Colorado Feels like the Future

This is not some screed where I quote from Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. For those of you who have not tortured yourself by actually attempting to read that magnum opus of conservative crap hole rhetoric, Colorado plays a major thematic role. Instead this is my thoughts about how Colorado seems to be moving toward a vision of what I think the United States will increasingly look like in the coming decades.

As I spent more than a week in the Centennial State I began to formulate some thoughts. Here goes:

In terms of politics, the state is polarized. Outside of Denver metroplex that stretches to the north to include the liberal paradise of Boulder, the state is relatively conservative. However, population trends and other demographic forces do not favor the continued strong influence of constituencies outside of the more progressive Denver metroplex. Sure, conservatives and libertarians will make a lot of noise—witness the recent tomfoolery about secession in the northern part of the state—but those voices will increasingly lack electoral heft save for the most gerrymandered of districts. Don’t believe me? Look at Representative Steve King of Iowa. He’s the Republican douche who prattled on about immigrants being drug mules and what not. Real class act. Earlier this month he held a “rally” in his district and this was the turnout:

Steve-king-hate-rally-2

Oh yeah. So, while hateful views and rhetoric like the sewage being spilled from Rep. King’s mouth may play well of Fox News—which has a demographic problem itself as it’s average viewer is easily old enough to receive full Social Security benefits—it is increasingly not something most people want to hear. Remember, Steve King is from a district in a state that gave then-candidate Barack Obama his push to the national stage with a stunning caucus win and twice voted for the man to become President. This is also a state that has allowed gay marriage since 2009 and has not imploded in some biblical event. This is what the future looks like for the right if increasingly exclusionary voices are the only ones to get heard.

The state’s left leaning politics, combined with a libertarian bent towards personal liberty, have already pushed forward one of the most progressive agenda items in the United States…the legalization of recreational marijuana for adults. Imagine that the U.S. police and prison industrial complex were no longer calling the shots in support of a broken system that enriches those exact entities at the expense of the greater nation. Imagine a cessation to the incessant drug war that has consumed U.S. society for the better part of forty years. I saw this future in Colorado where an adult can walk into a shop and buy weed as if it were no more prohibited than alcohol. Amazing.

Colorado’s prominence in the pantheon of craft beer is unquestionable and I am an unabashed fan of many of the breweries that call the state home. More so these breweries represent a more local and human scale future to the production of the foodstuffs that we consume. For anyone who does not believe that smaller scale producers can survive in a broader industrial context I would point you to the thriving craft beer industry in general and those breweries in Colorado in particular. Why do I believe that these examples of small scale success bode well for other endeavors into more localized and human scale production that is better for our bodies, souls, and planet? It is harder to think of an industry with more entrenched giants than beer—the formerly big three of Budweiser, Miller, and Coors—who over time erected a gauntlet of barriers to entry in an effort to create a moat around the market for beer in the United States. Guess what? The only segment of the beer industry that is growing is craft beer and it has a long way to go.

The state is also dealing with the nasty effects of climate change in real time. While the impacts of climate change might be theoretical for other states it is already rearing its ugly head in Colorado. Drive through any national forest in the state and you will see acre upon acre of dead timber that was killed by a beetle normally held in check by cold winters and healthy trees. The increasingly warmer winters and unreliable snow are forcing the vibrant ski tourism industry to evaluate a future where there might not be so many days where people are willing to shell out big bucks for lift tickets. If you think that this is just about the high Rockies you would be mistaken. In Colorado Springs the community has dealt with massive wildfires, exacerbated by unreliable rainfall, and the subsequent problems of flooding when rains finally soak denuded hillsides. Many communities along the Front Range were devastated last year when 1,000 year floods—whatever that means in a climate change reality—inundated communities at the base of the mountains.

There are other things that I saw when I was driving that made me think maybe, just maybe there is hope in our future if Colorado is the guide. It’s not a comprehensive network and it bypasses some communities, but the efforts to bring light rail across the Denver area are laudable. Soon, a light rail extension will finally link the airport—which is in bumblefuck relative to downtown—and the city of Denver. It’s still a place ruled by the car, but stand still long enough and you will likely be mowed down by someone riding a bike.

Get a chance to drive around and you will start to notice solar panels everywhere. If you start at the airport there are fields of them near the road leading to the parking structures. From there you will see solar panels on top of houses and on commercial buildings. Heck, right off I-25 in the heart of deep red El Paso County—where they renamed the freeway the Ronald Reagan Highway or some such shit—there is a big array. Solar gardens sell out in no time flat and you see installer trucks driving all over the place.

I am rambling a bit, but I wanted to get these thoughts out there soon after my return from Colorado. What do you think?

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