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Pulling ourselves into the future

Dear Editors,

What is our dream for Durango and for La Plata County in 2030? Will they be the same, only bigger? Will growth completely alter the character of our community? Will outside events upset the patterns we have come to take for granted?

These critical questions lay at the heart of the ongoing process for updating the City of Durango’s Comprehensive Plan. That process, headed by the City Planning Staff and their consultants, has been moving forward, most recently with public meetings two weeks ago. In those meetings, groups of citizens went through the exercise of placing our “bets” in the form of different kinds of developments in locations we thought best suited to accommodate the city’s growth, particularly Ewing Mesa, Koshak Mesa and Grandview.

Instead of evoking a larger vision for our common future, however, that exercise focuses on specifics of what and where. Fortunately, there is a parallel process under way seeking to engage a very broad cross-section of the community in articulating our vision for 2030 and beyond. This Grassroots Visioning process, headed on a volunteer basis by Katherine Holt and Kathy Turner, has already reached some 350 people in La Plata County. Individuals are encouraged to provide on-line input at http: //www.surveymonkey.com/s.asp?u= 94351611068 or to call Kathy (385-1965).

An external circumstance that is virtually certain to shape our community 25 years from now is the phenomenon of “Peak Oil.”

Our mobile society runs on oil, 60 percent of which is imported, much of that from the unstable Middle East. The long-term strategic involvement of the United States in that region, presently including the war in Iraq, is an immediate consequence of America’s “addiction” to oil – a phenomenon acknowledged by President Bush himself. Moreover, we rely on oil for 90

percent of the energy in our food – in the form of fertilizer and fuel.

Everyone knows that oil is a nonrenewable resource. Although huge oil reserves still exist, recent attention has focused on the fact that it becomes more and more difficult to extract oil from aging fields. This, coupled with the fact that for 20 years the oil companies have

discovered less oil each year than the world has consumed, implies that sometime – perhaps very soon – oil production will no longer grow to meet escalating demand. After reaching the production peak, global oil production will inexorably decline, following the pattern of domestic production from the United States since 1970. Once production increases stall, oil prices4

will rise and possibly become highly erratic.

Last year, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, we briefly experienced $3/gallon gasoline, with the consequence that many people altered their driving habits, and SUV sales plummeted, while buyers had to endure waiting lists for hybrids. That is but a taste of a future in which oil becomes very expensive.

What would perpetually high oil prices mean for the economic viability of isolated La Plata County? What would it mean for all of us if suddenly food prices dramatically escalated because of the high costs of fuel and fertilizer?

The documentary “The End of Suburbia” examines the potential consequences of Peak Oil. Will the worst happen? Who knows? Will it happen very soon? Some analysts say it may be happening today. Oil industry spokespeople say it won’t happen for at least 15 years. Many analysts give us five to 10 years. If we are lucky, society will have time to get serious about energy conservation, building renewable energy infrastructure and developing sustainable local resources that would reduce oil dependence. That Durango will reach 2030 without experiencing consequences of Peak Oil is very, very unlikely.

On Sun., Feb.12, at 1 p.m., the Sustainability Alliance of Southwest Colorado will screen “The End of Suburbia” at the Abbey Theater, as part of “Incorporating Sustainability Into La Plata County’s Future: A Local Visioning Project Fund-raiser.” The film will be followed by a panel discussion of local grassroots initiatives addressing Peak Oil issues in our community: food, shelter, transportation and energy.

What if members of our community could develop a plan to pull ourselves safely through the transition the whole world will inevitably face as the age of oil winds down? Would you want to be part of it?

Come see the film for yourself and join this critically important discussion of the future of our community.

– Dick White, chair,

Sustainability Alliance of Southwest Colorado

Applauding ‘End of Suburbia’

Dear Editors,

I applaud Fort Lewis for showing the film, “End of Suburbia: Oil Depletion and the Collapse of the American Dream.” I find those howling at the college for showing the film to be predictable and sad. They are singing lullabies for those who want to remain in a comfortable sleep. Information requires something of us. I see how uncomfortable the airing of the film has made “comfortable” people. There is value to a cold bucket of water in the face. If we are slapped with a “worst-case scenario,” however dramatized, it may actually inspire some to action. Perhaps the only thing that may get some people’s attention is the thought of digging carrots out of their front lawn for dinner. I was saddened by the article “Oil’s end exaggerated.” Do you really think a sing-song, “don’t worry, be happy” will inspire anyone to action or creativity, to learn to be good stewards or to be a part of a solution? I lived in Los Angeles when people were shooting each other in gas lines and know how thin the veneer of civilization really is.

Anyone who actually attended the film would have heard that presenting the problem was merely Part A and the organizers were planning to present Part B, a discussion of possible solutions as part of the ongoing discussion. Because people present data that may be alarming doesn’t necessarily make them alarmists. I suspect those who predicted exactly what would happen to New Orleans “when” not “if” a category 4 hurricane hit may also have been labeled alarmists at one time or another. Those who were made uncomfortable by this film and are yelling “alarmist” dismiss its message as having no value and serve to divert attention from important issues. Many times the very people who have the courage to ring the alarm are the very ones responsible for diverting the catastrophes predicted because enough of those who were sleep walking through life are jolted into action and solution finding.

Our country has in the past taken brief, lurching steps toward sustainability only to have tax credits for alternate energy research reversed by incoming administrations, advice by other administrations to be more frugal with our resources swept away by the arrogant chest beating of yet another incoming administration’s edict that we deserve to live however we want and use up as much of the earth’s resources as we want to support our excesses. When Exxon has just posted billions in profits while people are struggling to stay warm this winter, I am convinced that the answers are not going to come from government or big business but from individuals and communities learning the skills and discipline to live creative lives that are more sustainable. The accusation that those who made the film are basically licking their chops and hoping for the demise of the American lifestyle feels like a knee jerk reaction from those who would want to protect their privilege at any cost. I’m a child of the comforts of the American lifestyle. I like them. I’ve looked in the mirror and realize I’m admittedly part of the problem. But things like this film are making me examine my life. I’m realizing that rank excess is neither good for the soul nor for the world. To be vacuuming up the earth’s resources to heat and cool 6,000-square-foot trophy houses for one or two people just doesn’t make sense on any level, ecological or moral. I’m also learning to THINK now before I turn the key on my car. I’m considering the benefits of a hybrid. I’m learning to do the small things. Hanging out the laundry instead of throwing it in a dryer, turning lights out, considering solar energy. These may seem like tiny efforts to those who are light years ahead and have truly learned to live abundantly happy lives while leaving only a small footprint on the land. But, these small things multiplied by millions of individuals would be a beginning.

The edict by both Bush Sr. (at the Earth Summit on the Environment, Rio de Janeiro, 1992) and later by Bush Jr. that the “American way of life is non-negotiable” is cause for great concern. Exactly how much of the world will we elbow out of the way and at what cost to get to the “front of the line” in order to support our currently unsustainable way of life? I am grateful that Fort Lewis presented a forum which has helped awaken my moral sense and made me think. Knowing there is a venue where people are conscious and struggling with difficult issues and ideas insures that if we’re willing there will always be a stick to prod us if we get too comfortable. I believe the only “agenda” the filmmakers and college have is to inspire us all to work toward a solution.

– Sincerely, Lyn Boyer,

via e-mail

Left behind by public schools

To the Editors,

If your child is identified as Special Ed and, in our opinion as parents, needs constant services throughout their public school education, 9-R and BOCS will ignore this opinion and exit your child. This is a violation of our parental rights under federal law and should be fought at every level.

This happened to us, and we are in the process of using our parental rights to convince 9-R and BOCS that they are wrong and need to help our child. Our child has reading and writing difficulties and was identified in first grade as PCD – A  Perceptual Communicative Disorder.

Because of our personal investment in our son’s education, he is now reading at grade level and performing at or above the average student. Because of such high test results, 9-R and BOCS say our son is cured.

Most people would assume this would be exciting news and worthy of celebration. We celebrate our son everyday for his strides and accomplishments, however, he still needs constant reinforcement from his private tutor along with technical assistance from the school and other related services.

By exiting our son from Special Ed, 9-R and BOCS can save money and they won’t have to respond to me, the parent, who knows their parental rights under the law.

9-R can choose to help our son now, or we will be heading to the point of no return, hiring an attorney and taking them to due process.

Shame on the school. Shame on the administration.

The administration of 9-R and BOCS do not care about children. They only cut programs and deny children the services they need. Randy Boyer, director of Special Ed, BOCS, in our opinion, assaulted our son’s educational advocate in one of our public middle schools during a meeting to review our son’s Individual Educational Plan.

Our son’s educational advocate filed charges with the Durango Police Department on Jan. 19 for assault and battery. Our advocate has also filed a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights, in Washington, D.C. This level of intimidation and the deliberate indifference to parents is criminal, and it is happening quite often in our public schools.

– Mimi Thurston, advocating mother,

via e-mail

Politics of affordable housing

To the editors: 

Local government (city and county) has reached a new low with its lack of action on affordable housing! The pols have plenty of big bucks lately to spend on popular projects; e.g., open space acquisitions, new skate parks, dog parks and (who knows) hot springs? Unless we’re voting on a growth referendum, it’s a non-issue locally, and the only people putting money in the kitty for affordable housing are the so-called big, bad, profiteering developers! The pols extract a pound of flesh from each development, which the consumer really pays for, not the developers! The pols have not created and funded a legitimate affordable housing plan. Maybe it’s just unpopular or politically risky to raise taxes for affordable housing. Isn’t this a priority for city councilors and county commissioners? I’d like The Telegraph to assign a qualified journalist the task of airing all sides of this troublesome problem. Lower income people, those on fixed incomes, and single-parent households simply can’t buy a home here at today’s prices … .

– Ed Andersson,




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January 25, 2024
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January 26, 2024
Paper chase

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January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows