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Vail Daily column: Waking to the climate challenge in Eagle County

Robert Castellino
Valley Voices
117 Pitkin Lake Basin - Mountain Meadow and Wildflowers, Gore Range, Rocky Mountians, Vail, Colorado, USA 81657
Robert Castellino |

We have gone beyond conversation. And beyond debate about weather and whether the climate has changed. Global warming is fact, no less true than the physics of gravity. The evidence is in. The climate crisis is no mere fictional inconvenience thrust upon us by some deceptive scientists or a Nobel Prize-winning ex-vice president who appears to really like making headline news. We have choices. We can continue to go about life and business as usual. Or we can acknowledge we are responsible for the climate challenges we are facing and take action to solve the problem.

All of us have heard about or seen images bearing witness to the effects of global warming around the world. From valleys and plains, to mountaintops, rivers, lakes and out into the oceans, the devastation to our land and in our bodies of water is indisputable and an undeniable. It is no longer a stretch to experience and watch the lasting effects of climate change take a toll all across Colorado in our short lifetimes.

We have glaciers that are disappearing in the mountains and magnetic poles while aquifers nearly run dry on the plains due to drought and large-scale agricultural use. In our mountains, winters are warmer, shorter and drier, resulting in lower than normal spring river flows. Millions of acres of pine forests are being decimated by pine and spruce beetles. Subsequently, there are more wildland fires that burn hotter and more thoroughly, and are more threatening to our lives and communities. Wildlife is forced to move from lower to higher elevation habitats as temperatures warm at lower altitudes and food sources travel to more hospitable areas.

Extreme weather events like the flood of September 2012 cost billions of dollars leaving tens of thousands of people unsettled, traumatized and displaced. Solid waste is overflowing in our landfills adding toxic greenhouse gases to our atmosphere by the millions of tons each year. With more people moving to Colorado, we have increased air pollution and solid waste, as well as more demand for shrinking water supplies in rivers and reservoirs. The population in Colorado is anticipated to increase to more than 11 million by the year 2040. The march of humanity is taking its toll on Colorado and the planet.

We Coloradans are standing at the precipice of the climate crisis. We are responsible for pressing the limits of this potential calamity living beyond the carrying capacity of the planet and here at home. The climate crisis is not happening someplace else. The climate challenges we face are happening right here in Eagle County.

We live in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Nature is right outside our door and it’s our playground. We are loving its natural amenities to death. We have all the trappings and luxuries the resort world has to offer right at our fingertips, except for the vast majority of us. These are quiet and seldom-seen people who work behind the scenes and who keep delivering the lavish and epic experience year-round. They are paying the highest price for our extravagant lifestyle. The inequitable imbalance is having impacts on our community’s vitality, sustainability and resilience.

The reality of the situation is immense. The complexities of the circumstances are vast and may feel overwhelming. It can sometimes feel like the problems we are facing are too big to do anything about. Hold on. Step back from the edge of the precipice for a moment. Take another look around. All of us can have an impact, and make a difference by creating solutions for our climate challenges right here in Eagle County.

Over the next five weeks leading up to the Eagle County Climate Challenge and Renewable Energy Fair, we will explore the climate crisis challenges we face. We will visit local heroes who are tackling these problems head-on and examine successful projects that are making a difference. We will review the costs and benefits of how doing business as usual compared to making the switch to new operating systems, technologies and renewable sources can change the quality of our lives. Most importantly, we will test the concept about how making changes locally can have an impact on the global climate crisis.

It’s ours to solve. Together we can do it.

“If you want to go fast go alone. If you want to go far go together.” — African proverb.

Robert Castellino is the founder and CEO of Climate Colorado, the annual Colorado Climate Summit and created the concept of regional Climate Challenges. He is a professional photographer, writer, author coach, speaker and book publisher. He has written five best-selling and critically acclaimed books on Colorado. His TEDx Vail talk, “Solving the Climate Crisis by Rapid Prototyping Change,” is on YouTube. He may be reached at robertc@climatecolorado.org.


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