Stuart Orzach: The long run

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— I am sorry that the Steamboat Pilot & Today takes such an antiquated, anthropocentric and static view of nature (“Our View,” Dec. 6).

We need to adapt to our natural environment, not tame it. Conquering the wilderness is so 18th century. The environment, of which we are an integral component, is dynamic. Natural processes often operate in time frames that we rarely heed, and that dwarf the human lifespan. They don’t necessarily unfold in a neat linear fashion. There can be periods of apparent stability followed by unanticipated upheaval.

Is the forest unhealthy because of the beetle “epidemic,” or did the beetles proliferate because the forest was unhealthy because of unsustainable human intervention?

Reality checks such as the proliferation of bark beetles, or the economic recession, cannot come too soon.

We are far better off operating in the environment that is the real world, rather than an alternate paradigm, of our choosing, that serves some people in the short term. Our politics are falling further behind our science.

We need to increase our awareness of the ecosystem that sustains us. That awareness should be our rudder as we navigate land-use decisions. Otherwise we are just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

Our populace ostensibly loves the environment. Yet, our land-use decisions belie that. People are aware of what it takes to sustain the plants in their gardens, the crops in their fields, the local deer and elk herds, and their dog. Yet who is willing to confront the limits on the number of people you can jam into the ecological niche we inhabit before biological and social systems reach thresholds and break down?

The proponents of the Steamboat 700 annexation have done a great job of getting us to focus narrowly on the next 20 years. This is the blink of an eye in the timeline of human history. They paint an innocuous, even benevolent, picture with a few empirical studies. These are full of assumptions and projections that are not as reliable as some would have us believe.

Step back and look at what really matters in the long run.

Stuart Orzach

Steamboat Springs

Comments

sledneck 4 years, 10 months ago

The forest is un-healthy because environmentalists have "protected' it to death. Colorado has the most protected forests on earth and they are among the sickest. Colorado had a timber industry. Colorado had forests. Now, thanks to rabid environmentalists, it has dead trees. Millions of acres of affordable housing is poised to go up in smoke thanks to environmental "protection". Enough BS!

The opponents of 700 want us to believe that if this project is denied there will be no growth in population. Your kids won't have kids Their kids won't need homes. We can all camp in the woods maybe.

The question is not who you can "jam into the niche". The question is who is willing to get off the earth to make room for utopia. Let the biggest believers jump first. In the mean time people need homes and jobs.

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Chuck McConnell 4 years, 10 months ago

Right on, sledneck. Well written.

The rabid environmentalists have no concept of how future population growth will live. I cannot understand the logic (really the lack of logic) they use which says: "Now that I am here, let's keep everyone else out. I am ok for the environment but those other guys are all environment destroyers." They probably agree with one of Obama's top advisors who opined that birth control chemicals should be added to the water.

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Brian Kotowski 4 years, 10 months ago

Lighting strikes and wildfires are "natural processes", too. I guess it would be shortsighted of us to try to "tame" those aspects of "our natural environment".

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Steve Lewis 4 years, 10 months ago

I completely agree with Stuart’s first 6 paragraphs. We need to steward our valley and our planet with a view to the very long term. Corporate America seems more and more about short term profit, and less and less interested in those distant quarters. The incentives of capitalism seem thus inclined to completely ignore the needs of our children. (Will corporate America ever include their products’ environmental and pollution costs in the bottom line?)

I’ll disagree with Stuart’s conclusion that Steamboat can, or should, stop growing. But it’s useless to label his as a rabid opinion. For one, others in our valley (who may care much less for the environment) share his opinion of growth. Two, Stuart walks his environmental talk with an ultra low-impact lifestyle, and he has earned room to speak about growth. Others may speak from an interest only in profit. Are they somehow of higher character?

Chuck, environmentalists come in many flavors. And in general they deserve your respect. It seems a given, at least to me, that they have an interest your great-grand kids’ well being. What is so rabid about that?

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JLM 4 years, 10 months ago

Lightning strikes and wildfires are to be both expected and anticipated. Stuff happens.

Being one with nature does not mean failing to nudge Motha Nature in a direction that is good for all. Cutting in logging roads to act as fire breaks to enable the cost of wildfires to be converted into usable timber is an example of man and Motha Nature working together.

Banning logging and thereby preventing logging roads from being cut in to act as fire breaks is an example of being dumb.

Cooperation v dumb --- take cooperation.

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JLM 4 years, 10 months ago

It is easy and convenient to pick on "corporate America" as if they are a faceless and nameless evil visited upon the land but the simple truth of the matter is that major corporations who are involved in projects which have an impact upon the land are better long term stewards than many others simply because the magnitude of their repairs can be folded into the cost of their stewardship. A modern coal company --- who must repair the damage created by its mining operations --- is a better long term steward of the land than many other others.

I am tired of the knee jerk reactions against corporate America while the zealots like Al Gore are shown to be phonies on almost every single plane (bit of a pun, no?) upon which they operate. Talk about some guys riding the "green" wave to the pay window?

Profit is not a 4-letter word and the tax revenue that is simultaneously generated provides the funding for everything that local governments attempt to do.

Sales taxes down a bit? Call a freakin' environmentalist to solve the problem. LOL

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Chuck McConnell 4 years, 10 months ago

lewi,

I sincerely appreciate your thoughtful comment. In my career in the energy industry I was very respectful of the environment both because it made sense to me and because the majority of citizens in the places I worked rightfully demanded it.

The question that has not been addressed by anyone here, however, is "where do people with opinions like Stu's expect the growing population to live?" The answer is not "anywhere but here". Steamboat Springs and all other locations where people migrate must make room for new population and must create reasonable accomodations for that growth.

I lived in Alaska for three years and saw the same complaints from the so-called environmentalists: "now that I'm here, let's keep everyone else out". This philosophy is simply not reasonable. Believe me, there are people in every area who believe just like Stu that "we just can't cram anyone else where we live". I guess I still believe that is a rabid approach and not an approach that recoginzes the reality of a growing American population.

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Karen_Dixon 4 years, 10 months ago

Yes, our land use decisions belie and undermine our love of the environment. Our land use decisions are dictated by our land use code.Our land use code promotes low density development every chance it gets. If we truly want to preserve the natural environment that we love so much, we will take serious steps to plan for and accommodate people that will choose to come here. We will make revisions to our land use code so that we can begin using our land wisely and as densely as possible, with a mindful eye to scale & walkability. We will begin to take Smart Growth principles seriously and learn from the wealth of good & bad examples available across the country. If we choose to continue believing that growth can & will stop; if we choose to continue ignoring Smart Growth principles, we will be encouraging and promoting sprawl. I cannot think of a quicker way to destroy our environment than that. So, yes, think about the long run.

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JLM 4 years, 10 months ago

The encouragement of density ensures that the existing infrastructure --- the fully paid for infrastructure --- is leveraged most effectively from the perspective of services and utilities. This is exactly what should be done in an enlightened city. Density will ultimatey create open space. Isn't that a bit counterintuitive at first?

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Karen_Dixon 4 years, 10 months ago

It may seem counterintuitive at first. A not so minor correction though.... density will not create open space. Density & intensity of use simply allows existing open space to remain as open space for as long as possible. I think you would agree that the growth pattern this country has been in for the last 60 years has not produced a quality low impact built environment & has used more open space than necessary. We have been gluttons & we have a big fat carbon footprint to show for it. I encourage all to look at denser development, particularly in our existing core, with a different pair of glasses. Take off the ones that make you angry that things are changing, because things do change and you have no control over that fact. Put on the ones that help you see that if you embrace change & implement it smartly, it won't control you, you will control it, and the environment, both natural & built, will likely be a better place for it. If you are a parent, the analogy is right in front of you. Your child will not stay at that seemingly perfect little age in that seemingly perfect little form forever. You have an impact on the way your child matures and changes over time. If you ignore your child or continue to treat her as if she were your sweet little 6 year old when she is 16, there is a high percentage that the result will not be favorable. A town is organic. Let's not ignore that ours is changing, let's not treat it as if it were still 6. We must be better parents than that.

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Karen_Dixon 4 years, 10 months ago

One other point to make re: open space... The more dense a built environment becomes, the more critical it is to set aside land areas for purposeful, as opposed to residual, open space within and throughout a developed core. One could argue that Steamboat has been diligent in its parks & open space acquisition & provision. Was it with purposeful intent & cohesive vision? A couple of examples of vision: 1) Olmsteads Emerald Necklace in Boston 2) the Squares of Savannah. The first was inserted into a developed region, the second was planned from the beginning. Both recognized the inevitability of growth & chose to plan this necessary component in preparation for it.

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JLM 4 years, 10 months ago

You quibble just a bit. Central Park and the Boston Common are needed, possible and heavily used because of the neighboring high density of the adjoining neighborhoods. Density - open space = chicken - egg.

It does require a bit of insight to ensure that the planning is done up front.

When the planning is not done upfront, then open space will be on the periphery as a simple result of the "what remains" theory of development.

It is interesting to note that Eastern port cities like Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Wilmington, Charleston, Savannah all show evidence of rigorous industry, high density residential, mass transit, internal major and pocket parks and natural beauty.

It is the quality of the planning that makes the difference.

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Steve Lewis 4 years, 10 months ago

Chuck, We probably agree on a lot, even if from opposite perspectives. I won't defend No-growth because I disagree with that position. But I do sympathize with the left in general.

I am concerned with the larger politics. You say rabid? I'll use "fringe". Far left, far right. Both can create noise that kill real problem solving. Either can also prove to be right, but rarely. Moderate, responsible discussion seems the only way to bring left and right to solutions. In my opinion that discusion hinges on acknowledging opposing relevant arguments that do hold a fair amount of truth, if not the complete truth. And then attempting to respond to those arguments.

I suppose a key is also weighing what are "relevant" arguments. Some are useless on their face. Stuart can dream his "we cannot fit them in" argument will have some bearing on the SB700 outcome. But it won't, because he attempts to turn several community plans on their head. The same applies to character attacks which are typically irrelevant to the problem.

Capitalism does many things well. But not everything. Profit has a narrow, if incredibly efficient wisdom. Unions on the other hand do very few things well, but the unions are HUGE in what they achieve for fairness at certain times. Only they could get us there. The rest of the time unions seem to cause inefficiency and bloat.

Our society tries to balance the left and right, but its ugly to watch these days. Too much money inside the doors and too much noise outside the doors are, in my opinion, damaging our future. And our kids future.

I suppose its always been a struggle. It just seems so crucial today.

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Steve Lewis 4 years, 10 months ago

I incorrectly understate the ultimate bearing of Stuart's "we can't fit them in" argument. That argument appeals to others too. My point is that this argument chooses to ignore the area plans which say "yes we can". If Stuart had addressed the reality expressed in those plans, I would have more respect for his argument.

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Chuck McConnell 4 years, 10 months ago

lewi,

Well said.

I have seen some real stupidity on the inside of large capitalistic companies and it was very sad. I also had the "joy" of negotiating against the Teamster's Union in Alaska and you might not believe some of those experiences -- scary.

On the other hand, the current "progressive" devaluation of our currency is a far bigger crime than anything I have seen or heard of in a capitalistic framework.

P.S. I'll go along with you on "fringe" vs. "rabid".

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ybul 4 years, 10 months ago

--On the other hand, the current "progressive" devaluation of our currency is a far bigger crime than anything I have seen or heard of in a capitalistic framework.--

The devaluation of our currency began in 1913 or 17, it is not a new phenomenon.

Living with nature is far less expensive, more profitable in agriculture and far more environmentally sound. Using the largest most cost effective solar collector there is, the earth, to help heat home would be a great example. Building smaller pk-8 schools with multi age classrooms so that bussing needs are reduced, etc.

As far as 700 goes, growth will occur and if managed properly is fine. However, the main problem will be the traffic unless something is done to speed up flows between 3rd and elk river road. You can not take traffic at 40 miles per hour and expect to slow it down to 5-15MPH (when lights are factored in) and only double the capacity of the roads (go from two lanes to four lanes). The fluid dynamics of the situation will not allow it to happen.

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JLM 4 years, 10 months ago

Capitalism deployed in a democratic framework has delivered the highest standard of living in the world to the United States.

There is not a socialist country in the world which offers such a rich and bountiful life to its citizens. Nobody is breaking into Russia or Cuba or China to be a concrete finisher.

Unions --- which had their rightful and useful purpose in the past --- extract money from their members without regard to their individual politics and deploy that money to support the politics of their leadership. Without regard to the politics of their members.

In effect, unions make political contributions that are adverse to the politics of a significant percentage of their members through the extortion that is union membership today.

Unions cynically do this while pretending to be a democratic organization capable of freely and fairly electing their leadership.

Non-democratic unions should not be allowed to participate directly in the funding of our political system when they are unable to deliver funds which reflect the idealogy of their members.

Unions should be treated as corporations for campaign funding purposes. This is a horrible abuse.

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Chuck McConnell 4 years, 10 months ago

yubl,

Ok, so it started in 1913 or 1917, so what!

Look at the acceleration in dollar decline over the past 12 months as the Fed ballance sheet and M1 have bloated from $950 billion to $2.5 trillion. Ben and Tiny Tim are selling each other T bonds in hopes to keep all of us in the dark as to what real interest rates are. When they quit their stupid games and the Chinese slow down their bond buying stand back because rates will rise dramatically and the $ value will plunge. That may be fine with you but the rest of us mortals will suffer mightly.

And I guess since you are here now in Steamboat we should close the doors and not let anyone else in, huh? Wow -- why is that last person to move here so important and anyone else is not welcome. I just don't get it. Tell me, please, what makes you better than the next new resident. There is a great case for we humans to actually solve problems and not just to push back all the newcommers.

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