Why Neil Armstrong matters in carbon arguments

We put Neil Armstrong on the moon, so why can’t we meet carbon goals?

by Allen Best

In recent months I’ve talked with sustainability planners from Orlando, Fla., to Fort Collins, Colo., to Salt Lake City for two magazine stories about 100 percent renewable goals. None professed to know how their goals will be achieved in the time frames that were specified.

Still, there is an optimism, buoyed by the rapid changes now underway, that technology will overcome all challenges. A much simpler version of this optimism is reflected in the now-famous sequences shown by Stanford’s Tony Seba of Fifth Avenue in New York City. In the first photo, it’s all horse-drawn carriages and but one car. And the next photo is of the same Easter Day parade about a decade later, and there all cars save for one horse.

Make no mistake: these are audacious goals. Attaining them will require something of a miracle.

In Fort Collins, Colo., a utility planner suggested its best not to presuppose all the answers. Answers, he said, will arrive in increments. In downtown Denver, a resource planner for Xcel Energy thought existing technology would get us 75 percent of the way there but agrees with Jim Hansen, one of the world’s best-known climate scientists, that we must embrace nuclear power.

In Orlando, a sustainability planner pointed to nearby Cape Canaveral, from which the first man to walk on the moon was launched. President John Kennedy in 1961 announced that goal, to occur by 1969. Nobody knew how it would get done, but the goal was achieved. Neil Armstrong walked on the moon with months to spare.

Can Park City and Summit County achieve their goals? Arguably, these ambitions are loftier than a moon shot. They’re also more important. But you can’t get there if you don’t try. —Allen Best

See also:

Does Park City have the most ambitious carbon-reduction goals in U.S.?

How one-time Vietnam combat pilot leads Utah County to climate program




About Allen Best

Allen Best is a Colorado-based journalist. He publishes a subscription-based e-zine called Mountain Town News, portions of which are published on the website of the same name, and also writes for a variety of newspapers and magazines.
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