a patient person, but on this evening after reading your letter, my patience ran short. I apologize for my youthful vigor, but my message is sound.Joshua Ruschhaupt is a concerned Aspen resident.
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“Many of these stoic commuters endure brain-numbing traffic jams so they can service vacant mega homes, making sure all the lights are on and that the snowmelt patios, driveways, sidewalks and dog runs are thoroughly heated so as to evaporate that bothersome white stuff that defines Aspen’s picturesque winter landscape and ski economy,“ writes Paul Andersen.