Legislators should understand the ecology/economy connection

The N.C. General Assembly's recent actions show that our legislators do not understand the value of a healthy natural environment. It seems lawmakers have bought into the myth that environmental protection somehow weakens the economy. This is untrue. Legislators should understand that ecology and economy are very similar.

Think of the environment as an investment portfolio. A good portfolio is diversified, so that even if one or two assets fail, the portfolio will remain healthy and sustainable. Additionally, while an investor might spend or reinvest any profits, he/she would certainly avoid spending the principal, or else risk a downward spiral of shrinking capital and diminishing returns.

Similarly, a healthy environment is one with high biodiversity. This “diversification” helps all of nature's “clients” — from salamanders to people — and pays dividends in the form of a high quality of life for humans and wildlife. To harm the environment is to sell off our natural capital, reducing our future return on this precious investment and losing the ecosystem services that it currently provides for free.

Why should we slash the environmental safeguards that have always enriched North Carolina and its citizens? Why should we endanger the billions of dollars that our natural environment attracts each year?

I urge our legislators to please wake up to the value of our natural heritage and to act responsibly to protect it.

— Robert A. Gale
Asheville

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