The Edgeworth Box is both an ode to the Washington and Oregon’s public lands, as well as an exploration of the how to balance society’s needs with the limited resources of that land. These boxes are my attempt to communicate my own connection to different places in the Northwest, and a way to contextualize those places within the larger debate of how the West's land should be used.
PACIFIC NORTHWEST EDGEWORTH BOX:
The Pacific Northwest is defined by its forests, and, to many groups, by its timber. For a century, old growth forests were cut and cleared and, upon the stumps of an old world, new towns and industries flourished. Yet, this rapid extraction of resources came at the cost of efficiently functioning and healthy forest communities. In 1991, a court case dramatically reduced unsustainable logging operations inside seventeen national forests in California, Oregon, and Washington in an effort to conserve our region’s old growth forests and the species that live there. The decision quickly became a point of contention in the Pacific Northwest, as the timber industry was deeply rooted in the regional economy. Those opposed to the reduction pointed to economic forecasts that predicted a severe spike in unemployment as well as a long term regional depression.
While the localized hardship experienced by dedicated logging communities throughout the region was notable in the short term, the Pacific Northwest’s economic foundation remained robust. In fact, reducing unsustainable logging practices actually helped the region’s long run stability. Washington and Oregon not only weathered the economic fallout, but outperformed the nation in its labor market conditions throughout the 1990’s. It is a tendency for policymakers and the general population to approached policy decisions as binary, “jobs vs. environment” decisions, but this is often not the case. In fact, we have a tendency to forget the symbiotic intricacies our society shares with the land.
Future job security is dependent upon sustainable use of resources. Environmental and natural resource management in the present is very clearly linked to our welfare in the future. Examples of this relationship are abundant, and this court case isn't an exception. Irresponsible logging methods adversely impose costs on the fishing industry by shifting large amounts of sediment into watersheds and decreasing fish populations. Other costs include increased dredging of waterways, disaster relief for flooding and landslides, and forgone earnings in the tourism industry. Not all costs are easily quantifiable either. When ecosystems are damaged we also damage our region’s ability to draw skilled workers. The serene beauty of the region attracts people to the region from around the world. A major reason myself, and many others have moved to the Pacific Northwest is attributed to this unique environment. Such influxes of human capital incentivize firms to move to the region as well, providing major boosts to the labor market and overall economic health.
Admittedly, it is also necessary to acknowledge that a system of environmental policy based solely on economic self interest and profit maximization, is a system that is blatantly neglecting the wellbeing of a larger ecological community that includes both people and the land. While it is important to investigate solutions that benefit both the economy and environment, often, our own economic self interest will clash with the rights of the land and we will lack a clear solution. In cases like these, we must adapt policy rooted in ethical economic decisions and voluntary decency. Wherein our ethics are derived from both the wants and desires of both the regional population as well as the surrounding ecosystem. Our society must adapt a mentality of land stewardship rather than land ownership, because our exceedingly unique, diverse and beautiful region is an asset to conserve rather than one to exploit.
These prints are impressions of our region’s wonders and why they’re worth protecting...
Sources and further readings:
Leopold, Aldo, and Sarah Bell. "The Land Ethic." Emergence : Complexity and Organization, vol.
14, no. 1, 2012., pp. 59-86.
Niemi, Ernie, Ed Whitelaw, and Andrew Johnston. "The Sky Did Not Fall: The Pacific Northwest's
Response to Logging Reductions." ECONorthwest (1999): n. pag. Web.
Barnard, Jeff. "Logging Town Looks for New Ways to Survive : Economics: Residents of Butte Falls,
Ore., Are Struggling to Deal with the Impacts of Construction Slump and the Spotted Owl
Controversy." Los Angeles Times 5 Jan. 1992.
Brookshire, D. S., L. S. Eubanks, and C. F. Sorg (1986), Existence Values and Normative Economics:
Implications for Valuing Water Resources, Water Resour. Res., 22(11), 1509–1518,
Venkatachalam, L. "Environmental Economics and Ecological Economies: Where Can They
Converge?" Centre for Economic Studies and Policy (2006): 550-57. Web.