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To Scott Wedel and others, I agree with most of what you said. However, plastic bags create problems that are disproportionately larger than their small contribution to the waste stream volume suggests.
I too think that much of what Steamboat Springs does in the way of being "green" is for public relations. With its resort-based economy competing with other resort communities, Steamboat's efforts are reputation driven, designed to show visitors how much they value the environment. From what I've been told, this is an important resort selling point. But at the same time, the City, Yampa Valley Recycles, and other organizations have created an effective and noteworthy recycling program that helps people figure out what they can do to recycle their stuff: not only plastic bags and cardboard, but electronics, clothing, construction materials, etc.
Still, all of these efforts are severely hampered by the fact that virtually none of the products and the associated packaging you and I buy were designed to be recycled or reused, hence the difficulty in having market forces do the work to address this problem. If something is designed to have no value at its end of use, then it gets dumped into the waste stream.
A lot of people who are a heck of a lot smarter than I am have thought about this broader design issue. Bill McDonough's book, "Cradle to Cradle" takes a new and innovative look at recycling and reuse. See http://www.mcdonough.com/cradle_to_cradle.htm. For an important big picture view, read Garrett Hardin's 1968 essay, "The Tragedy of the Commons", available at http://www.garretthardinsociety.org/articles/art_tragedy_of_the_commons.html. For a fun look at the issue, watch Annie Leonard's video, "The Story of Stuff" at http://www.storyofstuff.com/.
I teach a graduate distance learning course (Green Engineering Design and Sustainability) for the University of Florida. As it so happens, my opening lecture is about disposable plastic bags and the dilemma they pose for communities. Worldwide, over 500 billion are used each year, the majority of which are not recycled. They have become "urban tumbleweed" littering the landscape, clogging drains, floating in the oceans, washing up on beaches or ending up in the bellies of wildlife. This is not a good thing. In fact the situation has gotten so bad that many towns, cities and certain countries have placed taxes on the use of certain plastic bags or banned their use altogether.
How are bans on plastic bags working? Not well. San Francisco banned the use of plastic bags and found that people weren't using reusable bags all that much. Moreover, they switched back to paper bags and started double-bagging their groceries. And, as this article points out, paper bags are bulkier, heavier and they don’t degrade that much faster than plastic. They also don't handle certain types of grocery items like certain perishables and drippy things in poor packaging. Hence the need for double bagging.
The question I ask my students is this: "Since when did the bagging issue become my problem?" This is a packaging and distribution problem created by the seller, i.e., Walmart, City Market, et al., and pushed onto the consumer, i.e., you and me. For a while there, our local choices were to: (1) collect plastic bags for recycling and try to find where the stores were hiding the recycling bins if they had them at all, or (2) spend money for and carry around a reusable bag boldly printed with the store's advertising. Nice to see that Yampa Valley Recycles sells bags for only a dollar and has a better advertising message.
Bottom line... It's gratifying to learn that Safeway spokeswoman Kris Staaf is willing to share Safeway's bagging experiences in other communities. Better that she and other store representatives admit that they are the cause of the problem and start working hard to find a workable solution that takes the burden off of their customers.
Replying to Tubes... Perhaps it's my environmental engineering background. Perhaps it's because I lived in the Northwest for 13 years. But when I learned back in 2002 that somebody actually wanted to put a gravel pit in that spot my first reaction was, “You've got to be kidding! Nobody in his right mind would allow a gravel pit to be built in that spot. This doesn't even pass the laugh test.”
Yes, I know gravel pits of been there before, but that doesn't make it right or sensible. (See Grand Teton comment above.) Traveling out of town and heading up US 40 towards Rabbit Ears Pass, I've seen many a tourist stop along the way to marvel at the scenery and take a few family photos with the South Valley as a backdrop. It probably won't take an expert photographer to keep the pit out of the field of vision. But what comes next? More pits? Some other industrial facility? Perhaps a shopping center? Where does it stop, or will it stop?
Maybe what we need to do is give each tourist a copy of Photoshop when they check in at their hotel. That way, they can take any picture they want and fix the background later.
Living in Colorado for the last 15 years (and Steamboat Springs for seven) what I've had to learn is that when it comes to land, people here have markedly different values. Here it's, “This is my land! I can do with it what I darn well please and I don't give a hoot about anybody else!” Perhaps it's our close proximity to Houston, Texas, a place where scenic values and zoning seems to have been dirty words.
My concern, and that of many others, is that for the next 20+ years Steamboat Springs visitors and residents will have this signature Valley view marred by a fairly substantial industrial operation complete with the sight and noise of diesel powered mining equipment, conveyors and loaders operating at least six days a week. In addition, there will be a stream of dump trucks moving in and out of the site hauling gravel to places yet to be determined.
Also, one cannot assume that this will be the only industrial operation that will be located in the Valley. The approval of this pit starts us down a slippery slope. It sets a precedent, providing a rationale for others to use in making application to the County for who knows what.
Steamboat Springs has a resort town economy. People come here to relax, play, enjoy the scenery, and spend money with the local merchants. If this were Jackson, Wyoming would we want to put a gravel pit in a place that interrupted the view of the Grand Teton's?
Right now we have three Routt County commissioners who treat Steamboat Springs as if it were a spoiled child not wanting to accept its share of the ugliness that accompanies construction. We've told the commissioners countless times, "Don't you get it? Do you understand why people come to Steamboat Springs?” If you start destroying the things that people come here for, they will stop coming.
For the record, we are not against gravel pits per se. Five years ago when Lafarge was trying to locate a gravel pit in the same spot, a group of us organized a meeting with local representatives of Lafarge to identify alternate sites. That effort lasted about three weeks until Lafarge's lawyers told the representatives to stop talking to us.
I appreciate the editorial staff of the Steamboat Pilot and Today for publishing my letter to the editor. Unfortunately, the staff left out the last sentence of my letter: "Oh yeah, and watch out for the horse!"
So Josh, you and Kenny want to "put out the welcome mat" for all comers, regardless of the City's ability to assimilate them in terms of water, sanitation, roads, traffic, electricity, schools, etc. Ever been to Houston? That's what the issue of carrying capacity is all about. In the relatively few years that I've been a resident of Steamboat Springs, I've witnessed a succession of City Councils, most of which had never met a development they didn't like. In my view, Ken Solomon would be a breath of fresh air in a Council that doesn't seem to have a good grasp on the future of Steamboat Springs, its goals for quality of life, and what to do about achieving them.
As for your stated reasons for supporting Reisman, I see a substantial disconnect between his experience and the fundamental requirements for the office he's running for. Frankly, it's beyond me how his resume demonstrates a penchant for openness and creativity. Is he a maverick too?
Let's take luck out of the electoral process. My vote goes to Ken Solomon. I had the opportunity to work with Ken starting 6 years ago when both of us were involved with the Concerned Citizens group working to prevent Lafarge from placing an industrial strength gravel pit in Steamboat's "signature" Yampa River valley. Even though having a gravel pit close to town might have benefited his building business, Ken's commitment to Steamboat and its values trumped possible personal gain. But, more importantly, his understanding of the people and the politics, and his insights on how things worked in the City and the County were invaluable in keeping that industrial eyesore off the map.
As I understand it, Kenny Reisman really passionate, and it's certainly nice to be passionate about stuff. But having passion about the stuff of a Steamboat City Council that you admittedly don't understand, and lack the judgment that comes from experience with City and County issues is downright scary.
If the Golf Committee Chairman John Vanderbloemen came forward right now and said to the City and the Steamboat golfing community, that his brain as well as the brains of the other Golf Committee members were captured by alien beings a few months ago and were just returned today, and then offered an apology for what may have happened in the interim, that would have more credibility than their decision not to renew the contract of Hank and Wendy Franks for the operation of Haymaker. To drop the Franks from contention after doing a terrific job year after year based not on cost, but some nebulous justification of "needing to go in a different direction" has got to be the worst local governmental decision since our former District Attorney decided to jail two rainbow people for dumpster diving. On the subject of dumpsters, it strikes me that such an edifice might be a good location to house the Golf Committee.
But I digress... Let's move to the issue of governmental transparency. It would have been nice for those of us who live here and hold a Haymaker season pass (or anyone for that matter) to be asked about the possible "new directions" for Haymaker under consideration. What are these new directions? Certainly would be nice to know. Are we going to sell Amway products in the pro shop? Special costumes for the ladies driving the refreshment carts? Maybe we're going to be hitting wiffle balls on the driving range so we can go get our own shots and eliminate the ball retrieval machinery. I certainly have some new directions ideas for the Golf Committee. But again, I'm thinking dumpster.
If your point is that government agencies manned by civil service employees are incompetent on many fronts, then you and I agree. I spent 13 years working for a number of federal government agencies, and have many "war stories" similar to yours. I left for the private sector in '79 before I became "one of them."
But back to climate change... A lot of really smart people from both the public and private sector who have looked at the issue have concluded that it's real, mostly human induced, and is or will soon have devastating consequences on society. These include people in leadership positions in major national and multinational corporations who are refocusing their company's strategies based on their studied conclusions about climate change. For example, take a look at the web site for the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD, www.wbcsd.org). The membership of this group includes 200 of the top multinational corporations, all of which have made public commitments to making their operations more sustainable, including the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Not only has the WBCSD made public statements about climate change, but they have worked with the World Resources Institute to come up with a GHG protocol for measuring GHG emissions.
If the climate change issue was perpetrated by government civil servants, then I too would have grave doubts about it's authenticity. But it's not. It's an issue that emerged from academia and has been vetted by many competent people in industry and academia (and government too)-the "real brain power" you speak of.
My concern is that the "kool-aid" being served is being mixed by people who are defending the status quo, wanting to squeeze every last drop of profit out of their legacy processes and systems at society's expense.
Well so much for having a rational conversation. Life must be pretty exciting when you're surrounded by conspiracies.
Last login: Sunday, February 28, 2016
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