Mountain News: Two takes on global challenges 

By Allen Best

TELLURIDE, Colo. – While Telluride’s Mountainfilm Festival is rooted in adventure films of big-mountain excursions, scary base-jumps and cascading whitewater, this year it also focused on global warming and the prospect of diminished oil supplies.

Reflecting on the festival, Telluride Watch publisher Seth Cagin observed that the challenges of global warming are actually far greater than death-defying adventures like rowing across the Atlantic — because, he said, it “takes political action and community resolve, and these are precisely the realms where humanity is often least inspiring.”

While Telluride this year succeeded in raising $50 million to block development of land at the town’s edge, Cagin suggests a far more important and difficult challenge ahead: “If we don’t dedicate ourselves to solar on every local rooftop, to hydro from our rivers, or to a wind farm on a suitable ridgeline, will it (the open space preservation) in the end make one bit of difference?” he asks.

Jim Kunstler, the acerbic critic of car-dependent suburbia and author of “The Long Emergency,” spoke at Mountainfilm this year, arguing that there is no easy salvation in the form of lifestyle-saving technology.

Writing in his blog after returning from Telluride to his New York home, Kunstler had this to say:

“In my travels, I have noticed a disturbing theme among the educated minority of eco-advocates: they are every bit as dedicated to the status quo (in their own way) as the NASCAR morons and shopping mall developers. The eco-advocates want cars, too, and all the prerogatives (like free parking and country living) that go with them, just like the Wal-Mart shoppers. If this were not so, then why do the eco-advocates cream in their jeans whenever somebody presents a snazzy new vehicle that runs on a fuel other than gasoline? Indeed, why are some of the eco-friendly pouring all their efforts into the invention of such things instead of into walkable communities and the reform of our stupid land-use laws?”

After a jab at Telluride’s real-estate anchored economy, Kunstler concluded: “Let’s stop talking about making better cars and start talking about occupying the landscape differently — which we’re going to have to do anyway.”


Hearth warming too much?

ASPEN, Colo. – Can you have your cake and eat it, too? That’s the task for budding technologists in Aspen, where town officials are trying to achieve a balance in their commitment to reducing greenhouse gases while also preserving the amenities of a modern resort.

Among those amenities is a hearth located in an outdoor downtown mall. Designed to resemble a bonfire, it is fueled by natural gas. As such, it produces a significant amount of greenhouse gases — although a trifle when compared to the jet planes that are at the foundation of Aspen’s economy. Still, through its Canary Initiative program, Aspen has vowed to reduce its greenhouse gases.

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