Despite the frequent conflict between pro-business and pro-environment forces, it’s a historical oddity that Republicans were the midwives of environmentalism. The EPA was founded under Richard Nixon’s leadership
and the National Parks were founded by Teddy Roosevelt
. Or maybe it isn’t that odd, since many conservatives — whose name comes from the same place we get the word “conservation” — know that pro-business and pro-environmental policies are not mutually exclusive.
“The nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased; and not impaired in value,” are Roosevelt’s words etched in stone. “Conservation means development as much as it does protection.”
Indeed, long-term, enlightened motivations for a successful business can actually be better for the environment, particularly when they coincide with pro-environmental policies that protect everyone from bad actors.
Take a logging company. Unlike the paranoid, unintelligent ramblings of The Lorax, logging companies actually don’t want to destroy all forests and leave the Earth a barren, lifeless husk. If there are no more trees, then they are out of business. It’s in a logging company’s own interest to replace old trees with new ones, ensuring their own livelihood, and continuing the circle of life.
And new trees — or second-growth forests — are vital for rejuvenating the atmosphere and keeping the Earth healthy. As was found in a 2016 study, “Woodland areas that regrow after forest fires, logging operations or other disturbances can sequester huge amounts of carbon dioxide and they play an unexpectedly valuable role in mitigating climate change.”
The benefits of second-growth forests have long been overlooked, because there was so little data on them, but now climate scientists know that “any forest that is cut and allowed to regrow naturally in Latin America will double its carbon storage capacity within 20 years and increase that storage by 120 percent in 40 years.”
A much greater problem environmentally isn’t big logging companies, but illegal loggers (yes, there are people worse than corporations) who just rape the land, not make sure it endures.
Illegal logging is a multi-billion dollar criminal activity where timber is extracted unlawfully for products like roundwood, paper, and furniture, according to a WWF factsheet. Not only does deforestation from illegal logging do environmental damage, but it hurts business as well — depressing world timber prices by as much as 16 percent. This deprives legally operating U.S. firms of at least $460 million a year and threatens the livelihood of the almost 1 million people employed by the U.S. lumber industry.
Looking at the global picture — where illegal logging threatens forests from the Amazon to the Russian Far East — the World Bank estimates that the practice deprives logging companies of $10 to $15 billion a year, plus $5 billion in lost tax revenues to governments.
Illegal logging is bad for business and the environment. Poaching animals has been a concern for years, but now we can add poaching trees to the list as well.
A particularly disturbing trend is how militarized poachers have become. From 2002-2014, almost 1,000 forest rangers were killed combating illegal loggers, according to Global Witness, a nonprofit that exposes environmental abuse. Given that many parts of the world where this goes on are less open than the U.S., we have to assume that this number is low.
A flash-point for this problem is Cambodia, a very poor country which is feeding China’s “insatiable demand for rosewood timber to be turned into luxury furniture … valued at a whopping $2 billion,” according to the Phnom Penh Post. Four journalists following the illegal logging and fishing industry have been murdered in Cambodia, the world’s most dangerous country for environmental reporting.
Despite promises of government action, the illegal logging continues. Immoral behavior is fairly easy to get away with in Cambodia, as the Netflix series “Dark Tourist” highlights in one episode where we see visitors can pay to shoot animals with heavy artillery on a shooting range backed by the Cambodian Army.
Given the contentious spirit in Washington these days, and the unending conflicts fomented by social media and clickbait journalism, the idea of parties coming together to create win-win solutions seems almost impossible. But combatting illegal poaching, fishing, and logging is something that is both pro-business and pro-environment.
While the last 10 years have seen more “nation building here at home” than a desire for foreign aid, U.S. government efforts to fight these practices abroad, through agencies such as USAID, are valuable investments the government needs to continue funding. That would make Richard Nixon and Teddy Roosevelt proud.
Jared Whitley is a long-time politico who has worked in the U.S. Congress, White House, and defense industry. He is an award-winning writer, having won best blogger in the state from the Utah Society of Professional Journalists (2018) and best columnist from Best of the West (2016). He earned his MBA from Hult International Business School in Dubai. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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