Time to confront global warming
The January 19 GstaadLife print edition carried a suitably alarmist take from columnist Alexandra de Scheel on the environmental navel-gazing that has resulted from this year's lack of snow in Gstaad and other European ski resorts.
By Alexandra de Scheel
As skis and snowboards are tucked away, furs are hung back into storage, woolly sweaters retire, and bikinis, T-shirts and skirts return to the forefront of our closets, it is easy to forget the season and assume August 1st celebrations are just around the corner once again. One could certainly be forgiven for wondering if it really is January in Gstaad or if we have somehow fallen asleep in the Alps and woken up in the tropics. Now for people who return to Gstaad each winter for social reasons more than sporting ones (usually people like myself, who after having been forced to ski in Gstaad each day of each winter for over 15 years of schooling and are now happy to take a break from typical winter sports and enjoy the company of old friends) this may not be so disastrous.
Aside from the compromised view it doesn’t have a monumental effect on our decision to remain in town. For those who flock here each winter ready to ski (those for whom it is the highlight of a season they look forward to whilst working in slopeless and dreary cities the rest of the year), it is of greater consequence. However, the worst hit of all is taken not by disappointed tourists, but by the locals who have grown accustomed to and expect a certain amount of seasonal employment opportunities and increased profits as a result of these tourists. The overall decline in tourism costs local businesses and the Gemeinde money. It also threatens the future of our alpine resort. Now, some may look forward to a day when fewer people come and only true residents or resident-wannabes (those born and raised here, those who arrived before they went to Rosey or JFK or those who arrived before Rosey and JFK themselves). But others feel differently. The dynamic of the village will change, and who is to say it will be for the best?
I have always attributed the threat of global warming to the dime-store school of social concerns in politics. Something Greens brought out every once in a while to take votes away from Democrats or Liberals in an election year, and bring a few environmental nut-jobs to their ridiculous single issue third party. I always figured that it was only those people who had far too much useless information about koala bears and rainforests and cared too deeply about abstract and unrelatable causes, those who held hands, sang campfire songs and spouted nonsense about “one world” who cared about the issue. Well them and Al Gore. Even when a few more scientists got onboard and told the world that this, among many other environmental problems was a serious one, a clear and present danger to everyone, I took the view of ‘there are far too many imminent concerns in the world (poverty, famine, injustice, failures in education, corrupt governments and politicking, genocide etc. etc.) to worry about something like the environment. “It’s not going to effect my generation, let the next one worry about it.” But it appears that global warming is neither theoretical nor irrelevant. It is something we are seeing the effects of today. It is something we in Gstaad are certainly seeing the effects of today.
Now I still stand by my belief that there are far more pressing concerns in the world, but I can no longer claim not to notice that the environmental ones which I was so hoping to pawn off on the next generation (as previous generations have done since the problem was first discussed) are finally becoming one of those pressing concerns. The last generation who passed down the issue on to us was apparently the last able to do so, narrowly escaping having to deal with it themselves. I suppose we are that "next generation who can worry about it". Time is apparently up.
The Swiss of course, being the excellent timekeepers that they are, seemed to have
known this. This is one of the advantages of the Swiss democracy and glitz-free style of
governing. Rather than put poll after poll into the field to see how much their constituents care about environmental issues, and how they could use those numbers to beat down the opposition in the true spirit of partisanship ala America, they asked the experts. They made their decisions based on scientists rather than potential voters. I may be wrong, but this way of governing would seem to be better leadership than many non-Swiss politicians in other developed countries who watch their people run by while thinking “I must find out where they are running to in such a hurry, so that I can lead them.” Nowhere is that old story better exemplified than America.
The reason I use America as an example so often is not because of my disdain for the country, but because they dictate terms to the rest of the world. They are the ones telling poorer countries who have just developed certain innovations harmful to the environment that they are not allowed to use them, when the Americans are the ones who screwed up the ozone layer in the first place by using those same products for years. They are also meant to lead the world in new solutions to new challenges. And this is not to say they haven’t made some attempts. But as the Kyoto treaty got tossed, drilling for oil in Alaska became a priority, and any money which could have gone to finding such solutions was allocated to a war few wanted or needed, it is becoming increasingly unlikely that they will lead us anywhere in this new struggle to clean up the mess their over-consuming, wasteful, trash-building, ozone-depleting, gas-omitting practices have helped to create. So thank god for the countries, like Switzerland, who have taken the initiative to stand up and try to do something about it. Because it is certainly not only America which is being affected, as you can plainly see by looking out of your chalet window at the beautiful brown mountainsides.
Of course the global warming argument may be an alarmist reaction to one season without snow. Surely, we have had winters with high snowfall and low snowfall before. But it is the timing of this particular dearth, that it was predicted by Swiss and global experts, that we already watched the glaciers melt this summer, that it is a problem shared by ski resorts around the world, and that we are seeing unprecedented high temperatures accompanying the lack of snow which makes one quite easily, and understandably alarmed.
Alexandra de Scheel