Myth #1: “Environmental protection hurts the economy.” Fact: When a Bank of
America study reveals that economies of states on the Mainland with high
environmental standards grow consistently faster than those with week
environmental regulations, it is time for us to sit up and take note.
is one of the many research conclusions summarized in a book by Eben Fodor
titled “Better Not Bigger.” I report on some of these findings as well as my
own, since some of the Planning Commissioners, in particular, don’t seen to
have the time to keep up with the latest research in their field.
there are two prevailing attitudes now on Kaua’i. One says that sustainable
development is our only sane choice. The other says:
Myth #2: “Development
is inevitable, so why shouldn’t I cash in on it as much as I can?”
There are dozens of municipalities that have capped their population or rate of
growth by legal regulations based on real environmental limits and the real
cost of growth to their communities.
Kaua’i is in the national spotlight
as having the greatest number of endangered species, or extinct species per
land area of any place in the USA. It is also becoming known as having one of
the weakest government leaderships in the conservation area.
“Growth provides needed tax revenues.” Fact: Generally, the larger the city,
the higher the taxes to pay for all the public services. Fodor notes that
growth rarely pays it’s own way.
Myth #4: “We have to grow to provide
jobs.” New jobs rarely go to the local population. New jobs usually attract new
residents from elsewhere. There is no significant difference in unemployment
between the 25 fastest growing and 25 slowest growing US cities.
“We must subsidize business growth to have good jobs.”
Fact: Based on a US
Chamber of Commerce survey, states with the best business ratings actually have
slower growth in per capita incomes than those with the worst. Why? Probably
because “best business ratings” equals investing in business, not in
Myth #6: “If we limit growth, housing prices will shoot up.”
Fact: A 1992 study of 14 California cities, half with strong growth controls
and half with none, showed no difference in average housing prices. Some cities
with strong growth controls had the most affordable housing because they had
active low-cost housing programs.
Isn’t this a model that we on Kaua’i
should be considering? I wonder if some Planning Commissioners have any idea
what ‘growth control’ means practically. Please help educate them before it is
Myth #7: “If you don’t like growth, you are a NIMBY (not in my
back yard), an ANTI (against everything) or want to pull up the bridge after
you get here.”
Fact: Such name calling tries to hide the fact that people
who want to save the island from unsustainable development are usually
community-minded, not selfish, and offer their time voluntarily out of deep
concern for all the irreversible damage that unsustainable development
Myth #8: “Most people don’t support environmental protection.”
Fact: (Politicians take note!) Fodor cites polls from all over the country,
including country-wide polls: Those who favor environmental quality over
further economic growth almost always top 70 percent. This means that a small
group is more interested in quick, personal profit than in the protection of
long-term public assets, like the beauty and ecology of the island.
the people must take responsibility to make sure that government follows the
will of the people before our remaining resources are squandered. We have weak
laws to protect against exploitation and weak government will to enforce
Myth #9: “We have to grow or stagnate.”
many studies: Many kinds of growth cost more than the benefits they bring. The
more growth, the poorer we get (note inner cities).
Myth #10: “Vacant land
just goes to waste.”
Fact: Studies from all over show that open land pays
far more in property tax then it costs in services. Open land has many other
benefits: It cleans the air, absorbs floods, harbors wildlife, saves views and
sanity, etc. It also increases the value of land next door.
“Beauty is no sound basis for policy.”
Fact: Our industry is dependent
directly on the beauty, wildness, remoteness and authenticity of Kaua’i. Only a
foolhardy government would not protect and preserve into perpetuity this most
fundamental foundation of our primary industry.
“Environmentalists are just another special interest.”
Fact: A developer
profiting from a project is a special interest. A citizen with no financial
stake is fighting for the public interest and the environmental interest. A
viable biosphere is in everybody’s interest and the environmental interest.
Can we help government to switch from self-serving myths to facts? Only
when we all know what the facts are and insist that government stick to them.
Apathy results from government getting away with a policy of myths. This is
Arius Hopman, Businessman