The Gingko Tree
“Mr. Atkins is cutting down the Ginkgo right now!!!”, the Facebook page proclaimed. It was 5 December 2020, at 8:30 Eastern Standard Time, and a 200-year-old Ginkgo tree was no more. The land the Ginkgo tree stood on had been bought by a developer. While the town of Warrenton and neighbors had fought to save the tree, even committing $20,000 to pay Atkins to redesign the subdivision, the developer had ultimately declined to negotiate. This is just one example of the ongoing wars between those fighting to preserve the environment and those focused on development.
Beaufort, North Carolina
Unchecked development is the bane of many small towns. Beaufort, North Carolina is another example. Beaufort is a small, historic town, founded in the 1600s; its economy was originally based on fishing. The town’s economy gradually turned towards tourism, and with its “discovery” the population exploded. This has led to dramatically increased housing prices, pushing many of the original inhabitants out, in a process known as “gentrifying.”
Economy vs. Environment
There has been some success in negotiating the environment/development divide. As Steve Cohen of Colombia University noted, “Environmental protection itself contributes to economic growth. Somebody makes and sells the air pollution control technologies we put on power plants and motor vehicles. … The climate problem is not caused by economic growth, but by the absence of effective public policy designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” A study published in Environmental Science and Policy, on the economic development and environmental conservation efforts in Latin American countries, notes that “we observe that, in the developing Latin-American countries, the promotion of policies in order to limit pollutant emissions and resource consumptions requires enforceable rules.” The problem, in other words, is not so much that environmental conservation and economic development are contraindicated – but that they are not properly managed via public policy.