Monday, November 24, 2008

Capitalism & Conservation

While I was at work today I was rolling a couple of ideas through my head.
The first was the typical obsession with running and my current injury and the impending MRI tomorrow AND the hope that I don't have a meniscal tear, etc.

But the other thought sort of made me a little sick. It isn't a new thought and I wouldn't chalk it up there with the revelatory moments of life, but it was something that was spurred by recent developments in the town I grew up in, and really is a tell tale sign of an overall American sentiment when it comes to the environment.

Recently, the town of Plymouth, MA voted to allow the beginning of planning and construction of a Movie Studio that is aimed at rivaling Hollywood, CA for American filmmaking. Where I do see this as a great opportunity for the town to gain needed tax revenue, it just brings to a head the issues that are certainly plaguing our society as a whole. If you'd like to read more about the new plan for a studio you'd do well to search the terms "Hollywood East" or "Plymouth Rock Studios".

I have to laugh because months ago the town was wrestling over zoning issues, and studying the "Environmental Impact", and using those issues as major barriers to the project and the plan. To me it just seemed like posturing and an act to appease the portion of the population that likes to wave a flag of environmental responsibility out the windows of their SUVs while bringing their kids to soccer practice. I think a better project would be to consider the countless acres of forest and open space that the town has laid waste to in the last 5 years alone to erect commerce centers in areas that were once habitats for numerous animals.

Literally, five miles apart, exist two shopping centers that have the same function. All of the ammenities of having an Olive Garden, Sam's Club, Super Walmart, Panera Bread, and the list could go on and on. I know both developments were in the same interest of generating tax revenue for the town, which seems to be the overwhelming choice for communities all over the U.S., especially when it doesn't necessarily involve directly going into tax payers pockets, but the paving of vital woodlands seems ridiculous when one takes the time to think down the chain of cause, effect, and consequence. One consequence came fairly quickly after the construction began, when people started noticing their small dogs and cats disappearing because of the residential invasion of coyotes. The reactionary result was, of course, a public outcry for a campaign to limit the coyote population, not even thinking for a second that perhaps this was all because the coyotes were displaced because developers decided one Mall was not enough, and in the process of destroying the coyote habitat, also removed their natural food sources.
Eventually people got hip to having their animals contained inside the house at night, and slowly the coyotes are starving to death.

What disgusts me even more is the push to build all of these commerce centers, movie studios, and, another pet project planned for Plymouth, a minor league baseball stadium, without even considering the economic times. The amount of spent dollars will eventually dwindle down, the promised jobs will dry up when the business goes away. Even if the slow down is partial, some businesses will still fail, and all we'll be left with is expanses of pavement and empty box stores that took as little as six months to build. Odds are there are no provisions in the contracts of these stores or centers that explains that if the businesses go under, the developer is responsible for the demolition and re-forestation of the area. I can hear the laughter over that thought! Even if trees were planted, it would take hundreds of years to regain what it took perhaps 3 months to destroy. It is embarassing.

Plymouth isn't the only place this is happening. Saugus, MA just demolished a bunch of land to build a plaza with a Trader Joe's. Five minutes up and down the road you can find numerous other commerce centers and grocery stores. Trader Joe's was basically built to appease the yuppie need for having a trendy store in the neighborhood. Even outside of Massachusetts, while we were living in the Midwest we'd drive up the interstate and see numerous areas of open space that were being converted into subdivisions and commerce centers, nearly identical to one another.

I am not saying that I am glad to see the economy slowing down because I don't want to see people lose their jobs, but the hope that some of these mega commerce centers will be passed over because they are not affordable, wouldn't be such a bad thing. Living in a free market society is wonderful, but responsible development would be great. Preservation of land shouldn't be up to special groups like land trusts and the like, it should happen out of a respect for the fact that once a piece of land is stripped and paved, it is VERY difficult to ever bring that back to wilderness in our lifetime.

Just thinking out loud...


Pathfinder said...

More people should think like you Rob.....problem is they don't think ahead...past the dream of making all kinds of others expense.

I agree with you but appearantly not enough people do. Yes there needs to be progress but serious and reasonable thought should acompany it.

We have a Mall up here in Maine that has grown too now oputweighs the population so all the stores are struggling and the whole complex is in trouble....there is only so much spending and too many stores.

I can quickly count at least 30-35eating establishments in or around the mall.....takes a lot of people to support that

Dan said...

We live in a society of greed. So many people are out to make money regardless of the consequences. I wish the government was as concerned about protecting the environment as they are protecting the shady executives on Wall St.