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Roger Marolt: Roger This

Roger Marolt
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

I like the X Games. I like environmentalism. But, together? To say the least, I was surprised when I learned that the Alliance for Climate Education (ACE) was partnering with the X Games’ sponsors to educate valley school children about global warming at the Games’ opening day on Buttermilk Mountain last week.

Not that I wasn’t hopeful. The discussion on climate change rarely incorporates real living with saving the planet. If we have to mope around gravely concerned all the time, this place isn’t worth saving anyway. To keep our sanity, we must be able to be aware of the issues and also be able to set them aside from time to time – compartmentalize and separate – in order to live our lives.

Let me give you an example: If you want to go to the beach you have to burn a little fossil fuel to get there from here. Right? Oh, well. Are we going to let that non-green fact ruin the vacation? Heck, no. To make up for our production of greenhouse gas we can recycle our Corona bottles once we get our toes in the sand and maybe pick up some interesting beach trash to take home to the kids for souvenirs. You see? We can be aware of the issue and not let it ruin our plans.

Notice that enjoying a guilt-free vacation does not mean ignoring the problem of global warming. You just have to deal with them separately. Timing is everything. Don’t mention anything about the environment at the airport. Rather, wait until the sun is setting at the beach and the waves are lapping against the shore while you’re holding the hand of the one you love waiting for the green flash through the smog and say something heartfelt like, “It’s a damn shame nobody gives a crap.” Then go to dinner and order the fresh fish that has to be flown in daily from the other ocean because the local stuff contains mercury and cow farts cause global warming, eliminating steak as an option. Be aware and enjoy. There is always tomorrow to do better.

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This is the most effective way to cope when thoughts of global warming threaten to ruin the fun, but I’ve never heard of this pragmatic philosophy being incorporated into any curriculum on climate change. This is why I was excited to learn that ACE was going to be making an educational presentation to our kids at ESPN’s X Games. What better way to demonstrate to the kids how to make sense of seemingly incongruous things like the over-the-top X Games and under-the-troposphere environmentalism?

I stood through ACE’s hour-long presentation complete with snazzy graphics flashing on the Jumbotron while snowmobiles roared and riders soared over the gigantic piles of manmade snow surrounding us. The pitch to the kids was this – “We can’t continue to live large like we (i.e. your parents) have in the past.” The waiver was implicit – “Except for today, of course.” Very nice!

Special events are a great pretext to ignore the pressing issues regarding global obliteration. ACE’s speaker didn’t argue this point. He nimbly dodged all questions from the kids about all-night lights, noise, trash, and snowmobile smoke. None of his explanations made sense, but at least he gave them lip service with confidence. It proved to the kids that if you act like you are making a difference, most people will pat you on the back for it and then you are pretty much free to enjoy things like the X Games.

The beauty was that nobody could blame the ACE M.C. for turning a blind eye when there was so much to see. The X Games are all about the trend of the season, the gear of the year, the latest of this and the greatest of that. And the message is that you have to perpetually replace it all to be cool! The runway for this fashion show is sculpted from massive piles of artificial snow. The young and vibrant models for what is hip soar and roar. They are the highest and mightiest and sickest (?) of all. That’s why we love the Games! And they come around only once a year, so what the heck is the problem? Learn about environmentalism today, watch the events tonight, do something to clean up the planet a little bit later. Like I said, keep things separate, but acknowledge the connection. It is the recipe for genuine, guilt-free fun!

Unfortunately, the canned and planned environmental message that ACE hoped to convey sounded a little disingenuous amidst the glitz. Their effort to compartmentalize the issue at this happeningly ostentatious venue may have been a bit too ambitious. The contrast was just too great for anyone to ignore. As the polished presenter tiptoed beneath his two lips and danced adroitly around the obvious prickly issues, heads nodded at the appropriate times, but confusion looked like it would take home the gold in this event.

The wrap-up went something like this: “What one thing are you going to do today to help save the planet? … Excellent answer! And, here’s a Shawn White DVD for you! … How about you? … Nice! Here’s a Warheads hat for you! … Now, now, settle down, kids. We’re almost through. You can go and collect swag like this from all our sponsors’ booths in just a minute … Don’t worry, there’s plenty for everyone. Now, one more question, then you can go. Who can guess what the fork I’m holding up is made of? … Nope, it’s not plastic. It’s made from corn! Corn that will eventually turn into dirt! Isn’t that incredible?!”

Then the roar from the kids: “Wow! That is cool! Can we go get our Taco Bell foam burrito hats now? Yeaaaaaaa!”

It looked for a moment like the day was saved. The kids digested the environmental message and then rushed off to indulge in the games. They had learned to deal with the conflicting messages in a very adult way, after all!

Later, however, my hopes were somewhat dashed. As one child was rummaging through his bag of junk, I asked him what he thought of the day. “I don’t know,” he said, with a cynical smile. “I don’t think any of this stuff is made from corn.”


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