Welcome. Welcome to Aspen. Welcome to the first day of 2013. Welcome, welcome, welcome.
Whatever circumstances got you here, congratulations. You made it to Aspen.
A quick check of the outside world reveals that in the grand scheme of things, we are all rich in this town. From the immigrant Latino maid carpooling to Aspen from Rifle every day to the Anglo captain of insider trading idling his Hummer outside the liquor store, we are at the tippity-top of the whole damn planet, each rich on the relative scale.
And what a fragile little planet it is. It might be worth acknowledging this fragility as we perch on the jewel of Aspen and release our gasses down, down, down. Next time you are standing around or walking past Aspen’s altar to climate change, the public fire hearth on the Cooper Avenue mall, say a little prayer that humans wake up and smell the coffee before it is too late. Next time you walk past an idling vehicle or bathe in the glow of a roaring gas fireplace, try not to care that as a species, we don’t care.
Before you complain about the ski conditions, consider that it is almost miraculous that conditions are as good as they are. We had a horrible, dry, warm and windy winter last year, followed by a super-dry and unusually warm spring, and then a pretty dry and hot summer and fall, and then an Indian summer that pretty much stretched into early December. Now we have some snow cover but it is thin, thin, thin.
It’s convenient to think that we humans do not influence the climate but I’ve been here for 30 years now and from what I can see things have changed, changed, changed. As far as I can see, conditions are great when considering the overall human disdain for the Earth. There are some great folks who care a whole bunch, but they are outnumbered.
Consider oil and gas exploration. It’s right over the hill and coming to a nice mountain top near you. And for what? For jobs. For money. But not for need. If you look at a map of all the active wells in the state, Colorado looks like Lucifer’s pin cushion.
There’s a lot of juice underground but we are never asked to conserve or breathe or consider for a moment. Here’s an idea: How about we drill it as we need it, conserving and respecting every step of the way? Energy as a commodity does not lead to conservation. It’s time for a conservation conversation.
We’re told that retail sales were disappointing this holiday season. People were conserving a few bucks this year, probably because of the absurd spectacle being put on by our politicians in Washington, D.C. We are not encouraged to save our money for a rainy day, we must spend it and more.
Our society measures success by consumer spending. There’s nothing conservative about conserving energy or cash. Despite a few people not spending their limit on their credit card this holiday, there were still hundreds of thousands of embarrassing American consumers stampeding over each other, gobbling up the latest plastic crap at the mall, keeping our consumer-driven economy sputtering through the rain.
Aspen is above all that, thank God! But do not be complacent, my dear ones. We still need you to go out there and buy some $5,000 jackets and purses. Time shares? Yes, we have them. Drugs? We have those, too. Doctors? All kinds of specialists. Massage? All kinds! Please spend. Because the way we’re set up now the schools, the nonprofits, the maids, the waitresses, the real estate agents and the rest of us do better when you do what you are capable of. You can’t take it with you so spend, rent, tip and donate to the best of your ability, please. We do not take you for granted.
I don’t always feel rich, and falling into the abyss is always a possibility but I remain optimistic for 2013. I feel pretty good for my age, which is a kind of wealth that can’t be saved or hoarded but it can be spent wisely. I will do my best to find joy in the madness, solitude amid the screaming and savings amidst the spending. I pretty much have all the stuff I need to have a really good time; I just have to make time for spending my time wisely a priority. Because after all, for all of us, these are the days and we’d better make the most, most, most of them.
Steve Skinner welcomes you. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.