Protect the environment, grow the economy

During this election year, the economy seems to be at the forefront of everyone's mind. One of the looming questions is what can be done to create jobs. Some members of the General Assembly claim that if we are to have jobs we must sacrifice the health of our environment by cutting environmental protections and dismantling the organizations that safeguard our health, such as the Environmental Management Commission.

Advocates of such strategies, however, are missing the full picture.

The N.C. Chamber of Commerce reports that last year, Western North Carolina attracted $2.4 billion in tourist spending. Slashing environmental safeguards would jeopardize the more than 26,000 jobs generated by tourism. These jobs — and our local economy — rely on the state's natural beauty and the health of our mountains, rivers, forests and communities to draw in visitors from out of state.  According to the N.C. Chamber of Commerce, without the jobs created by tourism, North Carolina’s unemployment level could be as high as 15 percent.

Those who think that prosperity can only come by trading away our health and environment have got it wrong. Instead of choosing between protecting our environment and growing our economy, we should choose to protect our environment to grow our economy.

— Stephen Van Gordon

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