Carbondale is at a crossroads
I recently attended a meeting where Michael Shuman, an author and speaker who promotes the concept of “Going Local,” gave a talk about the “Small Mart Revolution” as it relates to Carbondale’s potential for growth and the sustainable choices we must consider.He presented a convincing case for striving to keep Carbondale’s economy revolving around locally owned businesses, explaining the many benefits including keeping the retail dollar flowing within our community, the power of the multiplier effect, the low cost of local job creation, smart growth principles and the value of self sufficiency as being some of the key elements to a sustainable and healthy local economy.After Mr. Shuman’s presentation, he opened the floor up to the 150-plus people there to dive into the vision for Carbondale’s future. Many caring locals contributed varying opinions and asked intelligent questions. There was a genuine sense of active interest in the direction Carbondale was going. I left that meeting inspired and a bit concerned. Inspired by the participation and interest, yet concerned as there seemed to be a lack of focus on the long-term vision and a prevalence of discussion on the short-term retail dollar. What brought me to this area was the spectacular natural beauty, the unique charm of small town living and the amazing community of vibrant and caring people. In September 2004, National Geographic Adventure Magazine wrote, “Carbondale is the Ultimate Rocky Mountain Hideout” set at the confluence of the Crystal and Roaring Fork rivers, anchored to the south by 12,953-foot Mount Sopris; … exuding the unpretentious, outdoors-centric vibe that fueled Aspen, it’s up-valley neighbor, in it’s pre-fur, pre-Hummer days. They didn’t write, Carbondale has a great Home Depot anchoring a huge shopping center!The question facing us is: What steps are we, as a community, willing to take to maintain the majesty the brought us here and keeps us here? Carbondale’s magic is its unique small town appeal and the extraordinary natural beauty within and surrounding the community! This is a characteristic several towns are losing as they become homogenous, just another mountain town blending into every other town. At risk is potentially losing our attraction to visitors, the enthusiastic entrepreneurial “creative class” and our current residents. This would be devastating to the social and economic fabric the weaves our community together.I understand that retail is an important component to Carbondale’s vibrancy, well being and self sufficiency. However, it is vital at this juncture to speak up and insist on growth that is consistent with a vision for our community that is sustainable, local and that focuses on maintaining our communities enchanting character and sustains our area’s natural beauty.What I sensed was missing in the discussion after Michael Shuman’s presentation was the pressing question: What are the key reasons to embrace sustainability now? Global climate change, looming energy shortages, diminishing resources and a movement toward a lower carbon footprint are creating a changing economic paradigm. We sit at a crossroads with an opportunity to create a truly sustainable community that is evolving toward the new paradigm; or we can gravitate toward the easy, known, homogenous vision that may ultimately suffocate our community.We are blessed with many neighboring resources that can help guide us on our sustainable journey, including Carbondale Economic Localization, Solar Energy International, Rocky Mountain Institute, Community Office of Resource Efficiency, Wilderness Workshop, Susan Joy Hassol and many more. We have an abundance of knowledge at our disposal!There is a common message coming from these resources, many of which are sought after by the international community for their expertise. And, their message revolves around the changes heading our way and the critical need to act now. We are presented with an exciting opportunity! We have the ability to embrace the coming changes and create a community that will thrive and prosper in the long term. Changes in the way we live will happen. The question is: Shall we be proactive or reactive? Proactive is much simpler, cheaper and healthier. The choice is ours.Before us is a perception of two conflicting issues: revenue v. quality of life. The key word here is perception, because the reality is if you open your mind to the broad, long-term picture Carbondale can have both. The success in achieving both will come from the ability to look past the short term to what is possible, hold tightly to that vision, make any necessary changes to achieve that vision and keep focused. Keep focused on sustainability!We have an opportunity to create a unique, sustainable community that is located in one of the most beautiful places in the world. We have everything we need to achieve a sustainable vision right here, just waiting to become a part of our lives. If we succeed, and we can, our quality of life will surpass our greatest expectations, and the visitors we will draw to our community will increase tenfold because not only will we remain “the Ultimate Rocky Mountain Hideout,” but we will have become an amazing community that stuck to its values and is now a hallmark of sustainable living, serving as an example of what is possible when conviction and determination are combined with focused action to become a truly sustainable community.Please take the time to educate yourself and choose carefully!Shaine Ebrahimi is a resident of Carbondale. Editor’s note: Soapbox runs weekly on the Sunday opinion page. This spot is a forum for valley residents to comment on local topics. If you’d like to contribute, contact Naomi Havlen at The Aspen Times at 925-3414, extension 17624 or sned her an e-mail at email@example.com.
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