Roger Marolt: Collecting small change to pay a massive bill
Glorious June days remind me of a time not so long ago when I rode my bicycle everyday from my home in Snowmass Village to work in Aspen. I rode rain or shine, from the beginning of May through Halloween. I mostly enjoyed it, but what got me through the headwinds and hail storms was my mission of saving the world.
Was I superhuman? I admit it’s debatable. I could log 3,000 miles on my odometer per summer and finish a 100-mile mountain bike race in less than nine hours, but I was usually too tired to play with my kids. And, if you are too tired to play with your kids, you sure as heck are too tired to raise them. So, all in all, perhaps leaping a tall building in a single bound was an unrealistic goal.
After more than a decade of this, I came to understand that I was going to wear out my body before the world ended. As the aches and pains began to mount from my solo attempt to roll this planet up a very steep hill to a peak above the carbon cloud, I began to reward myself with a day off here and there.
One thing led to another and one day I found myself behind the wheel of a Prius picking up the kids after school. Active and engaged kids are a blessing, but it is also impossible to cart them around to their events on a bicycle. My mountain bike became a recreational piece for weekends. It worked out pretty well, though. Mountain bikes don’t wear out very fast when you don’t ride them, and so I saved a lot of money to send my kids to college.
Perspective came from relinquishing my superhero powers, or was it an illusion? I began to see more clearly that clearing the air is not such a simple thing. I wholeheartedly believe in global warming. I believe in its power to destroy our planet. Humanity is in jeopardy.
What I don’t believe any longer is that I can save the day by riding my bike to work. I don’t believe driving my Prius came close to addressing the problem. I don’t think me eating less beef and more chicken has meaningful effect on the atmosphere. The proof is in. Nothing we are doing has reversed the heating of our planet. I am a climate change solution denier. Slightly slowing the progression of the disaster is not a fix.
Despite all efforts, last year our country burned more fossil fuels than ever before. A little conservation here, a little reduction there is not enough to tackle this gargantuan problem. The glaciers are still receding. The tides continue to rise. Storms grow bigger and stronger. The problem is too enormous to battle with the puny weapons currently in our arsenal.
I hope nobody else believes we are making sufficient progress, either. If we believe we are getting a handle on this, that means we have found the solution. And, if we believe we have found the solution, that means all we have to do is more of the same.
And yet, I am optimistic. Even though I don’t believe we are making sufficient progress in turning this thing around, I believe we have to keep doing the things we are doing and even more fervently. This sounds paradoxical.
We do not know how to fix global warming … yet. But, I believe we will figure it out, if we keep trying. Twenty years ago nobody could have imagined an iPhone and today we can’t imagine life without it. Mechanized transportation on our planet evolved from a covered wagon to a spaceship landing on the moon in not much more than a century and we take that for granted.
There will be something that ends global warming that is not on the drawing board yet.
So we have to keep fighting to keep us thinking about the seemingly insurmountable problem at hand. It is not that riding my bike slowed the onslaught of global warming one iota. In and of itself, it is a completely impotent action. But symbolically, its achievement is as invaluable as it is immeasurable. Our actions against global warming, ineffective as they currently may be, demonstrate the demand and resolve for finding a solution while promising reward to the innovators who find it. It proves we believe in the problem’s potency. It is motivating. It pushes ingenuity to a priority.
If all hope rests in the design of the Prius and riding our bikes to work, all hope is certainly lost. If, however, we embrace the effort of laying these small measures down as stepping stones to an eventual, as-yet-unknown breakthrough in technology, then we can feel the excitement of anticipating a genuine solution.
Roger Marolt knows that if the cure is more painful than the disease, we will rather live with the disease. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org