Over the past 50 years, approximately half the world’s original forest footprint has been lost, now covering less than a third of the planet’s landmass. Forests are complex ecosystems providing homes to many creatures with whom we are meant to share the earth. Forests use photosynthesis to convert light energy into chemical energy producing carbohydrates by synthesizing carbon and water. The byproduct of this process is oxygen, hence forests are referred to as the “lungs of the planet”. Forests also provide us with clean water through filtration and by trapping silt to allow our streams to run clear. In short, in exchange for their sizable environmental footprint, i.e, the space they take up on the planet, forests return two things we cannot live without, clean air and water.
It is truly unfortunate and very probably threatens the survival of our species that the quintillion dollar, dare I say “priceless” infrastructure nature provided only has value in a pure capitalist society if it is extracted and cut down. When I listened to Douglas County commissioner, Joe Laurance, during a meeting with the BOC this week snarl about “do nothing environmentalists” and proudly assert that “in our forests we don’t care how many birds are in there” I had to grip my chair to avoid throwing my pen at him.
Recently we have heard a lot about shoring up and developing “traded-sector businesses” from economic development agencies like the Port of Coos Bay and SCDC. The premise is reasonable enough on the surface in that we should export or trade goods in order to import wealth to boost the local economy. Conversely, if we import less and trade locally we will retain more wealth which will also help the economy. Currently, the county imports almost 100% of its fuel and electrical energy needs thereby enriching foreign shareholders and depleting local purses. The county has the equivalent of billions of barrels of oil under the ground in the form of renewable solar and wind energy resources. Another way to retain local wealth would be to buy locally grown foods and to avoid patronizing big box stores and stop eating at fast food franchises. As a friend of mine pointed out recently, “if you are worried about the trade imbalance, stop shopping at Walmart!”