Does the Logging Industry Have A Future In The New Intermountain West? (2006)
I am going to do this by asking all of you a very provocative question - one that I hope you will, in turn, ask each other throughout the course of convention.The question is: Does the logging industry have a future in the New Intermountain West?
22 MINUTE READ
A Keynote Speech by James D. Petersen
Journalist and Executive Director of the Evergreen Foundation
Publishers of Evergreen Magazine
68th Annual Meeting
Intermountain Logging Conference
Mirabeau Park Hotel, Spokane, Washington
April 5, 2006
It’s the job of a keynote speaker to set the tone for gatherings like this one.
I am going to do this by asking all of you a very provocative question - one that I hope you will, in turn, ask each other throughout the course of convention.
The question is: Does the logging industry have a future in the New Intermountain West?
I have underscored the word “New” in “New Intermountain West” to emphasize the fact that, in recent years, this resource-rich region has taken on intrinsic meanings that transcend - and in some ways distort - the West’s history and its culture. It is undeniably a much different place than it was when the Intermountain Logging Conference hosted its first convention here in Spokane 68 years ago.
Back then, ILC was the newly-minted Intermountain spin-off of the venerable Pacific Logging Congress, the oldest such organization in the U.S. ILC was spun off from PLC as part of a larger strategy that recognized that the West was actually many “west’s” in one: areas where terrain, tree species, climate, local culture, landownership patterns and the products of local sawmills and their proximity to markets dictated more localized responses to economic and political problems than PLC could provide.
Sixty-eight years ago – 1938 – wasn’t a particularly good year for the nation’s lumber industry. But was certainly better than 1932, when, in the depths of the Great Depression, lumber sales totaled a meager 10 billion board feet. Seven years earlier, 1925, mills across the country sold 41 billion feet, a post-World War I high. Such were the boom and bust cycles that plagued the industry in the early 20th Century. A strong case can be made for the fact that the West’s mills never had a good year until World War II ended.
The problems confronting lumbermen before the Second World War can be boiled down to one word: overproduction. Put simply, there were too many mills sawing too much lumber. No one had any pricing power. Consequently, no one made any money. Worse, competition was brutal. In the 1920s and 1930s Big Lumber devoted almost all of its political energies to various schemes designed to reduce competition, first by attempting to voluntarily limit sawmill production and later by trying to limit access to federal timber under the banner of two publicly popular concepts: sustained yield and community stability, Populist ideas born of Depression-era hardship and widespread fears of a timber famine.
None of these schemes worked, even when Big Lumber conspired with FDR’s New Dealers under the aegis of the National Recovery Act’s Lumber Code, which the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional in two 1935 cases: the Belcher Decision and the more detailed Schlechter Case. But the court’s decision only reaffirmed the obvious: once unleashed, entrepreneurship is an unstoppable market force. But this didn’t stop Big Lumber from attempting to hijack the 1937 Oregon & California Revested Lands Act and the 1944 Sustained Yield Forest Management Act in their effort to destroy the family owned mills that got started in the early hours after the end of the Second World War. Thankfully, Truman Democrats saw through this scheme and killed it.
There isn’t enough time to tell you the whole story of how Democrats rescued the family mills, but I do want to acknowledge three men who figured prominently in the final defeat of Big Lumber’s post-war attempt to kill off the family mills: Montana born Joe McCracken, the feisty but visionary leader of the old Western Forest Industries Association; Dan Goldy, a Truman strategist and Department of Interior economist who discovered Joe while he was still a student at Princeton University, and got him a job with the BLM when he graduated, and Leonard Netzorg, Yale Law School, class of ’37, United Auto Workers Union lawyer in Detroit; New Deal strategist, Department of Interior lawyer and WFIA’s legal counsel for more than 40 years. It was Leonard who wrote the rights of way agreements that stipulated reciprocal access to federal and private timberland, breaking Big Lumber’s chokehold on the family owned mills.
By the early 1950s, Joe, Dan and Leonard had all left federal service. Dan put his economic talents to work on post-war implementation of the Marshall Plan, while Joe and Leonard joined WFIA, created out of the March 1947 merger of the old Western Association of Loggers and Lumbermen and the Pacific Lumber Remanufacturers Association.
In the early 60s, Joe and Leonard were joined by an old friend, Joe Miller: a powerful union lobbyist and JFK confidant, and in the opinion of many, the most gifted Democratic Party election strategist in modern history. Joe was WFIA’s Washington lobbyist for all of the organization’s years.
I can only think of one other time in our industry’s history when such an enormous talent pool was assembled on one stage. In the early 1900s, E.T. Allen, Bill Greeley and David Mason, Forest Service veterans all: Allen at the Western Forestry and Conservation Association, which he guided for more than 30 years, Greeley as the third chief of the Forest Service and later executive vice president of the old West Coast Lumbermen’s Association and Mason, as chief architect of sustained yield forestry through the 20’s, 30’s and 40s, and founder of one of the West’s most respected forestry consulting firms. Allen, Greeley and Mason presided over the three pieces of forestry legislation that laid the foundations for modern forestry in America: the 1924 Clarke-McNary Act, the 1937 O&C Act and the 1944 Sustained Yield Forest Management Act. The latter two are the only federal laws ever passed that specifically address sustained yield – balancing growth and harvest - as a means of achieving community stability. Progressive Era foresters advanced both concepts as a means of curbing the “cut out and get out” cycles that plagued the rural West before Congress passed the Clarke-McNary Act, which addressed both the wildfire crisis and related reforestation problems
Only one other forester has made contributions to our industry on the same scale as Allen, Greeley and Mason: Bill Hagenstein, executive vice president of the old Industrial Forestry Association and, beyond doubt, forestry’s most eloquent spokesman before the Congress for more than 30 years. When Bill graduated from the University of Washington in 1938, Greeley hired him as a WCLA field forester. No one contributed more to the reforestation of the West than Bill. Now 92, he has been my friend and my inspiration for more than 30 years.
Come forward a half century and we find the American Forest Resource Council, with which most of you are no doubt familiar, a creation of mergers that included the old Industrial Forestry Association and WFIA, fierce rivals for years in the war that raged between Big Lumber and the family-owned mills.
You could be forgiven for wondering why this now forgotten history is important to the question I have asked: Does the logging industry have a future in the New Intermountain West?
It is important because the influence and subsequent confluence of these old associations courses through every major political event leading to the vantage point we occupy this afternoon: the green-dry lumber standards feud, log exports and the subsequent creation of the SBA set aside timber sale program, contract relief and, year-after-year Forest Service appropriations that were the lifeblood of the West’s federal timber sale program, now gone the way of IFA, WFIA and so many other associations that either collapsed or fell into one another’s arms as the West’s lumber industry was decimated by a litigation, the federal Endangered Species Act and the collapse of the forest planning process itself.
So, what is it that we see from our promontory overlooking the New Intermountain West on this April afternoon?
Well, for one thing we see a smaller timber industry than the one over which Joe, Dan, Leonard, Joe and Bill presided for nearly 50 years. Since 1989 more than 400 western sawmills, plywood mills and pulp plants have gone out of business; most of them after the northern spotted owl was listed as a threatened species in June, 1990.
Gone too is the federal timber sale program they fought so hard to grow. Mills that survived its collapse now get most of their logs from lands they’ve purchased or from state, private, industrial and tribal timberlands. A few even import their logs from other countries. The Forest Service and the BLM, which once provided about 14 percent of the nation’s timber supply are no longer factors in the nation’s lumber equation – and aren’t likely to be in the foreseeable future, if ever.
From atop our promontory this bright April afternoon, we can also see that the New Intermountain west is a much different place than the Old West with which we were most familiar. A social and economic paradigm shift has occurred. I think it is fair to say that most of us are not entirely comfortable with what we see below us, but our only choice is to learn to live with it. We cannot turn back the clock.
I live in what has become one of the New West’s signature villages: postcard pretty Bigfork, Montana. Less than a thousand of us live year-round in unincorporated Bigfork, but in the summertime our lakeside community swells to about six thousand. You cannot find a place to park on either of our two streets from July 4 through Labor Day weekend. Such is the rush of tourists and summer residents anxious to spent money in our art galleries and restaurants, which are among Montana’s finest.
Real estate values have soared into the stratosphere around Bigfork. You cannot buy view acreage for less than $100,000 an acre. Lakefront runs into the millions. Spec homes on Flathead Lake routinely sell for 15 to 30 million dollars. It is even worse in Whitefish. View lots on Big Mountain – not acreage but lots – are nearing $1 million.
To see who is investing in the Flathead, go to Edwards Jet Center at our local airport. There you will see Falcon 50s, Gulfstream 5’s and Citation 10s. These private jets, which cost 25 to 50 million dollars, are the favored mode of transportation for the rich and famous.
Welcome to the New Intermountain West, with its trophy log homes, gated communities, private golf courses, wine shops, art galleries, five-star restaurants, ski resorts and its legions of telecommuters: men and women who, if they are not already retired, make their living on Internet connections that tie them to their offices in the Silicon Valley or on Wall Street. It is our wired world that makes it possible for them to live among us amid great natural splendor.
But there is trouble in paradise – and I think it may be as much our doing as it is theirs. We come from very different worlds. My own uneasy relationship with my Bigfork neighbors is a good example. I am very cautious about talking with them about what I do or my heritage in logging, mining, ranching, farming and fishing, because I don’t want to get lectured about “chopping down all the trees” or “killing the planet.”
I think my caution has been a mistake – and I’ll tell you why. Whenever I am pressed to engage my neighbors in conversation I find them to be absolutely fascinated by both forestry and logging. Yes, there are exceptions. There always are. But for most of my new neighbors, forest health is a hot topic – and doing the thinning and stand tending work necessary to reduce the risk of catastrophic fire and disease – is for them a no-brainer. They seem to understand both the problem and its solution.
It’s true that not everyone who is moving into the New West sees the forest health issue as a clarion call for foresters and loggers to swing into action. We still face terrible problems with appellants and litigants, particularly here in Region 1 where timber sales holding some 475 million board feet of desperately needed timber are tied up in appeals and litigation.
But the wildfire crisis that now grips much of the West is causing a sea change in thinking among many environmentalists – leaders who now question the advisability if not the ecological rationale for the Sierra Club’s “Zero Cut” campaign. I first saw this while reporting from northern Arizona in 1999 and 2000, and then after the 2002 Rodeo-Chediski Fire, a colossus that came within a block or two of destroying picturesque Show Low, a resort community in northern Arizona that is a summertime retreat for the wealthy and politically well connected from Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tucson, the folks who can afford summer homes in northern Arizona’s cooler summer environs.
Rodeo-Chediski was a huge wakeup call for Show Low’s summer residents. It was their anger and their insistence that something be done to protect northern Arizona’s beleaguered ponderosa pine forests that caused many environmentalists to conclude that “Zero Cut” was a non-starter with the public, that the only way to pull the West’s dying forests back from the brink of ecological collapse was to do the necessary stand tending work before wildfire strikes. These environmentalists – and those who caused them to rethink “Zero Cut” - are the ones who deserve most of the credit for the fact that northern Arizona’s Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest now has the only 10-year, 100,000 acre stewardship contract in the entire nation.
I believe environmentalists got behind the A-S stewardship project for two reasons: First, the aesthetic and ecological benefits of thinning in mixed confer forests can be seen in test plots all over the Interior West. Documentation for some of these plots dates back to the early 1900s. Second, public opinion, long the basis for the enormous political power environmentalists hold, has turned against them.
I am privy to some very expensive polling and focus group work done in major U.S. cities over the last five years. In poll after poll and focus group after focus group four forest values score highest: clean air, clean water, abundant fish and wildlife habitat and a wealth of year-round recreation opportunity. These are not amenities found in the ruinous remains of fire-killed forests. But they are routinely found in forests that have been cared for, that have been the focal point of the kind of long-term thinning program for which the Intermountain West’s mixed conifer forests cry out. Public support for this kind of work runs in the high 80 percent range, a fact I suspect environmentalists have uncovered for themselves if they are doing honest polling and focus group work for their own purposes.
What’s happening here? I’m no sociologist, but I think society’s environmental values are undergoing a modest course correction. It’s possible that the same public that tossed you out of its forests in the early 1990s may soon invite you back in because they need your technology and skills, because, as they are discovering, it is much easier to regulate the logging industry than it is to regulate Mother Nature.
My old friend Leonard Netzorg had a wonderful phrase that describes society’s periodic course corrections. He called them “felt necessities,” a phrase often attributed to Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., who was famous for observing that, “The life of the law is not logic. It is experience.” Experience has taught environmentalists that “Zero Cut” is a political non-starter, that the public expects something better from them, that the preponderance of evidence suggests very strongly that caring for forests before they burn to the ground is a lot easier than picking up the pieces afterwards.
Nevertheless, I think it would be foolish for you to conclude environmentalists have thrown in the towel, or that the public wants to turn back the clock to the time when federal timber sales accounted for about 14 percent of annual log usage. I see no immediate sign that this will ever happen. Our new neighbors want a much different forest experience than the public sought in the fall of 1945 when the post-war housing boom ignited the greatest peacetime economy the world has ever seen. Clean air, clean water, abundant fish and wildlife habitat and a wealth of year-round recreation opportunity are the new felt necessities. It is their fear that these necessities will be destroyed by wildfire that has our new neighbors wanting to get to know more about us.
So, again, my question: Does the logging industry have a future in the New Intermountain West? Based on what I witnessed in Arizona, I’d say the answer to this question is a tentative “Yes.” But the final outcome depends on our ability to build relationships with our new neighbors based on trust and mutual respect. If we succeed, there will be a logging industry in the New Intermountain West. If we fail, this region’s logging industry is going to get a lot smaller because there is not enough state, tribal or private timberland in the region to support all of you.
Potlatch, Stimson, Plum Creek, state forests and tribes will keep some of you busy because they have land, but many of you won’t make it. And as you fall beside the road, the critical mass - the synergy if you will – that is vital to the efficiency, competitive strength and profitability of all lumber markets will begin to disappear from this region, which is a round-about way of saying the family owned sawmill industry that grew in the Intermountain West after World War II will be gone.
What will also be gone are public options for managing the Intermountain region’s desperately ill national forests – and herein lays your greatest selling point. It’s unlikely that the Apache Sitgreaves stewardship contract I described a few moments ago will succeed, because the meager sawmilling infrastructure that remains in the Southwest is incapable of sustaining a 10-year contract. But in western Montana, northern Idaho, eastern Oregon and eastern Washington, we still have the cultural, intellectual and investment capital needed to rescue our great federal forests from fiery deaths. But we will fail without the equally important political and intellectual capital our new neighbors bring to the table. So let me suggest that it is time for us to get acquainted with them. Let me also suggest that the perfect vehicle for getting to know and trust one another is the stewardship contract.
Stewardship contracting – and its quite notable success on the Seeley Lake Ranger District – brings me to the second question I have for you this afternoon. Is there a reason there are not at least two10-year, 100,000 acre stewardship contracts on every national forest in Region One – on every national forest in the New West? If there is a reason, I don’t what it is.
Stewardship contracts are the perfect tools for addressing myriad forest health problems on ecologically and socially meaningful scales. But to make them work, you have to get your new neighbors to agree. This will take time and it will cost money, but if you want to stay in business, you don’t have any alternatives. If this reality wasn’t clear to you before, it should have been after the Ninth Circuit Court’s recent Lolo Decision. Unless I’ve miscalculated, the entire Region One timber sale program for fiscal 2006 won’t top 90 million board feet.
Clearly, Montana’s wood products industry, which utilizes about 850 million board feet annually, is standing on the precipice - and the state’s seven surviving family mills now form a house of cards. How or if they will survive the Ninth’s decision is an unanswered question.
Last week, I told SAF members in Montana that I believe the loss of one more family owned mill may force Smirfit-Stone to pull the plug on its linerboard plant at Missoula. If they do, the mill residue market will collapse, meaning the surviving mills will have no efficient way to dispose of their chips, fines and sawdust – the very mill residues from which linerboard is most efficiently made. The linerboard-mill residue story, unglamorous though it is, is a perfect example of the synergy – the glue – that has held Montana’s timber industry together – and made it profitable –for generations.
In Idaho, the situation is less precarious because there is more private and state-owned timberland from which to harvest timber. Even so, the federal government is by far Idaho’s largest timberland owner, and Idaho federal forests are arguably in worse shape than Montana’s, so all those newcomers moving into Boise, McCall, Sandpoint and Coeur d’Alene are facing the same problem we face in Montana, the same problem that persists in the Southwest, Colorado, Wyoming, eastern Oregon and Washington, northern California and South Dakota’s Black Hills. We either thin our overstocked and dying forests or we lose them: a felt necessity.
Moreover, Idaho’s timberland base is not so large or diverse that the Ninth Circuit Court decision will have no impact on its mills. Competition for increasingly scarce logs could easily set off a bidding war pitting Idaho and Montana mills against one another, a reminder of Bill Greeley’s warning from his seminal 1917 report on the instability of the West’s fiercely competitive sawmilling industry. “Competition,” he wrote, “is not only keen, but often destructive.”
Your conference theme – Sustaining Communities through Professionalism and Forest Stewardship – strings together the words that appear to be the cornerstones or at least the driving forces behind the paradigm shift we are witnessing with the emergence of the New Intermountain West: sustainability, community, forests and professionalism. But just what is sustainability, what constitutes a community, what is a forest and who has the right to claim he or she is a professional in the art and science of managing land?
Sustainability lies in the eye of the beholder, a community can be a town or a group of people who share common values and goals – and a forest can be almost anything you want it to be. You and I would recognize the incredible diversity in plants, insects, reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals in a two-year-old clearcut. Our new neighbors would see no such thing. For many of them, old growth forests are the only legitimate forests.
Frankly, I don’t have a problem with the fact that we don’t see forests through the same eyes. My problem is with watching forests die and burn in horrific wildfires long before they would otherwise die of old age. Every fire ecologist I know agrees that much of the stress related mortality we are witnessing in Intermountain mixed conifer forests could be postponed for centuries if we were only doing the necessary thinning and stand tending work.
It’s clear our new neighbors – many of them committed environmentalists -are finally coming to grips with this truth, so if ever there was a time to start a conversation that time is now. And we ought to be up front with them about our motives: tell them straight away that our mission is to conserve our cultural, intellectual and investment capital, our way of life, a way of life that it inextricably tied to forests we now share with them. We can help each other sustain our felt necessities. Borrowing from the wisdom of essayist and novelist Wendell Barry, “The earth is what we have in common.”
The scientific help we will need to make good decisions, to help build trust and respect for one another, is readily available in most universities across the West: the University of Montana, Montana State, the University of Idaho, Northern Arizona University, Oregon State University and both universities in Washington: GIS mapping and vegetation monitoring tools and harvest simulators that display the visual, qualitative and quantitative results of various harvesting regimes using technologies every bit as powerful as the Internet Highway that brought our new neighbors into our midst.
When I spoke to SAF members last week I said I thought stewardship contracts ought to be awarded to any and all reputable groups. I would not leave anyone out, not even the Sierra Club or the Center for Biological Diversity. If they’d like to take on a few hundred thousand acres of overstocked and dying timber and turn it into something the public can appreciate and enjoy, more power to them. Lord knows there is more than enough of this kind of work in the Intermountain West for all comers.
I’d also like to see our Indian friends take a crack at some of this work. The thinning and stand tending work they are doing in their own forests is easily the most impressive underway anywhere in the West today. We can all learn some valuable spiritual, economic and ecological lessons from them.
And to give skeptical citizens a better understanding of their options, I’d like to see lots of different thinning techniques tried side by side. But whatever the technique, it is vital that it be tested on a large enough piece of real estate, for a long enough period of time, to be ecologically and economically meaningful. None more one or two-year, five, 10 or 20-acre test plots; we have enough of them, some dating back nearly a hundred years. Now it’s time to get on with it in a way that allows many diverse groups to acquire and manage their own stewardship contracts for a decade or more. The more diverse the groups the better, so why not engage the Nature Conservancy, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the Conservation Fund and all of the other big non-profits that profess concern for the environment? You have the technology, skill, experience and product markets they need to succeed, and they have the conservation legacy and political clout you need to survive and prosper.
I’m sure some of you, perhaps many of you, think these ideas are dubious at best. Don’t sell yourselves short. You have too much to offer to let foolish pride get in your way. And don’t sell the opportunity short either. Remember the biblical instruction: for every door that closes another opens.
Recently, biologist Mitch Friedman, a founding member of the Wildlands Project and a tree-sitter in his youth, penned a quite remarkable essay titled “The Forest Service is Dead; Long live the Forest Service!” in which he talked about some of the things I’ve suggested here this afternoon. And while his essay contains the usual amount of Bush bashing, he also holds out an olive branch, acknowledging that environmentalists should, in his words, “push to thin overgrown stands before they get charred. We need to get better at advocating for restoration logging before the fire,” he declares.
We have been saying this on Evergreen pages since 1989. And we were not the first. The first was a forester named Harold Weaver, who wrote about his concerns for excluding fire from the West’s ponderosa pine forest types in a 1943 Journal of Forestry article. But by then, the Forest Service had done such a magnificent job of selling the public on the evils of wildfire that using fire as a management tool was out of the question. Mr. Weaver was roundly criticized for even suggesting that wildfires that posed no major risks ought to be allowed to burn themselves out. Now even Mr. Friedman concedes that many western forests have grown too dense to permit the use of prescribed fire before thinning occurs.
Mr. Friedman also acknowledges that, in recent years, the Forest Service has, in his words, been “critically hampered by process.”
“This is not because the National Environmental Policy Act requires the agency to publish a library even for timber projects that warrant no public concern,” he writes. “It is because we noble conservationists, during 30 years of defense of our wild country, pummeled the agency bureaucrats into thinking that’s what NEPA requires. A lot of paperwork that is necessary when a federal agency proposes to harm the environment is not necessary for beneficial projects. Red tape should not get in the way of protecting the environment. Conservation groups must demonstrate this or suffer the consequences. If we want our forest ecosystems restored, we must now disabuse the Forest Service of the inefficiencies we helped impose. We must rescue the Forest Service by becoming its friend, its ally and its core constituency.”
Mr. Friedman thus characterizes the course correction society appears to have made in western forests as a battle for the soul of the Forest Service. If it is, I don’t know who he will be battling. I say this because I don’t know anyone in the timber industry who has much interest in battling the Forest Service on any level. For that matter, I can’t name a single mill west of the Cascades in Oregon and Washington that has much interest in ever again doing business with a federal government they no longer trust. Oh sure, they’ll buy a federal timber sale if wood quality is good and the price is right, but these companies aren’t investing their capital in new technologies because they think the federal timber sale program will magically reappear. They’re doing it to remain competitive in the increasingly global marketplace for high quality lumber products.
I think Mr. Friedman’s real battle will be for the soul of radical environmentalists holed up in Missoula, Eugene and Tucson who are still suing the sox of the Forest Service and the BLM. If he can win this battle, I think the family owned mills that remain in the West would be happy to help him meet his forest restoration goals. But in its decision to reduce payments to forest counties by 50 percent the Congress has signaled its unwillingness, if not its inability, to subsidize large scale forest restoration projects. Put simply, these often very expensive projects are going to have to pay their own way; which means that some commercially valuable timber is going to have to be included in stewardship contracts, which means environmentalists need to re-think diameter limits, for economic as well as ecological reasons. The goal should not be to create old growth forests. The goal should be to create functioning, biologically diverse forests, which means forests that contain as much age, structural and species diversity as possible, including but not limited to old growth.
My time with you is about up. As is my custom, I will close out with words of wisdom from people who are a lot smarter than I am. Listen first to essayist and novelist, Wendell Barry, a Kentucky farmer, naturalist and English professor; from his new book, “The Way of Ignorance.”
“We are destroying our country; I mean our country itself, our land. Since the beginning of the conservation effort in our country, conservationists have too often believed that we could protect our land without protecting the people. This has begun to change, but for a while yet we will have to reckon with the old assumption that we can preserve the natural world by protecting wilderness areas while we neglect or destroy the economic landscapes – the farms and ranches and the working forests – and the people who use them. That assumption is understandable in view of the worsening threats to wilderness areas, but it is wrong. If conservationists hope to save even the wildland and wild creatures, they are going to have to address the issues of economy, which is to say issues of the health of landscapes and the towns and the cities where we do our work, and the quality of that work and the well-being of the people who do that work.”
Now these words from my 1990 interview with writer and philosopher Alston Chase, who wrote “Playing God in Yellowstone,” in my mind the seminal book on the philosophical underpinnings of the Deep Ecology movement.
“Environmentalism increasingly reflects urban perspectives. As people move to cities, they become infatuated by fantasies of land untouched by humans. This demographic shift is revealed through ongoing debates about endangered species, grazing, water rights, private property, mining and logging. And it is partly a healthy trend, but this urbanization of environmental values also signals the loss of a rural way of life, and the disappearance of hands-on experience with nature. So the irony: as popular concern for preservation increases, public understanding about how to achieve it declines.”
And then there is Alan Houston’s homily, which I have repeated dozens of times since we walked the Cumberland Plateau together that brilliant October morning in 1996:
“When we leave forests to nature, as so many people seem to want to do, we get whatever nature serves up, which can be pretty devastating at times, but with forestry we have options, and a degree of predictability not found in nature.”
Now Tom Friedman, from his remarkable new book, “The World is Flat:”
“The pie keeps growing because things that look like wants today are needs tomorrow,” argues Marc Andreessen, the Netscape cofounder, who helped to ignite a whole new industry, e-commerce, that now employs millions of specialists around the world, specialists whose jobs weren’t even imagined when Bill Clinton became president. I like going to coffee shops occasionally, but now that Starbucks is here, I need my coffee, and that new need has spawned a whole new industry. “If you believe human wants and needs are infinite,” said Andreessen, “then there are infinite industries to be created, infinite businesses to be started, and infinite jobs to be done, and the only limiting factor is the human imagination.”
Voices in the winds of change make clear the fact that experience has again altered our society’s felt necessities, creating perhaps our last opportunity to establish relationships with our new neighbors based on mutual trust and respect. It’s clear some of them have done some soul searching. Painful though it may be, it’s our turn now.