Judy asked me to contribute a letter, addressed to whoever's around a century hence. Rather than a letter, I suggested that an entire issue of the Independent be placed in the capsule, with an appropriate column.
To the Citizens of Colorado Springs, January 1, 2101.
Do we owe you an apology? I suspect that I/we do. Why? Because I lived, as many of us did, a selfish and luxurious life fueled by the consumption of non-renewable resources. I drove a big honkin' SUV that gobbled gas, lived in a big house, and assuaged my conscience by paying lip service to conservation.
I worried about global warming, about deforestation, about biodiversity, and about population growth, but as far as actually trying to do something about them, well, I left that to a few dedicated activists.
So if those chickens have come home to rest, sorry. If global warming has so altered your climate that the vast evergreen forests that used to blanket the Front Range have disappeared, much regret. If the transportation system that we built, based on the personal automobile, no longer works, and you haven't been able to create a satisfactory alternative -- hey, too bad.
And I wonder what you've done with the built landscape that we bequeathed you; all of those dismal, energy-inefficient big boxes marching down Academy Boulevard. Of the tens of thousands of buildings that we threw up at the turn of the millennium, I doubt whether more than half a dozen were worth preserving.
And I wonder what has happened to our cultivated landscape; the verdant artificial oasis of non-native deciduous trees and shrubs, the thousands of acres of Kentucky bluegrass, all sustained by water diverted from the Western Slope to Colorado Springs. Has the American population so increased that we can no longer afford to create our own private New England in the midst of the American Desert?
And what of the city? Are you still ruled by relentless promoters who believe that population and economic activity can and should expand endlessly? If so, you'll be a city of around four million souls -- what a godawful prospect!
Do you still believe, as we did, that you live in a special place, one worth fighting for, one worth preserving? I hope so; many of us fought pitched battles with the forces of progress' for your sake, seeking to preserve open space and historic 19th century structures. We may have been selfish screwups, but if we managed to save Section 16 and Red Rocks, at least we did one or two things right.
And what do you look like? Has the population mix changed? Are you about 40 percent Anglo, thirty percent Hispanic, ten percent African-American, and the rest cheerfully mixed, as present trends would suggest?
Or has the importance of race and ethnic origin so diminished that you no longer use those markers to identify yourselves?
And I hope that, despite our feckless behavior, everything has worked out for you; that you live in a prosperous and beautiful city; that the Union still stands; that Colorado's public lands are wild and beautiful; and that the placid rituals of daily life continue.
I hope that elementary schoolchildren in the North End walk to Steele School beneath the sheltering limbs of century-old maples and elms (a couple of which I planted -- you're welcome!), that work is abundant and satisfying, and that newspapers still exist in some form. I hope that the Independent is still around, and that we're still doing our best to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.
I hope that municipal government is still reasonably honest and moderately competent. I hope that the politicians of our era (myself included) are long forgotten, and that selfless local folks who worked to make a better world, like Peter Sprunger-Froese and Steve Handen, are remembered with affection and honor.
And most of all, I hope that there are still members of my family living here; we've been continuously here in the Pikes Peak Region since 1859, and I'd hate to think that the city could get along without us.
And as for me, I'll still be here. You can find me planted in Evergreen Cemetery, right next to my Uncle Sam Hazlehurst. Come by and tell me the news; and make sure that the damn city is still maintaining the place -- or are they still trying to weasel out of the perpetual care clause?
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