One canary on rye, please |

One canary on rye, please

Andy Stone

I got a note from a reader the other day, wondering why The Aspen Times wasn’t pointing out the raging hypocrisy of the city putting in a natural-gas-fueled fire pit on the mall.The reader’s point was that the city is so darned proud of its nifty “Canary Initiative” at the same time that it’s cheerfully getting ready to light an open flame that will, as he wrote, “spew greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, fueled by natural gas obtained by raping Western Colorado (in particular, the Roan Plateau). The hypocrisy is palpable!”Good point.OK, maybe he’s getting a little overexcited.I mean, why worry about a fire pit? Here we are in the land of the snowmelt driveway, the private jet, the stretch Hummer … and who knows what other weirdly twisted environmental perversions.Hey, I’m sure that hidden somewhere on the grounds of one of our local mansions there’s an acre or two or five on which winter has been completely banished. There’s eternal summer, with green grass and flowers and hummingbirds and bumblebees and gentle rain showers and rainbows … all courtesy of some kind of system with energy consumption equal to a small Eastern European country.OK, now I’m the one getting overexcited.But still, we do have snowmelt driveways, and we do have stretch Hummers – and we do have a horrendous twice-daily traffic jam that results in countless tons of pollution belching skyward.And we have vast mansions that stand empty for most of the year but need to be kept nice and warm at considerable expense and considerable environmental impact.In fact, let’s get real, this charming little mountain town of ours is an environmental blister on the fair face of our planet.We’re oh-so-proud of our “mining heritage” – but mining was really a nasty process that tore holes in the mountains and filled the streams with debris.And when mining failed, there were the “Quiet Years,” when a hardy handful of brave souls eked out a living – and probably pumped a considerable amount of raw sewage into the semi-pristine Roaring Fork.And now … skiing! The industrialization of outdoor recreation. Clanking machinery hauling us up to the peaks, along with all our high-tech plastic and polyester gear, so we can preen on the mountaintop, gulp the fresh air and then get a little healthy exercise as we ski down the clear-cut trails on our way to grabbing another uphill ride. (And then jump in our SUV and join the traffic jam.)Wow. At this point, I kind of just want to crawl off into a corner and shoot myself. (And I bet lots of you are rooting for me to do exactly that.)Yikes. I’m way off track. I didn’t mean to condemn Aspen to eternal damnation. I love it here. I just figured I’d poke a little fun at the city for its “palpable hypocrisy.” That’s always a good idea. You can’t ever go too far wrong when you call the city hypocritical.You know, we dress ourselves in “green,” but somehow we can’t keep ourselves from approving the newest, biggest hotel that anyone can imagine. And if we make them whittle it down from obscenely enormous to merely blatantly huge … well, we figure we’ve done our job.And, gosh, that traffic jam? Well, gee, nothing we can do about it.But, hey, how about our Canary Initiative? That’s something, isn’t it?Well, actually, it’s mostly like devouring a large order of nachos, a double bacon cheeseburger and a hot fudge sundae – and washing it down with a Diet Coke.Except I’m not quite certain if the Diet Coke in my little scenario is the Canary Initiative or the concern over the firepit.Yeah, well, let’s just imagine the canary, plucked and skewered, being nicely roasted over the open flame in that fire pit.I’ll take mine with extra cheese.Andy Stone is former editor of The Aspen Times. His e-mail address is