Summit Daily editorial: Climate change actions, both big and small
October 13, 2017
Earlier this month, Auden Schendler had a splash of cold water for the Colorado ski industry's big chiefs, who were gathered together at the Keystone Conference Center to discuss the upcoming season.
He told them, in effect, "You're doing the right thing to make your resorts more environmentally sustainable and energy efficient, but it's not nearly enough — we've got to take the fight to Washington, D.C."
Schendler, Aspen Skiing Co.'s vice president of sustainability and the chairman of the activist group Protect Our Winters, said switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs, throwing up solar arrays and switching to electric vehicles are all laudable, even bold, actions. However, on their own, he suggested those things won't move the needle in combating climate change. Political action — collectively leaning on congressmen, for example — is instead the most important strategy for affecting change.
"There's nothing more American, more citizen-like you could do than calling your congressperson," he said. "We think that the actions that will help solve climate change are driving a Prius, changing our light bulbs, insulating our house. But the scale of the problem is too big, and you have to wield whatever power you have. We have to put bigger policy in place."
Ultimately, we believe Schendler is right. Political solutions at the highest levels are likely the only way to mend our warming world.
However, the Trump administration appears to judge its success by how many climate deals it can pull out of and how many environmental regulations it can dismantle. It isn't exactly a welcome mat for sweeping environmental regulations.
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However, we believe that Schendler gives short shrift to the importance of local, even tiny, efforts to make sustainability a lasting part of our community. Here in Summit County, there are several encouraging projects underway that will reduce our carbon footprint locally and inspire future generations of sustainability advocates.
• The town of Breckenridge's commitment to have its facilities 100 percent powered by renewable energy by 2025.
• Vail Resorts has launched an effort to eliminate the environmental impact of its operations by 2030. The aim is to eliminate emissions, deliver zero waste to landfills and offset its overall impact to forests and habitat in the next 13 years. The company is calling the effort: "Epic Promise for a Zero Footprint."
• The High Country Conservation Center, a Summit County nonprofit, is involved in several projects that move our community further into a greener future, including a communitywide energy action plan that targets 15 percent greenhouse gas reductions by 2020, a program that works with local businesses on energy and sustainability plans, and the Energy Smart Colorado initiative, which offers residents home energy audits and energy upgrades like free light bulbs.
If we seek only the big solution, the agrarian philosopher-poet Wendell Berry has warned, then we will only retreat into a paralysis of inaction.
"If … we have our minds set in the future, where we are sure that climate change is going to play hell with the environment, we have entered into a convergence of abstractions that makes it difficult to think or do anything in particular," Berry writes. "If we think the future damage of climate change to the environment is a big problem only solvable by a big solution, then thinking or doing something in particular becomes more difficult, perhaps impossible."
Go ahead and call your congressman, but also take pride in doing small things in your own community. You might even change your light bulbs.
The Summit Daily editorial board includes publisher Meg Boyer, editor Ben Trollinger, reporter Kevin Fixler and two community members, Jen Schenk and Jonathon Knopf.