Park City has no future
Park City has no future. Either the snow or the industrial system allowing Park City’s human population to live here will fail. Park City’s human community relies on snow for its survival. First, snow is water. Park City’s human population is about 8,000. The operation of the tourism industry means there are more than 8,000 humans in Park City at any given time.
Humans require water and this is a desert. Snowpack is our water source and serves as a reservoir collecting snow in winter and slowly releasing it as temperatures warm in spring and summer.
Snow also gives tourists a reason to visit – and to spend money. While there are more humans in the area than the land can support the necessities of life must be imported. Importing these necessities costs money and the tourist industry provides this money.
Snow is critically endangered by climate change. The EPA notes that Utah has warmed by two degrees (F) over the last century causing snowpack in Utah to decrease since the 1950s. A 2009 report commissioned by Park City Municipal Corporation and The Park City Foundation predicts another two degrees average temperature rise in Park City by 2030, four degrees by 2050, and almost seven degrees by 2075. Porter Fox, author of Deep: The Story of Skiing and The Future of Snow cites studies that show this seven degrees (F) warming will leave Park City with no snow by 2100.
Climate change is caused by global greenhouse gas emissions. These greenhouse gasses include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, chlorofluorocarbons, and water vapor. Greenhouse gas emissions are integral to the basic functioning of civilized life. Carbon dioxide is released through deforestation, biomass burning, conversion of land to agriculture, and the burning of fossil fuels. Methane is produced by waste decomposition, agriculture, and livestock production.
Nitrous oxide is produced through soil cultivation practices including the use of organic and commercial fertilizers, nitric acid production, fossil fuel combustion, and biomass burning. Chlorofluorocarbons are inorganic, synthetic compounds entirely produced by industrial activities.
The EPA regularly publishes reports on total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by economic sector. Their 2014 report attributes 30 percent of American greenhouse gas emissions to electricity generation, 26 percent to transportation which includes burning fossil fuel for trucks, ships, planes, trains, and personal automobiles, 21 percent to industry burning fossil fuel for energy and from chemical reactions involved in manufacturing, 12 percent to commercial and residential processes like burning fossil fuels for heat and the handling of waste, and, finally, 9 percent from agriculture including soil maintenance, fertilizer use, and livestock production. The EPA does not account for the other 2 percent
Meanwhile, the consensus amongst scientists is that developed nations must reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 to avoid runaway climate change. Based on the EPA’s numbers, even if every small-business and home in America reduced its emissions to zero and each American drove cars that emitted no greenhouse gas (much less than 26 percent of total US emissions), the United States wouldn’t come close to the 80 percent goal.
If we look at the EPA’s numbers critically, we see that the vast majority of greenhouse gas emissions result from the same economic sectors supporting Park City – electricity generation, transportation, manufacturing, and agriculture. If these sectors keep operating, the snow will fail. If the snow fails, Park City fails. For the snow to survive, these sectors must fail. If these sectors fail, Park City is left without the necessities of life.
Park City has a choice. We can face the truth that our town has no future and work to remove humans, humanely as possible, from the area. Or, we can keep this insane party going for a little longer as we put on our ski goggles to blur reality, shed our jackets with the warming climate, and take one last suicidal run on disappearing snow.
Author’s note: This is excerpted from my essay “Park City is Damned: A Case Study in Civilization,” originally published in the San Diego Free Press. For the full text: http://sandiegofreepress.org/2017/03/park-city-damned-case-study-civilization/
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A reader says a recent City Council decision regarding affordable housing “does not support the fragile ecosystem of our town.”