I landed at the Aspen International Airport and was reminded that good airports close to town are hard to find. One hour later, with my suitcase and ski bag in tow, I climbed out of a Mellow Yellow, 10-minute, $35 taxi ride to check into The Little Nell Hotel.
Under the portico of the hotel was a Rolls Royce that wouldn't start. It had a "Save The Whales" sticker on the bumper. I watched the owner of the Rolls Royce produce a pair of chartreuse, designer jumper cables to kick-start his $125,000 car that he drives from his solar-heated condominium, three blocks away.
He was wearing a full length mink coat with a stand up collar, (mink on the inside as a liner), après-ski boots made from the hides of two harp seals, and leather buckskin pants. He was all set to go trolling in the Little Nell Bar.
The guy was looking for a five foot six, 36-24-34, blonde ornament to wear on his arm when he went to the Save the Rain Forest slide show in the Wheeler Opera House later in the afternoon.
We didn't know anything about ecology in the old days of the late 1940s, before the invention of the nylon parka and wind chill factors. We rode rope tows made out of hemp until they were replaced by chairlifts. While that was happening, a whole generation of should-have-been-skiers was learning how to smoke the hemp.
The environment today is a delicate issue with both sides, unfortunately, considering each other the enemy. The reality is many of the people who speak the loudest and demonstrate the most, on both sides of whatever ecological issue is this year's fad, have been very careful not to get over-qualified in their various professions.
Taking care of the environment requires a lot of smart, quiet people with a lot of common sense working in the background, nudging people back on track. Not exhibitionists chaining themselves to trees or bulldozers. The probability of someone watching you and your ecological, grandstanding-type efforts is directly proportional to the stupidity of what you are doing to call attention to it.
When Yosemite had a million visitors a year, it was OK to park your car beside the road and take a picture of a wandering bear or Yosemite Falls. Now that they have three or four million visitors a year, they have eight to ten million toilet flushes a year.
Now there is a real ecological problem.
It's going to take major surgery to get this planet back in shape. Minor surgery it is always done to someone else. Major surgery is when it is done to you.
More about planets. NASA spent $6.5 million on research and development of a special device to write notes. It was needed while the astronauts were outside the space capsule in zero gravity and the temperature was 100 degrees below zero.
After two-plus years of research to design the writing device without success, the 11-year-old-daughter of the project manager said, "Dad, wouldn't a lead pencil work?"
Protecting the environment is to look for reasonable, alternative solutions to ecological problems.
Silently driving up behind the Rolls Royce in the Little Nell hotel portico was an electric car.
Along the Colorado-Utah border, a couple of hundred miles away, coal is mined and burnt to power an electrical generating station. That electricity travels hundreds of miles to the house up Woody Creek that has 43 other labor saving, electrical appliances as well as a place to plug in and charge the battery for the electric car.
The coal is mined and burned out in the high desert of Western Colorado to generate the electricity where there is almost zero population per square mile. Does that mean there is no pollution there?
Examine the deer and the other wild animals that live downwind from the smoke. Their beautiful fur looks like the gray snow in a big city three days after the blizzard.
If skiers want a perfect ecological world, then they would have to sell their cars and walk from the city, up to the snow line where they could then put on cross-country skis and walk through the woods.
They would have to turn off the electricity to their condominium and burn the wood they gathered hiking through the woods so they could heat the condominium and cook fresh frozen food. Oops. Not frozen, but fresh picked from the garden behind their place in the city. Grown without pesticides, but covered with the residue from smog.
The civilized world is not a perfect ecological place. How much coal do they have to burn to generate the electricity to run the chairlift so you don't have to climb the mountain when you get to the ski resort?
How long did the refinery have to run to produce the gasoline so you could drive from where you live in the city to the ski resort?
When McDonald's was selling hamburgers with foam packaging, the government was going to dam up a very fast flowing river in Northern California. Someone calculated that when the dam was finished, it would produce enough hydro-electric power to run the plastic hamburger carton-making machines for only nine months a year.
I skied with a friend last winter who contributes heavily to The Sierra Club, Greenpeace, Save the Spotted Owl, and numerous other ecological organizations. He has his bookkeeper write the checks from his office on the 19th floor of a high rise office building in Beverly Hills.
His home in the Malibu Hills, 25 miles away, has a tennis court, swimming pool, four-car garage full of cars, condo in Aspen, and a Lear jet to fly back and forth to ski on weekends. How much smoke do you suppose came out of how many factories to create all of his adult toys?
My friend is the man wearing the fur coat with the Rolls Royce with the run down battery in the Portico of The Little Nell Hotel in Aspen. The one with the Save the Whales bumper sticker on it.
We are both recovering ecologists.
(Copyright, 2009: WarrenMiller.net).
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