31 December 2014

Common Ground of the Pacific Northwest

Welcome to the land where environmentalists provide more timber jobs than the logging industry.

For years, the increasing mechanization of logging has stripped away tree-falling and mill jobs in Washington state and Oregon. Work that used to require dozens can now be done by a handful. In contrast, this article demonstrates how the environmental movement can increase logging jobs while addressing important environmental issues.

In summary, the story documents how Oregon Wild, a regional environmental group, enlisted loggers and a mill in John Day, Oregon, to thin forests at risk from wildfires. The thinning reduces fuel for the fires. It has also kept John Day's Malheur Lumber mill going, led to the hiring of more mill workers, and produced a 10-year contract for a local logging company.

The impacts of collaboration in this story are amazing. Some of the old hostilities between environmentalists and loggers are still apparent in the article's quotes, but they serve more as testaments to the power of common ground to overcome major political and social obstacles. Perhaps the most powerful realization is that once the ice was broken, innovative ideas like using logging for conservation purposes and developing ongoing partnerships flowed freely. When we are able to let go of positions that keep us apart, we can achieve a lot.

The partnership between environmentalists, loggers, and the mill in Oregon shows how finding common ground and new ideas can revitalize public discussions, help resolve conflicts, and result in a better world.

19 December 2014

The Maturity of Optimism

The environmental and political worlds are aflutter over the optimism of Washington state.

Although it's usually associated with children, fantasy, and naïve behavior, optimism is what allows us to grow. It brings with it the confidence to face major challenges, seek new ways of thinking, and do what is said to be impossible.

On the other hand, it takes no real effort or talent to find reasons something cannot be done, especially when faced with difficult, complex issues. We've heard "can't" so many times on environmental issues that you'd think it were the name of some species or chemical compound. The combination of pessimism and cynicism that breeds (or yields) "can't" poisons our collective decision-making processes and clouds our lives. It certainly isn't inspirational, and it isn't productive either, meaning it's neither youthful nor mature.

This week, Governor Jay Inslee showed the possibility and productivity of optimism by proposing the Carbon Pollution Accountability Act, a cap-and-trade system that would make Washington the world leader in limiting carbon pollution, address costs for low-income families, contribute to public education, and provide funding for transit infrastructure that would reduce the need for cars. Simply put, it is the smartest, most exciting thing I've seen come to the political side of environmental issues. For a full recap and breakdown of Governor Inslee's proposed program, check out this article from the Sightline Institute.

The best part of knowing your limits is waving as you leave them behind.