Environmentalists can be pro-development

Letter to the editor

Posted: Thursday, December 08, 2005

In Andrew Green's Dec. 5 letter of appreciation for Gov. Frank Murkowski's policies, which according to recent gubernatorial approval ratings places him in a small minority, you can cut the irony with a knife. He labels Sue Schrader's concerns in her Nov. 5 letter about the governor's actions with respect to salmon an "ill-informed rant." Yet Ms. Schrader offers five concrete examples in support of her case, while Mr. Green offers none for his. So which letter is ill-informed?

The examples Ms. Schrader offers in her "cartoon-like portrayal" (in Mr. Green's words) aren't fictions. They are realities that cannot be washed away with empty rhetoric. Neither can the reality that the antiquated, develop-at-all-costs ideology that has historically been prominent in Alaska and elsewhere is unsustainable.

A truly healthy resource-based economy is based not only on the extraction of resources but also the enjoyment of them. For example, we all know that tourism brings in more economic benefits in Southeast Alaska than logging or mining. We also know that irresponsible development of one resource can place others in jeopardy, such as when large-scale logging threatens the ecological areas that attract tourists, or when proposed mixing zone regulations threaten salmon fishing, one of the pillars of Southeast Alaska's economy.

It is odd that Mr. Green unduly extrapolates Ms. Schrader's legitimate concerns about clearcutting and threats to salmon as "publicly assaulting" all "pro-development Alaskans." It seems to be an instance of extreme language being used in place of hard evidence. He assumes that environmentalists cannot be pro-development. I think we should reflect on just what "pro-development" means. Does it mean advocating development at the expense of everything else or advocating development in harmony with social and environmental principles? In the past, it has too often been the former. In the future, it will need to be the latter. Kayaking up to Skagway will be a tempting idea when the spring comes.

Jeff Brubaker


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