Stop building houses to fight climate change

The thriving economy of the Roaring Fork Valley is the beneficiary of beautiful scenery, a great climate and exceptional skiing. There are others around the West.

The two big problems facing such places are that they are not sustainable; and ratcheting complex economies back is really painful. It has happened a few times in the past. Now, climate change has become more apparent and it will reduce the amount of snow available for skiing.

This has already drastically affected a number of traditional skiing areas around the planet. We are now at a point where we are considering pulling back on our economy voluntarily; before we are forced.

One option is to start slowing things down in smaller adjustments. Like downshifting a car. Another is to make a moral choice to reduce emissions for slowing down climate change. What we do here about emissions will have an infinitesimal effect on the planet in itself, but we ought to do our part. However, the tendency, as we have seen, is to avoid doing anything that would slow down personal profits. So, we procrastinate. From nations to small communities, emission reductions plans have been created with goals; almost none of these goals will be met.

All of this was plain to see in a recent article from Aspen Journalism. They detailed some research undertaken by Pitkin County to look at the impacts on climate and the economy of more home development through out the county. It turns out that very large homes not only use more carbon, but they do so at multiples per square foot of what smaller homes use. That is both to build and then to maintain. The county is considering reducing the maximum size of the remaining projects. Predictably, the building industry wants no changes, the planning department will wait to see which way the wind blows, the environmental community doesn’t want to become unpopular, and most of the rest of us haven’t given it much of a thought.

My position is simple: Stop building homes. You cannot keep building and stop climate change. We have to find a different way.

Patrick Hunter