Kill the canary!
September 10, 2006
Torching SUVs has become an exciting new way for fossil fools to dispose of their obsolete dinosaurs. Burning one’s car stands out as the final insanity in a world gone berserk. The Rocky Mountain News reported two weeks ago: “A growing number of Coloradans are setting their cars on fire. The steady increase can be chalked up to rising gas prices, low trade-in values for SUVs and other economic pressures.” SUV owners either hire it out or do it themselves, but the end result is a burned out wreck smoldering in some farm field. What follows is an insurance claim seeking recompense for auto theft. The only theft in such self-directed vandalism is from defrauded insurance companies, unless you consider the indirect theft of clean air and resources from the commons, meaning the shared environment into which SUV burners spew the toxic smoke from their immolated relics.Still, the amount of carbon lofted into the air by burning a Hummer may be less than the aggregate carbon that same Hummer would burn in fuel over its gas-guzzling lifetime. The SUV torchers may have discovered a bold new way of going cold turkey from energy addiction in one glorious burst of flame. We had better come up with similarly creative approaches if Aspen is sincere about launching its Canary Initiative as a means of combating global warming. Pledges and platitudes are inspiring, but Aspen must first address its own sins of emission. The fleet of private jets at Sardy Field is the first sign that we’re up against more than windows caulking and duct taping. The sprawl of Aspen’s monolithic homes with requisite heated pools, hot tubs, and driveways suggests that culpability for climate change is not a topic for polite dinner conversation among the elites. Aspen hopes to position itself on high ground as an exemplar for conscious resource and energy use, yet a potential role model like Don Henley is praised for leveraging conservation against a conspicuously consumptive 10,000-square-foot home in Woody Creek.For striking visual proof of what we’re up against, visit Snowmass and observe two enormous construction cranes. Their articulated arms frame the wilderness backdrop of Mt. Daly, provoking awe at the size and scale of the wet dream luxury planned for Base Village. How Aspen’s real estate development and building industries killed the global warming canary will be discussed years from now on cold winter nights around the canary’s funeral pyre at the grand brazier on the Aspen mall – if there are any more cold winter nights in Aspen. If the SUV torchers have it right, Aspen’s next trend will be torching the monster homes that leech energy, resources and labor for the occasional extravagance of their privileged, itinerant occupants. The warmth of the home fires could radiate all the way to Basalt. The road to our global warming hell is paved with Aspen’s good intentions because Aspen represents the pinnacle of luxurious excess that is prodding the mercury to ever greater heights. Nero could take fiddle lessons from those who lavish without care in unbridled carbon-based luxury and by those who profit enormously from erecting palaces upon the remnants of rain forest ecosystems and the graves of endangered species. If Nero lived in Aspen, he could dance a jig around the smoldering cinders of commodious mansions torched by their owners when energy bills balloon even beyond the inflated egos that desired them in the first place. Paul Andersen’s column appears on Mondays.
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