The search for firewood |

The search for firewood

Scavenge for firewood at a popular campground and you’ll discovery there isn’t any. The people before you burned it all. That’s what we’re doing with energy, burning all the firewood before the other campers can get it.We seem to have all the firewood we want, so we burn it recklessly, basking in the glow for fun and entertainment. We burn it without concern for those who come after and for those who can’t afford it. In Aspen, we burn it in private jets and second homes. We burn it in an open hearth on the mall and in SUVs idling in traffic jams. In Washington, our president invades foreign countries looking for more firewood to brighten our lives, most of which we burn frivolously. In Aspen, we recognize there are repercussions, so we decide to become responsible for the smoke from the blaze, which darkens our skies, near and far. We vow not to burn so much firewood and to make more efficient use of the wood we have left.We decide the solution is to fix the highway entrance to accommodate ever-increasing traffic. Don’t ask why there is so much traffic, or how much more is yet to come. That’s not part of this debate, or any debate, unless you dare to question the sacred cow of urban growth.The idea is to widen the funnel into town, and in this, Aspen is like gourmand getting a prescription for Lipitor. Bring on the cars and open the clogged arteries with a highway angioplasty. Just don’t mess with the town’s fatty diet of gas guzzlers. Aspen is afraid of losing its base of snow, on which all else has been built. The highway project is supposed to help that by ramming more cars – faster! – into downtown, where they can then idle through an absurd musical-chairs parking game. Aspen is afraid of having a climate like Amarillo, Texas. Plenty of rich Texans come to Aspen to bask in the glow of our hearth fires, but do we want to make them feel right at home with a real Texas climate? Aspen is afraid of global warming because it will kill our ski areas, but Aspen should be the last to complain. According to a recent Reuters article, the poor will pay for global warming. They who are least responsible for Aspen-style emissions will suffer the most. “Experts say Africa is the lowest emitter of the greenhouse gases blamed for rising temperatures,” said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, “but due to its poverty, underdevelopment and geography, Africa has the most to lose under dire predictions of wrenching change in weather patterns.” In another Reuters article, China charged that the rich nations are responsible for greenhouse gases fueling global warming. Cut First World emissions, they say, before asking Beijing to accept any limits. And how will China reach for the golden ring? By burning coal! The competition for firewood at the campground is getting political, and it’s going to become more combative before it’s over, with rich countries struggling for resource control by waging war. Oil fields and killing fields will become synonymous.In Aspen, we worry about the future of skiing as private jets fly in and out like a replay of the Berlin airlift. Meanwhile, second, third and fourth homes guzzle unprecedented energy in obeisance to the insatiable quest for luxury, boosting traffic levels to meet rising service demands. But wait, there’s a silver lining. A “green house” on the back of Aspen Mountain will show the world how Aspen achieves sustainable living. This 5,000-square-foot sustainable masterpiece is off the grid, producing its own electricity, and heating its own water. It’s even built with organic trees. The cost: only $7.8 million! Aspen doesn’t just do sustainability; Aspen does luxurious sustainability! Our campfire is really cooking now, kindled with petro-dollars and clearcut timber. The smoke blankets the sky from horizon to horizon. We squat by the flames and watch it burn, wondering how to get another stick from our neighbors, wondering how long we’ll need a fire in a rapidly warming world. Paul Andersen’s column appears on Mondays.

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