Tom Clyde: The Glasgow shrug
It’s a little bit hard to think we are closing in on Thanksgiving, but we’re there. Last year was so confusing that it’s like it didn’t happen. Despite being on Defcon 1 levels of pre-vaccine plague panic, I joined a small, anxious gathering of family for Thanksgiving dinner. We all survived it, but it wasn’t normal in any sense of the word. This year things seem to be on a more normal track, except for people with elementary school kids. Things seems pretty chaotic there.
The new daily case load is higher than it’s been since last winter, but we’re not going into lockdown again. The cases are mostly among the unvaccinated, and the breakthrough cases are said to be unpleasant, but not putting people in the ICU. COVID seems to have become background noise that we will live with. Party on.
Friday’s scheduled opening day at Park City Mountain Resort seemed pretty ambitious in the best of years. It’s been rolled back, waiting for snow. It feels like things will operate more or less normally once the snow arrives. Deer Valley always holds off until December for its opening. The resort would like to have most of the mountain available for opening day instead of just a couple of runs. It will take a lot of snow to get them where they want to be, too. It’s not in the forecast, so all we can do is wait.
Enjoying a normal holiday with family is something to be thankful for. After last year, I realize how much I missed the normal traditions. We have a lot to be grateful for around here. Our contentious civic issues are truly first-world problems — too many people wanting to invest too much money, causing too much growth. I suspect there are a lot of communities around the country, and more around the world, that would gladly trade us some of their intractable problems for a piece of the action. We’ve got it good no matter how you slice it.
This has been a weird year, so expecting a normal start to ski season is probably too much. We’ve pin-balled from crushing drought to torrential rains, then back to drought. August and October broke records for rain and snow. September and November have been bone dry. After nearly drying up in July, the river by my house is setting records for high flow for this time of year. Salt Lake recorded the earliest 100-degree day in history this year, and the latest date for the first freeze. The Great Salt Lake is drying up, creating the potential for terrible dust storms if the salt crust fails and dry lakebed silt starts blowing around. Dirty snow melts quickly in the spring. Ski season is shrinking right in front of us.
Earlier this month, government and business leaders from 197 countries met in Glasgow to solve to the climate change problem. You know they took it seriously because they all arrived on private jets. A Zoom meeting would have lacked gravitas. After all was said and done, world leaders courageously agreed to wring their hands and meet again next year. There were mushy agreements to try to “phase down” coal-fired power plants. There will be a “phase out” of subsidies for fossil fuel production. No schedules on that phasing. The rich countries will provide some cash to the poor countries for renewable energy projects by 2025, and stop deforestation by 2030 — maybe. All of the actions are voluntary. There’s no enforcement mechanism on anything, except, I guess, rising sea levels.
I’ve been skeptical of local governments’ actions on renewables. We’re an insignificant piece of the pie, and it seems like this is a problem that needs to be addressed from the top down. The city, county and ski areas have taken some big steps on solar and wind power. There’s a big wind farm project approved near the Wyoming line, and a solar project in Tooele County. It’s significant local progress, but we’re a drop in the ocean.
After watching the Glasgow summit accomplish exactly nothing, maybe I’ve been wrong. Part of the solution is going to come from millions of smaller actions that cumulatively amount to something. It would be better if all those individual actions were coordinated, but a million random “somethings” are better than one well-coordinated, global shrug.
The problem is that fixing this will require more from all of us than switching to LED light bulbs. The reason nothing happened in Glasgow is that nobody is willing to go home and take the political heat for imposing expensive, disruptive and uncomfortable changes in how we live, travel, eat and function as a society. So nothing big gets done. We can take individual actions: consume less, make deliberate choices and collectively, we can move the needle a little. We can’t build a nuclear power plant in the back yard to replace the gas that heats our houses. That takes the kind of leadership that was so visibly absent in Glasgow. Meanwhile, we are flying all over the country for Thanksgiving celebrations, and not about to do it on Zoom again this year. This isn’t going to be easy.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.
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“It was a happy-go-lucky day. It was a time to give thanks for our blessing of living in a ski town that has two remarkable resorts,“ writes Tom Kelly of Sunday’s opening day at PCMR.