Certain disaster: Greenies wreck island economy by saving forest | TIDAL LIFE

Now they’ve done it: 664 acres that could be adding revenue to county coffers will forever be removed from the tax rolls. That, judging from comments I received when I previously wrote about the Whidbey Camano Land Trust’s effort to buy the Trillium land, is how some folks feel this week about the news that the campaign has succeeded.

Yep, those lazy, jobless, tree-hugging do-gooders managed to get us to donate $4 million to buy a chunk of land that could have been put to good use as McMansions. And they did this despite contribution fatigue, after we’re all tapped out from sending money to Katrina survivors, Haitian earthquake victims, Gulf state fishermen and flooded-out Pakistanis. They did it even though we spend our free time tutoring kids, weeding the Good Cheer garden and cleaning oiled sea birds. They did it right when we’re all worried about our jobs and whether our mortgages are under water. They did it even though some say Americans have no more to give. They did it at the same time that Glenn Beck was holding a rally.

It’s enough to make a stupefied Grinch’s heart swell a little bit.

But no worries. Those who didn’t support the land trust’s efforts to keep the Trillium property as open space will have more opportunities for complaining. No doubt someone will want to build an informational kiosk, and we can write letters to the editor about the asinine design. Then, if we’re lucky, somebody will float the idea of a user’s fee to pay for maintenance of the new park, and we can go off about abuse of power, unequal access and how the government always has its hand in our pockets.

It’s good to know that no matter what positive projects come to fruition, some things never change. Curmudgeons will always have something negative to say.

You’ll have to forgive my mood. I’ve got a bit of a bug up my nose this week because several times lately I’ve been accused of holding back, not going for the gusto. A couple of weeks ago a drunken Christian told me I’d never known passion.

I assume this backhanded attempt at a pass was meant to flatter rather than piss me off.

Then my son told me the other day that my articles go right up to the edge — but back down before presenting any real challenge to the reader.

That reminded me of a former writing teacher’s caveat I’d adopted as my mantra, but lapsed on lately. “If you’re not willing to dance naked on the page,” she said, “don’t waste the trees.”

The last straw was reading Ginger Strand’s essay, “The Economics of Estuary” in this month’s Orion magazine, about the convoluted efforts to put the value of reclaiming bits of the Skagit River delta for salmon habitat into monetary terms. It’s a thoughtful piece, full of well-wrought detail, personal investment, salient facts presented in an understandable fashion and dashes of wry wit. In other words, Strand hit the mark, and I’m jealous of her expertise.

I don’t think valuing nature in fiscal terms is going to turn out to be the panacea. Strand quotes an anonymous member of the Umatilla tribe: “How can I tell what the salmon are worth? The salmon define who I am.” Likewise, how can we place a value on a Whidbey Islander’s opportunity to walk outside and hear something as simple and as breathtaking as the squeaky wheelbarrow cry of a bald eagle circling overhead? The eagle and the salmon do not exist to make human life better, but they do.

Long ago, when my children were small, I sat at a Seattle traffic light and noticed that just like every other intersection in town there was a teddy bear shop on one corner and a balloon shop on the other. I thought, disaster is imminent, teddy bear and balloon shops have become the basis of our economy. Then I began noticing that news programs ended with the lead economic indicator of New Housing Starts and I had an epiphany — the health of our economy should not be based on something as volatile and damaging as building masses of stuff.

I’m not claiming that

I foresaw the advent and fallout of credit default swaps and mortgage bundling and derivatives, I’m just saying that’s when my inner tree hugger was born. That’s when I understood that a home should be valued according to the resources it saves, not the resources it consumes. And nature should be valued, period.

Way to go Whidbey Camano Land Trust. This curmudgeon can hear future orcas singing, “Hello, and thanks for all the fish.”

For more information:

“Should Nature Have a Price?” Orion, September issue — click here.

Fin Fest: On Oct. 9, Whidbey Watershed Stewards and the Orca Network present a celebration of orcas and Chinook as they return for the fall season — Click here.

Questions or comments for Tidal Life? E-mail: tidallife@whidbey.com.

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