Katherine and Michael McCoy lament the lack of entrepreneurial spirit of the folks of rural Utah and chastise Westerners in general for a lack of excitement about the changes sweeping through the economies and landscapes of the West (HCN, 6/23/97).
The McCoys seem to suggest that we in the rural West should put on a happy face and embrace the radical changes confronting us. They also note that the only possible objection to the new icon of tourism is based on ideology. But not everyone is equipped to start a successful small business after a lifetime career of driving a tractor or running a chainsaw.
Take, for instance, my neighbor, who was recently freed from punching a time clock after 30-plus years, when our local multinational closed up shop. Should he invest his life savings in a greenhouse-cactus growing operation? Or open a custom bootmaking shop? Exactly what sort of commercial business did a lifetime of stacking lumber prepare him for? His best option is to commute, embracing a new job at $7 per hour.
As to why the rural inhabitants of the West seem "doubtful" about the prospect of change, human nature demands that we be somewhat reserved, even cynical, about change. Change is hard. Change is scary. Human beings react to change in exactly the same way other animals do: with suspicion.
It also hardly seems fair to list the negative impacts of mining while ignoring the negative impacts of tourism. A few quickly come to mind: increased traffic, litter and noise; crowded rivers, lakes and trails. These are not simply matters of ideology but matters of quality of life. An appropriate analogy might be the reaction of comfortable, quiet suburbanites when confronted with a new steel mill being built on their block. Would their objections be ideological?
The writer is a rancher and environmentalist.
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