Paul Andersen: Basalt must act on ‘climate emergency’

Paul Andersen
Fair Game

As Greta Thunberg, the Joan of Arc of climate change, beats a course across the Atlantic on a sailing ship, Greenland reports a record 440 billion tons of glacial melting this summer. There is a dramatic contest between climate and humanity, and the town of Basalt wants to be part of it.

Thunberg is sailing to America from her native Sweden to address climate at the United Nations. She is sailing as an act of defiance against the carbon footprint of air travel in a world where air travel is a matter-of-fact indulgence bereft of moral implications.

In Greta’s native Sweden, “flygskam,” or flight shame, is the reason she is sailing to the U.S. According to Time magazine, air travel contributes 2% to 3% of total atmospheric carbon. Growing numbers of Swedes have sworn off flying as an act of conscience.

“As record-high temperatures have driven the reality of climate change home,” reported Time of Europe’s summer swelterfest, “grassroots initiatives like the Flygfritt social media campaign — which persuaded 14,500 Swedes to renounce air travel in 2019 — have helped flygskam spread.”

Who could fly with impunity if they knew that each trip melted more ice in Greenland? “Flight shame” does not translate to American culture, however, because mainstream America refuses to acknowledge climate as a unifying global cause.

But Americans can be committed to climate in our local communities, which is what Basalt trustees are discussing thanks to Councilwoman Katie Schwoerer’s initiative two weeks ago.

“I can’t imagine why we wouldn’t do this,” Schwoerer told The Aspen Times. “It is purely just establishing our priorities and then allowing us to move forward on action that matters.”

To fellow Councilman Auden Schendler, “Basalt has an opportunity to be a model for the rest of the state. We ought to be really bold while we have this climate-hawk council. Two recent major approvals — Basalt Vista and ASC affordable housing — have committed to all electric, no gas. We should explore banning gas for all new construction.

“I expect us to call a vote in April to ask residents if they’d pay a small premium to go to 100% clean energy,” said Schendler. “That would help Holy Cross get to 100%. We ought to bump the building codes to the next level, and we should retroactively electrify town hall as a model.”

On the national level, President Donald Trump strives to derail alternative fuels and cripple solar and wind technologies while propping up the failing and obsolete coal industry and cheerleading wanton development of domestic gas and oil.

Despite such insanity, advances in climate awareness and carbon reduction are empowering grassroots localities like Basalt where community initiatives counter presidential decrees and nourish the green shoots of energy efficiency and sustainability.

Such precedents exist, with Boulder as the first city in Colorado to declare a climate emergency. More and more cities and towns are sure to follow.

“What this would do,” explains Schwoerer, “is set the tone of the town and our government to make climate action our first and foremost priority and set the groundwork to let our communities know this is the greatest challenge that human civilization has ever encountered. We must act immediately.”

Which is why Holy Cross is setting a goal to provide 70% clean energy by 2030 and inviting customers to purchase 100% of their energy from renewable resources for a small extra fee. Basalt residential customers could go 100% renewable for only $9 to $14 extra per month on their electricity bills.

My 1,800-square-foot home up the Frying Pan is powered by a subscription to eight-and-a-half solar panels at the Rifle Airport through a solar collective that provides us with 100% renewable electricity. Scaling this kind of regional solar power could aggregate huge carbon savings and give Basalt inspired standing as a green community.

Trump and his fossil fool special interests will not be able to stop small communities from feeling green with envy as they strive to realize the same vision as Basalt. We have an opportunity to lead and we should do so with unanimous agreement to make the Basalt community a green leader.

Paul Andersen’s column appears on Mondays. He may be reached at


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