Economy vs. environment?


Few stories highlight the standoff between environmentalists and the economy better than this month’s Smithsonian article, On California’s Coast, a Farewell to King Salmon.

The salmon have disappeared and jobs have disappeared right along with it. In the past, large declines have been attributable to significant events. But not this time.

Said Jason Peltier, deputy manager of the sprawling Westlands Water District, which supplies hundreds of farms in the Central Valley. “That’s their (environmental groups) agenda. I can’t understand how they get away with it. I can’t understand how [the groups] push a fish-and-nature-first agenda at the expense of human socioeconomic conditions.”

Probably because the two are linked, the story goes:

“The kings’ spawned-out carcasses nourish not only the baby salmon that will take their place but also living things up and down the food chain, stimulating whole ecosystems. Salmon-rich streams support faster-growing trees and attract apex predators like bears and eagles. In certain California vineyards, compounds traceable to salmon can be found in zinfandel grapes.”

Does the environment and the economy always have to clash? An answer comes from what many might consider an unlikely source, a group of Republicans, specifically Republicans for Environmental Protection.

Professor Stephen Meyer of MIT rated all fifty states according to the strictness of their environmental protection policies. He then compared those ratings with indicators of economic health, such as overall growth, employment growth and construction growth, over a period of nearly twenty years. He found exactly the opposite of what the anti-environmentalists claimed: “States with stronger environmental policies consistently out-performed the weaker environmental states on all the economic measures.”

But that didn’t stop CNN from polling people on a question of environment vs. economy a few months ago. At the time, the environment won. One wonders what a similar poll would reveal today?