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Quality of Life



The article by Thadeus Greenson on the county's General Plan Update ("The GPU," March 13) was both interesting and revealing. I found the comments of the county's planning director, Kevin Hamblin, especially apropos. Hamblin acknowledges that "people like living here" and are very protective of our physical surroundings. But he adds that people also leave the county due to the lack of opportunity and "economic growth is always a top priority for policy makers." From my perspective the debates surrounding the update language represent two competing theories of economic development.

The "Resource Extraction Theory of Economics" assumes that extraction and export of natural resources form the "base" of the economy and all other economic activity derives from that base.

In contrast, the "Quality of Life Theory" (from a 1995 report by The Wilderness Society) assumes that job creation is driven primarily by entrepreneurial activity and entrepreneurs and residents make location decisions based, in part, on quality of life.

The quality of life theory views the environment as more than a repository of raw materials. The environment also keeps existing residents and their businesses from leaving while attracting new people and businesses. People are, quite simply, seeking a pleasant environment in which to live and do business.

Under the quality of life theory, the first rule of economic development is "preservation of environmental amenities."

Today, economic success depends on an increased application of human resources, of skilled professionals who add value to natural resources (e.g., furniture making, nature tourism). The key difference between low-wage and high-wage service jobs will be education.

We must seek a "win-win" scenario that supports positive links between environment and development resulting in environmental improvement at the same time as positive income growth.

Michael Sweeney, Ferndale

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