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Paul Andersen: Fair Game

Paul Andersen
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

This column is sometimes crammed with criticism, peppered with pessimism, deluged with denouncements. As a columnist, I’ve become a habitual critic. My wife admonishes me: “Paul, sweetie, honey bun, can’t you write about something positive for a change?”

It’s not always easy finding a ray of sunshine in a world of sturm und drang. This is made particularly acute through my membership in “The Doomers Club,” a clique of friends who, like me, think humanity is on a mad rush to oblivion. At our “Doomer Dinners” we exchange dire outlooks in an evangelical fervor of despair, raising glasses of absinthe to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

Recently, one of the Doomers challenged us to come up with something positive for a change. What I discovered is something so optimistic it will enchant my wife with the glow of hope, edify my fellow Doomers with euphoric aspirations, and brighten my downcast doggerel with effusive effulgence. I discovered the town of Fowler, Colo.

If you don’t know Fowler, it’s not your fault. The town is only now receiving publicity. Fowler is a small agricultural community about 30 miles east of Pueblo on Highway 50. The town’s website describes it as “a vibrant and progressive community … a center for farming and ranching … the gateway to southeastern Colorado’s heritage … a small-town atmosphere.”

Fowler prides itself for its “commitment to education” and “for maintaining its historic heart – Main Street – which is walkable.” Fowler is near the old Santa Fe Trail, Bent’s Old Fort, the Sand Creek Massacre Site, a World War II Japanese Internment Camp, and the Comanche National Grasslands, which is billed “a birder’s delight and the home to the longest mapped dinosaur tracks in North America.”!

What’s really cool about Fowler is its goal to form its own utility and move off the energy grid by producing electricity through solar, biomass and wind power. This isn’t a rich resort town with money to spare for greenification, but rather a poor farming town looking toward the future with reckless optimism.

You can read about Fowler’s ambitious plan on its website, from which even the most dedicated Doomer will find a story of hope through local autonomy, rugged independence and daring innovation. It makes me proud of Fowler, and I’ve never even been there.

Aspen should make Fowler a sister city because it shares the mutual goal of declaring independence from the grid by adopting a bold, self-sustaining vision. Aspen already has its own utility, and a very progressive one at that, which has long been working toward the goal Fowler has so boldly announced.

Aspen has hydropower and is striving to develop more. Aspen has progressive local governments that can support solar the way Carbondale has and the way El Jebel and Snowmass are considering. Holy Cross Energy, our regional utility, deserves praise for advancing wind power and efficiency. Alternative energy, in concert with conservation, has made our valley a model like Fowler that can inspire others.

And why stop at energy? Fowler has a strong agricultural heritage, and so does the Roaring Fork Valley. A vibrant grassroots movement is already working to produce food in our valley. Not only is this feasible, as proven by visionary agronomists like Jerome Osentowski, Michael Thompson, Brook LeVan, Jennifer Craig and the collective farmers of Paonia, it can be profitable, self-sustaining and healthy.

As you read this, a domed greenhouse is rising at Roaring Fork High in Carbondale. This year-round growing machine will teach aspiring farmers how to grow food at high elevations, even in midwinter. The technology is here; it’s only awaiting application, investment, labor and scale.

It’s a pleasure shifting out of the Doomer doldrums and writing about something positive, to celebrate a model that makes me feel good about a small town with a visionary future. What a surprise it will be when I take my wife on vacation to Fowler, where we can bask in innovation, commitment and the expanse of the Great Plains.


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