Sunday, January 25, 2015

There are two types of people building wealth in Texas

There are two types of Texans out there trying to build wealth. One set are the extractors. They see Texas as a bottomless well of fossil fuel to exploit and our Texas habitat as a bottomless pit into which you can cast off anything: spill oil here and there; leak off gas wellhead gases any old time, and be cavalier about fracking waste water. The extractors have a frame of mind there will always be enough water because you can afford to pay more for it… and too much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere? plants love it!

They equate the money they can make as good for Texas; the higher the profits, the higher the income generated, the better off Texas is. They are like gamblers who always add up their winning and never track their losses. The extractors inextricably link what is good for their wallets right now with what is best for Texas. They feel that they are building the “Texas Miracle” and that unnecessary worry about fracking issues, or air quality issues, or concern about legacy trees, are an endangerment to making money. I am taking words out of Governor Greg Abbott’s mouth.

We will return to the extractors in a bit, but we need to understand the people who are working to make Texas a richer and wealthier home by working to protect Texas’ water and air and environment. This 2nd group of Texans figure that the true wealth and prosperity in Texas is inextricable from the value created by beautiful vistas, unpolluted by haze from burning fossil fuels; and by natural landscapes, verdant and thriving; and from access to safe clean water and air that does not make Texans sick or sicker.

Here is a video with Texans working to build the intrinsic wealth and vitality of Texas for future generations. They certainly are not putting any money in their own pockets doing this. but they are enjoying themselves because they have a vision of a verdant and beautiful Texas. As you watch this video you will see the intersection of the extractors and the intervention of the builders, and what they are building for future generations.

And so you might think that preserving beautiful vistas or keeping clean water is an esoteric subject, but it comes down to real dollars and cents. People will venture out to these grasslands and marvel at the natural beauty, year after year, century after century, and motels and bed and breakfasts will accommodate these visitors and these visitors, drawn by the natural beauty, will support the small business owners that cater to them. This is economic growth that is good for communities, and sustainable into the future.

Compare that to the vistas in Midland, TX where extraction is the core economic activity. Now, lets get this straight. Oil has been really good for the World. And there are spaces where oil extraction makes great sense. Midland is a perfect place for it.
There is a long history of oil extraction in Midland. Some wells are played out. Pumpjacks work to lift the remnants of liquid gold to the surface. Someday, they will be gone and MIdland will have a new economy and a museum dedicated to oil drilling and extraction. 
There is space in Texas for both extractors and builders. We just need a caretaking spirit to achieve minimum environmental impact. We are not getting that from the extractors. We are not getting that from the state regulating agencies.

Doesn’t make it not the right thing to do.

And, when the last oil plays out: please understand the era of oil in Midland will be a brief part of Midland’s history- the builders will return to Midland, and the oil derricks will be taken down and the oil patches cleaned up and the soils restored. All at a cost not from the pocket of the extractors. But it will happen anyway.

I am sure a few derricks will be enshrined; there will be an oil history museum for sure. Midland soils will be cleaned of hydrocarbon spils, and the broken glass from 10 million broken beer and whiskey bottles will be raked up and Midland will build a new legacy and the hydrocarbons will evaporate and the smell of gas and oil will fade away.

And Midland will prosper with economic activities built around the creativity of people building sustainable assets and wealth.

Lets take a lesson from our own Trinity River.

The forks of the Trinity river right here in Fort Worth are a great example. This river has been a convenient dumping place for over a century, and because it was a dumping ground we turned our backs to it, ditched it to get it out of the way.

We have turned our backs on a valuable resource. I know of one business in Fort Worth that is even a bit focused on the river and that is the Woodshed Smokehouse.

Now imagine a pristine river, devoid of trash, not polluted with feces, not filled with tires and detritus of people in a hurry. And imagine the exotic animal life and fish life that would flourish there. And people would journey to Fort Worth and Dallas to fish, to observe the wildlife and spend money.

The Trinity River is an economic asset if we do more building. We have to stop the extracting first. We have to decide to catalog the points of pollution and clean them up and then support the river as an asset rather than just a nuisance.

Did you miss the Trinity River Images controversy?

There was a recent controversy in Fort Worth surrounding a photo exhibit of the Trinity River. The  exhibit, called  “Meet Me at the Trinity,” ws  created by Terry Evans, a renowned landscape photographer brought in by the Amon Carter Museum of American Arts for a fresh perspective.on the Trinity. Some were shocked by her images.,, but the images told a vivid story of a Trinity river ditched, a river ignored, a river abused.  Bud Kennedy handled the story with eloquence in the Star Telegram.

Many people were upset to see real images of the river rather than touched up and soft focus: magical photos to put the best light on things. but we really do need to start with reality. Anywhere else and you are making stuff up.

We need builders. And to start building you need to deal with reality. Imagine what we can do together. More places to live focused right on the river, more convenient points to watch the wildlife, more restaurants and coffee shops that overlook its banks. People would want to live in homes and apartments and stay in hotels that gave the best proximity to the river.

That Trinity river would be a sustainable and vibrant economic zone for the area into perpetuity. It only takes a few extractive maneuvers to make a few bucks and taint the river from that time forward.

We need builders.

Investing in a clean river makes economic sense. Investing in the river makes for a stronger community. Rather than be separated from and turned away from… a clean and natural Trinity river would be an economic legacy that would support many small businesses and provide many more opportunities. It really is dollars and sense. There is an opportunity cost involved when expediency creates damage to natural assets like the Trinity river.

But we have trouble counting what is important. We can figure out the cost of actually having to dispose of an old car vs. pushing it off a cliff into the environment.

So the legacy of Texas will be written around the activities of the extractors and the builders. Which do you want to be?
What are you going to do about it?

When you feel like jumping in and helping protect our wild spaces; there are ample opportunities to get your hands dirty, have a spiritual experience, and make some great new friends.

The Lone Star Sierra Club would welcome your support. The Greater  Fort Worth Sierra Club has plenty of outings to and projects that can use your help. The Dallas Sierra Club might be a good fit depending on your location or your predilections.

You can join the Friends of the Tandy Hills Natural Area. They have a lot of fun building for a future where the prairie again takes a hold in North Texas. They have projects going on there on a regular basis.

You help is certainly needed to raise a voice and protect the Great Trinity forest from the marauders, and the insensitive and mistake prone- city of Dallas government. Here are more details of the struggle for the vitality of the Great Trinity Forest in this article from the Dallas News.

The wild in North Texas needs your support. The lovers of concrete and manicured lawns are running rampant.

Feel free to add your thoughts here.

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