I was driving through Aberdeen this weekend for a work conference and got to thinking about the interesting relationship between environmental stewardship and economic growth. Aberdeen and the surrounding communities were once part of a thriving economy, with most of that success attributed to timber companies like Weyerhaeuser.
It has been a couple of decades since the spotted owl controversy began. Once the owl was named an endangered species, the timber industry in Grays Harbor largely came to an abrupt halt. Suddenly, several plants around the area were closing down. Workers were losing their jobs, and families were left destitute. The economy in Aberdeen has never recovered and the spotted owl is still dying off.
This brings up a few questions: what could we have done differently to promote both the economy and the protection of the spotted owl in Aberdeen—since now, we are protecting neither? Instead of an outright ban, maybe giving incentives for protecting certain areas would have been ideal. Since the spotted owl is becoming more and more endangered, maybe the timber industry was not to blame. I spoke with families who had lost their livelihood from this situation, and they never recovered.
It brings up the ideal of ethics and the environment. It is a difficult relationship between the two, because both the environment and the economy are so critically important. I was thinking of the nudges article in relation to this. Maybe if Grays Harbor had taken part in an advertising campaign saying that spotted owl protection and economic growth through the timber industry were not mutually exclusive. Or maybe if there were a wildlife refuge for these owls and timber could still be sustainably harvested in other areas. I do not have a solution for this problem, but I find the relationship between environmental stewardship and economic growth and interesting one.