Mountain News: Thinking global and eating local 

click to enlarge SHUTTERSTOCK PHOTO - GOING LOCAL Chef Ari LeVaux says food from a different hemisphere, such as tomatoes and berries during the wintertime, is hard to justify simply because it's out of season at home.
  • Shutterstock photo
  • GOING LOCAL Chef Ari LeVaux says food from a different hemisphere, such as tomatoes and berries during the wintertime, is hard to justify simply because it's out of season at home.

DURANGO, Colo. — Think global and eat local. But what does that mean in practice?

In an essay published in the Durango Telegraph, chef Ari LeVaux parses the choices and motivations and finds relatively few absolutes.

Food from a different hemisphere, such as tomatoes and berries during the wintertime, is hard to justify simply because it's out of season at home, he says. "In demanding to eat them year-round you abandon your relationship to where you are."

Climate activist Bill McKibben confided with LeVaux his personal rule-of-thumb for purchasing food. McKibben calls it the Marco Polo Exception: food non-perishable enough that Marco Polo could have taken it from China to his home country of Italy in a sail boat is OK. But if a food is so perishable that it must be shipped refrigerated and shipped quickly, then it's off the table.

One shipping company has picked up on this idea, with two boats that are entirely wind-powered, as Marco Polo might have used. One of those two boats is currently en route from the Caribbean to Europe with rum, coffee, and chocolate.

The company, Fairtransport Shipping, now pursues a goal that LeVaux describes as a hybrid cargo ship, one that is powered primarily by wind but which has an engine, too. Designers expect it will be just as fast as a conventional cargo ship powered by burning of fossil fuels but will use only half the petroleum.

Tracking the impacts of your food choices, says LeVaux, is "akin to meditation practices that makes you a better person, similar to recycling or riding your bike instead of driving.' He sees it as part of a broader lifestyle choice.

For example, you want strawberries in winter? Then think about it right now, in spring.

"Focus on storing those berries," from local sources, he advises. "Dry them. Make jam, leather, sauce, or syrup. Doing so will help you connect with the culinary texture of where you are, and ground you in traditions that make use of preserved foods in winter."

Do this enough, he concludes, and those foods derived from the Marco Polo Exception will in fact themselves become an exceptional treat.

Water, water on brains everywhere

Water, water — who has extra? Certainly not California. But four years of drought apparently hasn't been enough to jolt Golden State residents into scrimping.

California residents reduced water used by less than four per cent in March compared to the same month the year before, reports The Associated Press. Gov. Jerry Brown has talked about Draconian fines for water wasters.

The California State Water Resources Control Board sees lush lawns and verdant landscapes as the first chopping block to meet conservation targets, but some are fighting their depiction as villains in the drought.

If people better understood how much water they were consuming, would they use less? That's the intent of a new wave of so-called smart-water meters. Like electric meters, explains the Wall Street Journal, these water meters collect data every few minutes, or hours, and transmit the information to utilities — and possibly to the consumers themselves.

Park City, Utah, completed installing 5,200 smart meters in 2013. "Most people like to think they are doing a good job of saving water," said Jason Christensen, water resources manager for Park City. "But it was difficult to give people feedback" before the smart meters were in place.

Christensen tells the Journal he believes the meters are a reason that Park City is on track to meet a statewide goal of reducing water use per person 24 per cent from the 2000 level by 2025.

In Colorado, snowpack this winter was about average in the Blue River Basin, which is where Breckenridge, Keystone, and several other ski areas are located. "Everybody has Blue River envy," said Eric Kuhn, general manager of the Colorado River Water Conservation District, at a recent meeting covered by the Summit Daily News.

Blue River's snowpack will soon fill Dillon Reservoir, one of the main reservoirs for metropolitan Denver. However, endangered fish in the Colorado River downstream near the Utah border won't fare so well, because of less snowpack in the other tributary basins. Peak flows must be at least 365 cubic metres per second; they're expected to peak at 272 cfs.

Taking a broader view, Kuhn sees this time in the 21st century as one of transition. "After 100 years of 'develop more, develop more, develop more,' we're going to have to cut back our uses."

Kuhn pointed to the declining water levels in both Lake Powell and Lake Mead, the two giant "buckets" on the Colorado River. "Bad things happen when Lake Mead and Lake Powell get drained," he said, a distinct possibility in the next few years, particularly at Lake Mead.

What about building a pipeline to the Mississippi River or some other water-rich location? "To expect that we can export our problems to somebody else, I just don't see that somebody else will willingly accept them," he said.

In Idaho comes news about growing concern about drawing down of aquifers by farmers in the area near Ketchum and Sun Valley. Downstream farmers with senior water rights report diminishing water over the years, explains the Idaho Mountain Express.

In Alberta, Bob Sanford talked about climatic flux. "The hydrological cycle has changed so much that climate circumstances are increasingly variable and uncertain," Sanford, who is EPCOR chair for water and climate security at the United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health, told the Rocky Mountain Outlook. "The hydrology of all of Canada is accelerating. Permafrost is melting in the Arctic and northern forest and tundra are experiencing fires of magnitudes never experienced before."

Sanford said changes in policy are needed. "Our policies are moving along at five kilometres an hour, while the problem of hydroclimatic change is moving along at 15 km/h and accelerating. It is getting away from us."

Refurbishing the lodging product

KETCHUM, Idaho — The revitalization of the Ketchum and Sun Valley lodging capacity has begun.

Sun Valley Resort is in the final, frantic weeks of construction before the remodelled main lodge opens on June 15. This is the most significant remodel of the lodge since it debuted in the 1930s as part of North America's first deliberately created destination ski resort.

Ketchum and Sun Valley have been working for most of the decade to enlarge the number of available hotel rooms. Despite a 6,096-square-metre addition to the lodge, the remodel will result in a net reduction, from 148 to 94 rooms, reports the Idaho Mountain Express. Jack Sibbach, the Sun Valley spokesman, said the bigger rooms will allow families to consolidate in one location instead of renting multiple rooms.

Meanwhile, some kilometres away in Ketchum, construction of the 98-room Limelight Hotel is expected to get underway this summer. The developer is the Aspen Skiing Co., which already has a hotel of that name in Aspen, with a second one planned in Snowmass Village.

Ketchum has been itching badly for a number of years to get new and redeveloped hotels. It so much wants this to happen that if Aspen applies for a building permit by the end of May, the requirement for housing for 25 employees will be waived, reports the Aspen Daily News.

What to do when the mine closes?

IDAHO SPRINGS, Colo. — What will Clear Creek County and its schools and its towns do when the big molybdenum mine closes?

The Henderson Mine extracts molybdenite ore from a giant deposit located 80 kilometres west of Denver, near the Continental Divide. This is about halfway between the ski slopes of Winter Park and Loveland Basin, but off the highway and invisible to most high country travellers.

The ore body was discovered in 1964 and the mine put into production in 1976. Through last year, the mine had produced 264 million tonnes of ore, and from that 453,592 kilograms of molybdenum was refined for use in hardening steel and other industrial applications. Curiously, one growing application is to help refine oil, to extract the sulfur, as new oil supplies tend to be what is called "sour," or high in sulfur content.

It's a big mine, with a portal at 3,140-metres in elevation, but with a depth of 2,130 metres. It still has about 90 million tonnes of reserves, according to Stuart Teuscher, general manager of the Henderson Mine.

Teuscher spoke at a recent meeting called by Clear Creek County officials, who want the community to start thinking about life after the mine. The mine provides 70 per cent of property taxes, the lion's share of budgets for both the courthouse and schools.

At current rates of extraction, said Teuscher, the mine's ore body, an estimated 90 million tonnes, will be exhausted by 2026. It could be a little sooner, if the price for molybdenum rises and stays above the current $3 per kilogram, or later, if prices drop. But the mine will close.

"What I really want to impress upon the room is that it's not a matter of if but when," said Teuscher. "While 2026 is not set in stone, it shouldn't be dismissed either."

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