The world is getting warmer. That doesn’t mean there is no hope. What can Park City do to save our snow? What is Park City doing right now?
As of 2013, Park City was home to a year-round population of 7,962. By any measure, that makes Park City a small town. Compare that modest number to the population of the New York metropolitan area’s 20.1 million, or the population of the United States, at 318.9 million souls. To really put things into perspective, Park City represents just over 0.000001 percent of the world’s nearly 7.4 billion humans, not even a drop in the bucket.
An Influence for Good
So what can a community the size of Park City do to forestall the death of snow, and save both itself and the wider world from a climate catastrophe? The first instinct is to say, “not much.” Even if every citizen in Park City were to give up the trappings of modern life entirely, living in harmony with the natural world and surrendering all the carbon-emitting luxuries of our time, it would do little to nothing in humanity’s struggle with anthropogenic climate change. It will take more than a return to nature in a small mountain community to put our future back on track. But Park City can be a leader.
Despite a relatively modest population of year-round residents, Park City attracts more than 3 million visitors annually. Skiing, mountain biking, the Sundance Film Festival, and more attract droves of tourists from all over the country and around the world. These visitors leave with more than just a lighter wallet and a pile of amazing memories. They go home having seen who we are and what we do. They leave with an appreciation for this beautiful community and the wonders available around every corner.
“Park City can be an alternative, an example,” said Brian McInerney, the National Weather Service hydrologist we consulted in our last article. “Lowering emissions by 15 percent in 15 years is too little, too late. We need to come up with an alternative.”
The people of Park City have an opportunity to show the world a better way. Park City can be a microcosm of sustainable living. Even though no one was beating down the mayor’s door for his opinion during the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, we can still be leaders in the field of environmentally responsibility. If we show our guests that a green lifestyle is not only possible, but feasible, convenient, and enjoyable, we can gently push millions of people toward the choices that could help keep snow on our slopes.
Planning for Tomorrow
Last October, Park City officially committed to net-zero carbon emissions. By 2022, Park City municipal operations will reach net-zero emissions, with all of Park City to follow suit by 2032. Our friend Bryn Carey, president of Ski Butlers, even took that commitment to the whole world at the Paris talks at the end of 2015 with a slick bilingual pamphlet. It is a bold pronouncement that many citizens and guests of Park City are eager to see come to fruition. In fact, it was the intent of this blog post to explore some of the proposed steps and programs designed to bring PC ever closer to meeting that goal. Unfortunately, at this moment, Park City’s big announcement is just that, an announcement.
At the time of writing this piece, the policies necessary to bring Park City to net-zero emissions by 2032 have yet to be established. A search for more details reveals a website created some time ago, parkcitygreen.org, which appears to be the closest thing that exists to a public resource for environmental policy in Park City. The website seems to have been largely abandoned sometime in 2009. The resource and document links all appear to be dead, and the last substantial update to be found anywhere is now more than six years old. Even with the help of Bryn Carey and Matt Abbott, an environmental project manager with the city, very little in the way of current projects, schedules, policies, or budgets was forthcoming.
That isn’t to say that the situation is hopeless, or that the big October announcement was an empty publicity stunt. In fact, taking the time to formulate a coherent plan of action is an important step that should never be ignored for the sake of a PR opportunity. It is not only possible, but probable, that the city is wading deeply through the decisions and minutiae involved with any sweeping readjustment of policy and the drafting of government budgets. According to Bryn Carey, the process is at least underway.
“The details and exact plan for [this goal] is to be determined,” Carey said. “They are hoping to figure this out by the end of January. The main goal is to give the community a goal to rally around and then to share with other communities to do the same thing, create a long term net zero or renewable plan.”
While the exact details are still up in the air, it is encouraging that Park City is seriously committed to an aggressive environmental plan that includes waste reduction, renewable energy, and other emissions-slashing measures. The road ahead will certainly not be easy, but the people of Park City can work together to show the world a better way.
The Chain of Change
Looking into the face of global climate disaster and resolving to change the future is a daunting experience. After all, there are nearly 7.4 billion people on this planet. Why should one community, one person, try to change? How could Park City possibly help pull the world back from an ever-escalating cascade of climate instability?
“We can be leaders,” said Carey. “We start with 100 percent renewable energy, and we push others toward renewable energy.”
It starts small. Most things do. It can even start with one. Park City is a community of less than 8,000 individuals. But we reach millions of visitors every year. We can be a community that changes, the first link in a chain of change that extends to the skiers and film fans who visit us every year, neighboring towns and cities, like-minded resort towns and ski destinations, and so on and so forth. Park City doesn’t have to reverse climate change by itself to preserve the Greatest Snow on Earth®. We just have to be willing to help get the party started, and maybe dance awkwardly with a small group of like-minded folks until everyone else joins in.