Eco advocates 350.org organize marches, more in Denver for climate change awareness | SummitDaily.com

Eco advocates 350.org organize marches, more in Denver for climate change awareness

Jake Black
Special to the Daily

All of us in Summit County regard the mountains as something special. These mountains create a platform to explore and push our physical and mental limits. Perhaps the most important thing these mountains have done is to create a place for like-minded individuals to come together — a community. The melting pot of characters who travel here, live here and thrive here is filled with people who almost all came to experience the grandness of these peaks, to ski them, to bike them, to hike them, to gasp at the crisp clean air, to disconnect and to experience the uncalculated wild.

Unfortunately, this existence full of adventure, excitement and inspiration is at risk, for studies show the global climate as a whole is warming. According to NASA, 2015 was the hottest year ever on record. In fact, for the past 35 years, we have seen a warming trend, with the top 15 of 16 hottest years occurring since 2001. So far, 2016 is breaking records and is likely to surpass 2015 as the hottest year.

This is science. There is no argument that greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, ethane and more) cause global temperatures to rise once emitted into the atmosphere. Instead, the argument is about man: Have humans influenced the change?

According to 97 percent of the scientific community, man is the leading influence in our current climate change. And, yet, last month, three of Colorado's state senators not only denied the existence of climate change, but they also even called the situation as realistic as unicorns. Even if the majority of the scientific community is wrong and climate change isn't real, doesn't it still make more sense to invest in a future that saves money and at the same time improves the health and wellbeing of millions of people?

Moving toward a renewable future is not only the right thing to do, it is also the most financially-secure decision we can make as a society.

Small Summit in the big picture

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So what does this all have to do with our haven up here at 9,000 feet? It is all part of a system: As temperatures continue to rise, we will see less snow and, thus, less water for our rivers and Dillon Reservoir. Then, the downstream communities (like Denver and beyond) that depend on our water will be negatively affected.

Worst of all, this community that thrives off of ski and summer tourism will see fewer visitors — not just because we have less snow, but because potential visitors will be dealing with the same issues and higher costs at home just to fulfill their basic necessities. The system will continue to tumble in a vicious cycle.

Fewer visitors means fewer prospering businesses and lost jobs, and this community — this place that we all love so dearly — will disappear.

350.org speaks up

Fossil fuels are leading contributors to the greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. We are dependent on these fuels to power our homes, businesses and cars.

You have probably heard the saying, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results." It is 2016. We have the technology and capability to move beyond these fuel sources, and we cannot expect these problems to go away if we continue to do the same thing. We have solar, wind and hydro energy that can clean up our grids, reduce our carbon footprints and improve the lives of millions of people. Instead, we allow our government to sell off our public land to oil and gas companies that drill and extract these fuels without paying for the externalities — the pollution. It is privatized use of public commons.

Driving less, recycling and carpooling help, but, to spark systemic change, we must first speak to our representatives and actively work to protect our ski-town way of life. This is where organizations like 350.org, a worldwide climate activist group, have stepped up to start a global conversation: It is time to move onto a cleaner energy system.

From May 4-15, 350.org has organized movements around the world to tell our government leaders to "break free from fossil fuels." Citizens are already speaking up in North America, South America, Europe, England, Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Indonesia.

Colorado breaks free

Colorado is home to several calls for participation. On May 12, organizers will host a peaceful protest in Lakewood at a Bureau of Land Management auction involving public lands for sale to companies involved with oil and gas extraction.

Again in Thornton on May 14, organizers are hosting a march to unify the voices of thousands of Coloradans for the #BreakFree campaign. The march is to raise awareness about breaking free from fossil fuels and insist that Colorado officials plan to embrace 100-percent renewable energy.

Currently, Colorado has pledged to 30 percent renewable energy with investor-owned utilities and 20 percent renewable energy for large electric co-operatives by 2030. Meanwhile, the city of Aspen in 2015 reached 100-percent renewable energy, showing it is more than achievable.

Moving toward a renewable future is not only the right thing to do, it is also the most financially-secure decision we can make as a society. It can help to preserve our Summit County community and the winter ski and ride industry as a whole. Through marches and protests, 350.org wants to revolutionize how we think about energy. No only will this allow us to continue enjoying our mountain lifestyle, but it will also strengthen the community and improve our economy.

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