Park City climate efforts are laudable but too slow
On Sunday, January 22, Park City Municipal Corporation and Summit Community Power Works (SCPW) hosted a panel discussion at the Sundance Film Festival’s Base Camp titled “Park City: A Community Committed to Action.” Panelists included Black Diamond’s Peter Metcalf, SCPW’s Mary Christa Smith, Park City Municipal’s environmental sustainability manager Luke Cartin, and the Georgetown University Energy Prize’s Christofer Nelson.
The discussion preceded and accompanied, the Sundance New Climate panel moderated by Amy Goodman and featuring Al Gore, native filmmaker Heather Rae, and climate scientist David Suzuki among others.
Park City’s event description explained “Park City’s fate depends on mitigating the effects of global warming and climate change.” Then, the description attempted to bolster our courage with: “And while meaningful action on climate change is slow and difficult, Park City and Summit County are leading the way, aggressively tackling energy and consumption habits in profound and meaningful ways.”
The event broke my heart. It wasn’t for a lack of sincerity in the panel’s participants. They were clearly concerned and committed. It wasn’t for a lack of hard work. They were clearly intelligent and invested. My heart broke for the event’s participants’ and attendees’ failure to recognize the way Park City’s raw material power could be leveraged to support more effective tactics.
Global average temperatures have already risen 1.5 degrees Celsius above baseline according to Scientific American. Many scientists, including NASA’s Dr. James Hansen, believe that 1 degree Celsius above baseline was the point of no return. For the 200 species who went extinct due to climate change yesterday while we were attending the panel and for the 200 species going extinct today while I write this, it’s already too late. Meanwhile, Park City Municipal and SCPW celebrates their plan to achieve net-zero carbon emissions and to provide 100 percent of electricity from renewable sources by 2032. That’s 15 years from now.
During Park City’s panel, pipeline blockaders like those at Standing Rock were referred to as the “bleeding edge.” Later, when Heather Rae, the panel’s only woman, demanded the same opportunity to speak that the New Climate’s male panelists were afforded, she reminded us how the American empire was built and is maintained by genocide and slavery. The American empire is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, contributor to climate change. Rae connected the dots for us, arguing that climate change is only possible through genocide and slavery. I couldn’t help but recall the blood being spilled by indigenous peoples and people of color on the frontlines of the war to stop climate change, physically stopping the spread of fossil fuel infrastructure. For the most part, these communities possess less resources collectively than most Parkites possess individually. Bleeding edge, indeed.
The bleeding edge embodies the idea that while meaningful action on climate change is difficult, it can no longer be slow. While Park City intends to achieve net-zero carbon emissions (whatever that means while tourists flood the area on transportation made possible by fossil fuels) and to provide 100 percent of electricity from renewable sources (whatever that means while fossil fuel infrastructure is required to build and transport solar panels, hydroelectric operations, etc.) by 2032, bleeding edge activists urgently fight to cut off fossil fuels at their source.
But, aren’t Park City’s efforts to “at least do something” commendable? Maybe. But, maybe not, if you consider the privilege, the material resources, the money that Park City and Parkites possess. Park City is trying to win the $5 million Georgetown University Energy Prize, can you imagine what the bleeding edge could do with $5 million?
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“Just driving around, I’ve lost count of all the dead trees on city property, commercial property and private property. Why aren’t these trees tagged for removal?” writes Diane Thompson.