A Parable. What Happens When Science is Ignored

April 25, 2016


In famously conservative Colorado Springs, they don’t believe in what crazy scientists told them about unstable soils. After all, weren’t these the same people who were saying the planet was warming?

Denver Post:

COLORADO SPRINGS — A geologist knocked on Sherry Cripps’ door more than a decade ago and warned her that her home on Cheyenne Mountain was sitting atop a slow-moving, destructive landslide. He told her to abandon the home.

Cripps dismissed the aging geologist as crazy until 2015, when his predictions came true. She and her husband Denny are close to abandoning their nearly unlivable home, as it is cracking in half and sliding off a hill. The Cripps and their neighbors are confronting a behemoth that lay dormant for years: a landslide zone one and a half times the size of Manhattan.

Thousands of homes in the southwest corner of the city were built in the slide zone, despite repeated warnings from geologists who said the area was risky for development and recommended caution in approving construction.

City officials have known about the problem since at least the mid-1990s, when they passed an ordinance designed to restrict development, but the measure has not been enforced and new homes have gone up almost unabated.

In other parts of the state where similar problems have occurred — including Boulder and Jefferson counties — landuse code prohibits building on known landslide areas.

Insurance will not cover the losses. At least 70 homeowners in southwest Colorado Springs are seeking federal grants to help buy out their destroyed or imperiled houses — the third round of such funding for the city. Nineteen of those properties are located in neighborhoods surrounding a Broadmoor Hotel golf course where a landslide has been an issue for years.

“In my mind, the process threw caution to the wind,” said Jon White, a geologist with the Colorado Geological Survey. “Many knew the risks. Everybody should have been more cautious and the risks should have been disclosed to the potential homebuyers.”

The Cripps and other homeowners near Cheyenne Mountain say they were the last to learn of the danger their homes sit on. Knowledge of the risk would have changed everything, Sherry Cripps said. “We would have been going to the developer and saying, ‘Hey, buy this back.'”

In a letter to Colorado Springs officials last week, state geologists urged the city to take more aggressive action than they have to monitor and assess the risk the Broadmoor golf course slide poses to homes, infrastructure and residents of the area.

Typically, the state’s geologists serve in an advisory role, conducting studies of areas at risk of landslides and making nonbinding recommendations. But it is up to local governments that choose to work with them to decide whether and how development will occur.

A city spokeswoman acknowledged in an email that the city has known about the landslide risk near Cheyenne Mountain since 1996, but she added that city officials think the land is safe for development.

“We live in a mountainous community and therefore landslides are unfortunately an unavoidable risk,” wrote Jamie Fabos. “However, these landslides have caused very little movement over many years and development can successfully take place on landslide susceptible areas if the appropriate mitigation measures are identified and followed.”

Conservatism used to be a philosophy based on prudence, but as we know it today consists of ignoring the best advice of the most well informed, going for the easy buck, the glittery object, or in this case the golf course view – and then pleading to the government to make them whole.

What does that remind me of? Oh, right.


10 Responses to “A Parable. What Happens When Science is Ignored”

  1. Lionel Smith Says:

    Scanning down the article I see you beat me to it with a reference to Florida.

    Of course the developers of those ill founded properties near Colorado Springs have salted their ill-gotten gains (they must have known) away in real estate in Florida where the tax payer will likely at some time in the future pick up the tab for losses on uninsurable property. Heck, that may even be the case in Colorado Springs.

  2. Scientists and their witchcraft. First the prophecise about falling skies, and then they actually fall. Damn those scientists… its the work of the devil!

  3. neilrieck Says:

    Humanity’s Coming Dark Age


    Symptoms before each collapse: ignorance, superstition, religious fundamentalism, xenophobia, intolerance, rejection of science

  4. schwadevivre Says:

    These are high status homes and the owners expect “Welfare for the wealthy”. Somehow; despite the insurance companies refusing to cover for landslip, the developers lying to them, the ordinances against building and failure of the realtors to do due due diligence searches; the taxpayer has to meet the cost.

    I do not know the area but I strongly suspect that most residents are vocal in support of small government and rail against the destitute receiving government or state aid. As far as I’m concerned they should bite the bullet and sue the developers and the realtors, not wait for handouts.

  5. Amusing little Colorado Springs anecdote:

    When I drove through Colorado Springs in 2012 shortly before the election, I saw this exact bumper-sticker (albeit formatted a bit differently to fit on a bumper) — no kidding!

  6. “”I made a mistake”: British scientist James Lovelock has admitted his previous claims about the deadly impact of climate change were too ‘alarmist’.”

    “There’s nothing much really happening yet. We were supposed to be halfway toward a frying world.”

    Tim Flannery’s: Australian seawater desalination plants.

    “The facility cost $4bn but was immediately put on standby as the drought broke. It costs Victoria $620m a year to keep it online, even though it has never been fully operational. It was opposed by environmentalists, who said it destroyed important habitat and caused pollution.”

    “The Victorian plant, the most expensive at $5.7 billion – it finally went fully operational in 2012, and was immediately shut down, because it wasn’t needed. Due to the deal struck with the private operator of the plant, Victorian residential water bills have risen by 64%.”

    “Even if no water is ever prod­uced, the plant will cost Victorians $18bn by 2040.”

    “Victorian Liberal water spokesman Peter Walsh said yesterday that households were paying about $500 more a year for water.”

    Liberal Opposition Leader ­Steven Marshall said the plant was a “scandalous waste of money”.”

    It’s too high “The price of global warming hysteria from Tim Flannery, the Greens, the Climate Council, et al.[…]”

    A parable? Maybe …, but much so “deep” – with the second “bottom” …

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Arkady’s back! And spewing more inane BS.

      Those desalination plants may turn out to be a good investment before too long. If, as expected, climate change makes most of already dry AUS into a desert, they’ll be paying any price for water.

    • The householder pays nothing untill they are using water from the plant. Initially there was a charge, which was rescinded and the households were refunded as a credit. I paid no water bill for several months due to the credit

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