Roger Marolt: Not all carbon footprints have the same tread
I feel a little bad about liking skiing as much as I do. I should feel more guilty, but I don’t. I more than just like it, I have absorbed it into my identity and sense of purpose. Yes, that is ridiculous, but no more so than the sport itself. Riding slippery boards attached to my feet down a snowy slope and making that into a lifestyle? What?
Skiing, even more so in Aspen, is an environmental catastrophe. And, still, I continually take that unvarnished truth and faux-antique finish it with an imaginary sugar-based lacquer applied with cerebral brushstrokes at my workbench at the same time I tune and wax my skis.
I spend time considering that the oil and gas industry is a threat to the planet. They search for, pump out of the ground, refine and sell a product widely purchased that, when consumed as intended, produces lethal byproducts that are destroying the atmosphere. I am convinced downsizing this business is necessary and that all the people employed in it can find new jobs in alternative energy fields and relocate to where those are. In the meantime, I drive less.
I perform similar intellectual exercises covering the meat business and cut back on my consumption of such sustenance accordingly. I’m against coal power and rain forest lumber harvesting. I set up reminders on my smart phone to take out the recycling bin and composting bucket to the curbside on different days of the week. It is more like satisfaction in taking care of business than happiness for doing good.
And then I go skiing. I’m not cutting back on that. I do as much of it as the body and daily grind allow. Is this a problem? I don’t feel much guilt over it, if that is any kind of indicator. And still it feels shamefully Republican-like to talk like this. I know it is ignoring science to be so cavalier in throwing the boards over my shoulder to go up for a run or two in the afternoon. It is different than denying science, but the effect is the exact same. I call it “recharging my battery,” a diehard’s slant on embracing renewable energy.
Not all footprints are created equal. This goes for carbon footprints as well. Some are left by those treading across fields to produce the world’s food supply and then marking the paths of those transporting it to our tables. Others are made in ski boots clomping across decorative pavers through Gondola Plaza on the way to the lifts.
We produce nothing necessary in Aspen, only things desirable. Not many towns can say that. It’s not so with oil producers and cattle ranchers. On a per capita basis, I doubt we can claim less destruction to the environment than people drilling in the panhandle of Texas. If every community in the country burned oil directly or encouraged its visitors to do so like we do, the world would stand no chance.
Our carbon footprints are ankle-deep in the slushy snow that used be powder above our knees. Nobody here can claim to be stepping lightly. Choosing Aspen makes us complicit in what we all have created here, good intentions aside. It is what supports our lives that is a vibrant conglomeration spurring the construction and maintenance of huge houses, the burning of massive amounts of jet fuel to transport people here, gas-guzzling commutes for those who serve, fuels burned to run our lifts and groom our ski trails buttery smooth every day, and the encroachment upon and destruction of wild habitat and forest surrounding us. Luxury does not consume fewer resources than thrift no matter how efficient it is designed to be.
And still, I love to ski. If that’s not where the discussion ends, it’s close. I know skiing is harmful to the environment, but I won’t give it up easily. We do what we can, so being not as bad as we could be must suffice. It has to come down to one of two things then: either I don’t think what we do here matters, or I’m not overly concerned that it might.
In 100 years, when history judges this era’s response to the threat of global warming, will it be harsh on Aspen, as in “Wow! What were they thinking to keep on skiing as usual while catastrophe clearly loomed?” Or, will the inheritors of what our actions produce simply shrug and remark, “it wouldn’t have made any difference anyway.”
Roger Marolt thinks surfing probably isn’t too hard on the environment. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.