Hint: It’s really OK to love one and hate the other.
It’s Earth Day which means it’s Earth Christmas, only when Earth opened up its most recent package of lifeforms it drew the short straw and got us humans, a giant lump of coal wrapped in shit and idolatry. Crap. What did Earth do to deserve us? Guess it must’ve done some serious eff’d up shit to the dinosaurs we don’t know about.
But therein lies the point. We should celebrate the Earth while acknowledging that even that celebration, no matter how well-meaning, is causing damage. Yes, you, me, everyone who’s reading this, every time we exhale (which is a lot these days, especially if you’re on Twitter) is doing massive damage. We are carbon-based Earth killers by chemical make up if not by birthright.
That doesn’t mean we have to make it worse. …But more on that about 17 paragraphs down.
So, for a quick second, relax. Because, yes, there is something we can all do — besides, you know, see if they’re giving away those metal water canisters with the recycling logo and the shiny blue carabiner attached at that booth over there.
Let’s for a moment take our angst wheels down on a more local destination. Say, somewhere in the mountains — which are, along with the oceans, the rivers and the sky threatened, mightily. Only thing is, lots of people like to go to the mountains. They make pretty backdrops when we hold our phone cameras arm’s length in front of us hoping to bag double-digit likes because we’re here and you’re not. Also, there’s trees to look up at and slopes to ski down and all kinds of the best types of feels in the first-sip-of fountain cherry cola thin air in between.
On Saturday, at a nearby mountain in a place where an impossibly big glacier cut through granite like you do a piece of $4 avocado toast just off Alamo Square, The Village at Squaw Valley will host its annual Earth Day Festival in coordination with the March for Science. A seemingly noble gesture from the Death Star as they attempt to curry public placation again attempt to date-rape the environment and call it consensual.
“Celebrate the Earth and join Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows for the largest eco-event in the North Lake Tahoe and Truckee area.” – Squaw’s Facebook page says.
“Celebrate the Earth” and “Squaw Valley” go together like Clean and Coal and President and Trump and the last three seasons of Modern Family and funny.
Celebrate the Earth on where there once was a meadow where there is now a parking lot upon which the host corporation is about one mega-loan to itself away from erecting a 90,000 square-foot indoor water park. Celebrate the Earth that we’re about to plunder and pillage so corporate private equity overloads can tick off another positive quarter and gaze down at the rest of us like this:
So, here’s the thing. Here’s the quandary many Tahoe locals and Squaw frequent fliers have wrestled with since Nov. 23, 2010 when the Cushing clan turned over their family-run mountain to the clutches of an eager but still tiny private equity firm based in Colorado: Can one love the mountain and hate its owners?
The answer is a resounding yes.
The two are, in fact, mutually exclusive.
If you are looking for your TM mantra, repeat this to yourself: There are two Squaw Valleys. There are two Squaw Valleys. There are two Squaw Valleys. There are two Squaw Valleys. There are. Two Squaw Valleys. There are two. Squaw Valleys.
One is the reason you spent all your money on gas trying to get here from Buffalo when everyone told you to go no farther (or further) than the Rockies. Or the place Robb Gaffney did justice to chapter and verse as you read all about it with a flashlight beneath the sheets, and yet — on first sight — it was still much more than he said. It’s the valley you’ve driven into a thousand times, left past the torch, straight by the stables and there it is, a 19-story sheath of granite so miraculous and untenable, so unapproachable but reassuring that you can’t fathom how you got so lucky to be one of the tiny minority of people alive today who gets to see it, experience it. What did you do in a previous life to be so good, to deserve such majesty in a place you refer to unironically as your own backyard?
You can love it, breathe it and want to be buried on it. You can look up, way up, at Shane’s memorial and think, maybe in a moment of reflection or silliness, that that could be, will be you up there on high with him someday, looking down at the generations to come doing the things you only imagined, being the person you once were, but better, more joy-filled, because they won’t have a choice but to appreciate it more and care for it better.
Science and the Earth’s continued revolt won’t let them.
But there’s a flip side to that. Someone who is nothing like you or me or anyone we know — right now — owns this mountain. How they got it or why they have it or what harm they will do to it is stuff enlightened folks coming around much much later will dissect. The way we look at folks who died trying to cross a ridge or lay railroad track in the 19th century will be the same way we’re viewed by our successors, crude, primitive and cruel. Haters of the land, ruiners of it.
Someday, if humanity is to outlast this phase of greed and black-heartedness, we will figure out a better way than to let commerce dictate and destroy nature. We will give it back to the many. And we will let the land tell us what it needs and we will listen, not the other way around. Likely, if we are to survive, we will start by removing nature from the clutches of private interests. But until then, this is the way it goes. And our severe treatment of our rapidly fading resources will be stuff of ire (and punchlines) for generations to come.
So yes, we have to deal with the fact that there is an owner of this land, an unlikely custodian. An anti-hero. It is a corporation that happens to bad the baddest of the bad guys, a private equity firm. And thanks to happenstance and copious amounts of tax breaks and loopholes laid out in the wake of the ‘08 housing crash (for every restriction the remaining banks got there was a rollback in other industries, private equity firms were the beneficiaries), instead of going to jail the folks who moved their cheese to the right spots simply got to get richer acquiring businesses, laying off and taking the rubble as a write-off.
How do we know they are the bad guys? Look beyond the gondolas to nowhere and the ridiculously unsightly (not to mention untenable) plans for a quarter century of grossly under-needed development and even the constant pissing off of the locals and look deeper into their rhetoric and action. Nowhere in their charter is there anything more than a mere blithe mention of being custodians of the mountains. There are no restorative projects in the queue. There is no plan to become an industry leader in the implementation of science, research and educational programs to figure out just how to keep it going and then show the next generation why we should.
Sure, most of this would be kind of buzz-wordy/feel-good stuff, but they can’t even go there. They can’t even pretend to want to isolate and protect the land that serves them and their portfolio. Nope. It’s stick-and-move. Break ground and smile. Drop off coffee for the protestors for a photo op but don’t pay attention to the whole why they’re standing out in the freezing cold holding signs. There may be some, you know, reclaimed barn wood in the new units, but that’s about as this group will go toward preservation.
The joke’s on them, because It’s not only a shallow plan, it’s a self-defeating one.
Now back to Earth Day. To be sure there are good area nonprofits and small companies that will show off their wares Saturday at the Village at Squaw. And probably some unwanted bluegrass wafting through the air for good measure. For those who are charged with making a difference, it’s not a choice whether to protest where the table goes because science and environment-focused nonprofits rarely have enough budget for qualified staff, let alone venue rentals. So you can’t fault them too much for cooperating …or can you?
Being complicit in this day and age of ruthless and tireless corporate destruction is just as bad as being guilty. It has seeped into every stitch of our fabric, burrowed into the core of who we are and how we define ourselves. Don’t think so? Look at the thing you’re reading this on (hopefully it’s not attached to you — or all is lost) and count how many seconds it took you to find a corporate logo.. And while it is easy to poke fun at the endless string of gaffes that come from the head failed corporate stooge in charge, our power as individuals — our only remaining power against a corporate kleptocracy — is our dollar. And when we speak out by refusing to give these entities our vote of confidence with the hard-earned, winged greenbacks that flit and flicker from our wallets, that speaks more mightily than any protest we can stage, any Facebook rant we can create, any happy hour discussion that grows too aggressive. Our not being there, not buying in, speaks volumes.
So this Earth Christmas, don’t boycott the one thing left worth celebrating. Do what you can. Plant a tree, restore a stream. Start your garden. Leave the car in the garage. Support those local organizations with your donation online.
But do not set foot on the property of the enemy tomorrow. Stretch that Earth celebration out a few days and grab that water-reducing shower head at Truckee Thursdays instead. You not showing up will be statement enough.