We have plenty of density around here, just not in the housing department. Aspen is still thriving but thick traffic and lack of affordable housing makes it thrive with pollution and one percenters. I would argue that Aspen thrived more between 1955 and 1995 when you could still find a place to live and the funky people were on the streets mixing it up with Texans and celebrities.

I’m not bitter. I still love Aspen. I don’t think that building in some employee housing density downtown will ruin the quality of life. Employees are not muggers, rapists, drug addicts and bums. They appreciate being in this beautiful place as much as anyone. They are skiers and riders, nature lovers, musicians, teachers, nonprofit workers, firemen, first responders, law enforcement, luggage handlers and artists. Finding a place for these people will not sacrifice anything except maybe a little of the daily traffic jam.

People who want to live and work here don’t have the same choices as those with second homes and buckets of gold. They are just trying to catch some of the dust falling out of the buckets. Do we really need them to drive from New Castle for that “choice?”

I agree with Auden Schendler. Let’s put in some central housing for the worker bees. It won’t ruin town.

And red dust? Yes it’s coming out of the desert — the desert that has dried up from climate change. The fragile cryptobiotic soil that took thousands of years to form has been disturbed. One glimpse of the surrounding area from the air shows thousands, nay millions, of disturbances, roads, wellpads, pipeline trenches and more. The adjacent desert has been disturbed and is now blowing onto our precious snowpack. To say that it’s just coming at us naturally out of the same old desert is naive. Are we ostriches with our heads in the sand?

Desertification is real and coming to a snowpack near you. It’s already here and denial sounds goofy, especially from the educated elite. Desertification is defined as persistent degradation of dryland ecosystems. 

We are paying for the follies of the past right now and according to Mother Nature it’s about to get a whole lot worse. We have crisscrossed and scraped up the nearby deserts for energy extraction. We’ve taken our  precious western water and mixed it with chemicals to get the goo out faster. Then we truck the poison water away and inject it into wells to be taken out of the ecosystem forever. 

This has been done not for our own energy independence but for commodification of our finite resources. The goal is to become an energy exporter. Our country used to have this messy work done out of sight in other countries that don’t regulate clean air and water but that’s all changed. Now the spills, degradation and disasters are happening in our waters and on our lands. Put that in your pipe and smoke it. 

I don’t think Schendler wants to make Aspen more like New Jersey. To attack him on these opinion pages with that argument makes people look as dumb as a box of rocks. Believe it or not, Aspen could be better. We can acknowledge the impacts of development and climate change and we can do something about it. The whiners should open up their checkbooks to offset their impact and add a zero for their stupidity. 

Starwood needs a new fire station. I’m OK with that. We are probably going to have a savage fire season this year because of the impacts of climate change. So the sooner the better. The proposed new station will have employee housing built right in. Wait, won’t that ruin the neighborhood? There’s more than a $1.2 billion in real estate to protect in the area, so some are willing to make an exception to protect their assets. 

Why make those firefighters get out of their beds in New Castle when we can have the needed services installed right in the neighborhood? The rendering of the proposed new station is stunning. The $3.1 million project will fit right in with the neighboring mansions. Wake up and smell the hoses!

All of this political badminton would be very funny if it were not so damned serious. It is time to protect the environment and those with means should pay more to maintain their positions. Desertification and climate change? Real issues that are now emergencies because of our slow response. Aspen may become like Las Vegas but not because of adding employee housing.

Steve Skinner wants us to tiptoe through the crypto. Reach him at nigel@sopris.net.

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