Marolt: Skico gets X Games soot on its face
Auden Schendler says the darndest things.
He’s the vice president of environmental vices at Aspen Skiing Co. Scott Condon, of The Aspen Times, did a piece on the X Games’ carbon footprint that is actually an amalgamation of tracks from a fleet of insanely overpowered, blue-smoke-spewing snowmobiles across piles of snow made from scratch by mixing a good dose of local river water with electricity generated from trainloads of smoldering Pennsylvania coal — and the lights, sound, heated tents and panoply that make watching it enticing. Schendler basically said it wasn’t cool, but it wasn’t about to stop anyway.
He acknowledged that the negative impact from the X Games is huge. But, he said, it’s OK because it is critically important in defining what Aspen is. It is a major component in our branding. Part of this mea culpa also was to say Skico takes responsibility for “off-site impacts” of the games such as the global gaseous mess our visitors make traveling here via jets and cars, and jets. Did I mention jets?
If I were in your shoes reading between the lines instead of writing them, I would succinctly interpret this to mean it is OK to ignore environmentalism if you are either making money or enjoying life. I suppose this leaves it up to us to save the planet in our sleep. Remember to turn down the thermostats! Unless of course you need a comfortable slumber before work or play tomorrow.
I hope this means that Skico will now express more empathy for those who manufacture, say, Styrofoam cups, Kleenex and everything else. After all, these companies are just trying to make a buck, too.
Our collective natural response might be to say, “Wait a minute, hold on! Too much! Maybe not all companies trying to turn a profit peddling earth-unfriendly products should be allowed to stay in business.”
Now we begin to slide down the slippery slope without an edge.
Suppose we decide that 6,000-pound luxury SUVs with leather seats and 700-horsepower, buttery-smooth V-12s are so hazardous to the air we breathe that they shouldn’t be allowed on the road anymore.
Uh oh — now there are some moguls we have to negotiate.
Did you remember that Aspen is the 6,000-pound luxury SUV of ski areas? It’s true. No frills A-Basin is more like the Prius. Now, what if all those people in the Cadillac factory point their would-be-unemployed middle fingers at us and say, “Well, then there should be no Aspens, either!” What will our argument be? The truth is probably that there is more overall demand for both Styrofoam cups and Escalades, these products are more important to our nation’s GDP and they might, honestly, be no worse for the environment than we are. We have no case!
Schendler’s words remind us that deciding which environmentally damaging activities must be eliminated is not a meritocracy but a popularity contest. Activities are snuffed not based on how detrimental they might be to the environment but only when they become more offensive than desirable. It’s not rocket science or any other kind of science. It’s emotion. In that regard, glamour works for Aspen and the 3-ton Escalade. Sex appeal is a shield. I’m not sure that works for the Styrofoam cup.
As long as there are people like you and I who desire to live, work, play and vacation in places like Aspen and enjoy the quiet handling of a Cadillac, these products are safe. The votes are in, and even though only a minuscule number of the world’s population cast a vote, it is enough to carry the day, every day, the billions of times a decision that affects the environment arises.
Don’t get me wrong. I agree with Schendler’s assessment of this global catastrophe that really isn’t, because what he actually said is that life causes climate change, but nobody expects us to stop living, because that’s what we do. We are excused to make ourselves, our loved ones and our friends comfortable and happy for the short period of time we, our children, our grandchildren and any person who will ever be able to trace their DNA to us will spend on this planet. It boils down to this: Take life as it comes, be productive and play, and don’t throw trash out the car window because everyone knows that’s bad. Or this: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.
Roger Marolt has been around long enough to remember when Skico believed it was doing the environment a favor. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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