(#339) – It has always been the case that economic development must be consistent with the specific needs of the people and the environment in which it occurs. The science of Permaculture says it’s quite simply: since all wealth comes from the land and the people, all surplus should be returned to the same. This is the hallmark of our
Contained in this guidance is the foundational assumption that all the people and all the land is included with highest priority to the necessities for health, economic sufficiency and social freedom. From this perspective, many projects and attributes of projects will not qualify. Many are actually harmful or unnecessarily expensive.
Here in Sullivan County, we know that the health and economic conditions of our neighbors are very compromised and the skyrocketing costs of climate change are
becoming intolerable and unaffordable. Our health indicators are among the worst in New York State. Thousands suffer from inadequate nutrition and access to food, shelter, energy, work opportunity and a lack of a living wage.
A two-bedroom apartment goes for $900 a month or more. To afford this apart- ment, if it can be found, requires a minimum wage of $17.50/hour. That would be okay if the minimum wage of full-time workers had kept up with worker fair share of their increased productivity. In this reasonable record of economic development, a minimum wage of $30.50/hour would prevail in Sullivan County and a three bedroom apartment, home ownership or help with medical bills and college student loans, adequate transportation and better nutrition. It is just that simple.
But it did not happen. Economic fairness has declined and with it a radical
increase in those who cannot afford the basic necessities and do not experience the social freedom that is the promise of our society.
Some of the finest environmental science in the last decade has focused on Sullivan County. It indicates that environmental pollution and its negative impacts on weather, physical infrastructure and human health will increase substantially as a result of several proposed large economic development projects facilitated by local business and government. Current statements by economic development
agencies and previous research indicates that the lower wages provided to tourist and food service enterprise will prevail at levels that do not come even close to assisting our neighbors to economic sufficiency.
Leadership is needed to focus on investments in rapid expansion of production of healthy foods. The local and regional market is waiting for the product. That market will always be there and the enterprise suits our people and environment.
A more robust investment in agriculture would increase the already substantial economic benefit to tourism and other local industry as well as create a more balanced, sustainable, very attractive place to live and visit.
A second area for substantial business and government collaboration is energy efficiency materials and renewable energy technology. The true cost of the negative impacts by current energy use is measured in unnecessary death, chronic illness, and tens of millions of dollars. Energy efficiency and renewable energy are more affordable, prevent loss, pay good wages, and are locally controlled.
All new economic projects as well as existing enterprise should be evaluated in terms of net impacts. Investment and social support should not flow automatically.
It is often the case that project approval depends upon knowing net impacts as well as insisting on community benefits contributions from new developments that can be ear marked for the kind of investments listed above as well as for mandatory integration into the projects themselves.