Climate-change documentarians descend on Manitou Springs 

Mud in your eye

The truth has gotten really, really inconvenient for Manitou Springs. At least that's what Al Gore's Climate Reality Project is setting out to prove with its upcoming webcast, 24 Hours of Reality: The Cost of Carbon, which will debut next Tuesday and Wednesday.

The damage done by this summer's flooding in Manitou Springs will be in the camera's eye as part of what the Project is calling "the world's largest conversation on carbon pollution." The production team with 24 Hours of Reality paid a visit to Manitou in September, touring the damage with resident Kelly Cummings Snyder.

"They were horrified," says Snyder, a conservation and recycling activist and the wife of Manitou Mayor Marc Snyder. "They had no idea" what the flooding had done to the town.

Snyder says the team members walked around for about seven hours. And apparently, that was more than enough time for them to see what they came to see.

"It is difficult to ignore the wildfires and subsequent flooding that have hit Manitou Springs, and greater parts of Colorado," writes Andrea Allen, producer of the Manitou segment of 24 Hours of Reality, in an email to the Independent. "This is obviously an area that has been majorly impacted by environmental changes."

Reality bytes

24 Hours of Reality sets out to show how disasters like those in Manitou can be directly linked to carbon pollution — and that the cost to recover from these disasters is far greater than measures to reduce carbon output.

The Climate Reality Project, the pollution-fighting activism organization founded in 2005 by Nobel Laureate and chairman Al Gore, has held 24 Hours of Reality events in each of the past two years. According to their blog, the event attracted more than 16 million online views around the world last year, and the studio plans to "smash this record" in 2013.

The event at 24hoursofreality.org will feature talks from key climate experts, artists, economists and celebrity guests and mini-documentary segments such as the one detailing the Manitou floods. The marathon broadcast, which starts at noon MDT on Tuesday, is broken up into six one-hour segments, with the block of six repeated round the clock. Each hour is dedicated to one continent and how it's felt the effects of climate change this year. In the North American segment, the Front Range fires and flooding will be in the spotlight alongside such events as Superstorm Sandy and the drought in Mexico.

Project producers caught wind of the local situation thanks to news reports about 3,000 area residents volunteering to help dig out local businesses and homes after August flooding. That volunteer effort revolved around the Business of Art Center, where Snyder is board president. "They starting calling around," she says, "they got to me, [and] I was one of the only people who was able to talk to them."

The documentary crew members were taken all the way up to The Narrows, near the mouth of hard-hit Williams Canyon, and through downtown. Among the damaged sites they visited was Adam's Mountain Café, where, Snyder says, proprietor Farley McDonough spent about 90 minutes explaining how multiple feet of muddy water poured into her restaurant from adjacent Fountain Creek on Aug. 9.

Allen actually came in knowing something about Manitou Springs; a native of Estes Park, she used to visit the little town while growing up.

"It is sad," she says, "because I feel like the town has done so much to beautify the downtown area, and so much of it was under water, or impacted one way or another by the flooding."

'All connected'

There are still plenty of headlines devoted to those who don't believe human-caused carbon pollution is contributing to a dangerously warming climate. But Snyder, for one, is sold on the filmmakers' premise.

"I'm a believer that climate change is causing natural disasters," she says. "Manitou really exemplifies that. First we had a drought, then we had a fire, then we had a flood. ... It's all connected."

Most scary is the notion that the flooding could happen regularly in the area for the next decade. 24 Hours of Reality will show how current projections have climate change getting worse, not better, while Manitou remains under the triple threat of hydrophobic soil from the burn scar, an ongoing regional drought and thousands of tons of debris still ready to be washed into town.

"We'll be going through this song-and-dance for, people are estimating, the next 10 years," Snyder says. That's because only 5 percent of what could be as much as 100,000 cubic tons of debris from the Waldo Canyon Fire came down with the last barrage of floods.

"I'm absolutely OK being quoted as saying this is the new normal," she says, embracing the cliché. "There is an incredibly depressing part of that, but it encourages you to be as informed and prepared as you possibly can."


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