Other Forces Driving Green Policy Demand

Urban economic growth can also increase demand for greener policies even if average educational levels do not change. For example, as incomes rise, more people are likely to own their homes. This development creates a stakeholder class with a strong incentive in preserving neighborhood environmental quality. Unlike renters, who often migrate away and have no financial stake in the community, homeowners realize

12. See the League of Conservative Voters, "National Environmental Scorecard" (www.lcv.org [April 2006]).

that their property will lose value if local environmental quality declines.14

Sometimes, of course, this realization can have unfortunate effects. Every city faces the question of where necessary evils, such as garbage dumps, should be located. Richer communities with more homeowners are more likely to band together to lobby politicians not to situate such noxious facilities in their neighborhoods.15 Anticipating such a response, forward-looking politicians often place such facilities in poorer renter communities. In this case homeownership greens the local community, but it is a zero-sum game.16

Individuals are not the only urban actors whose interest in the environment grows as incomes rise. As urban economies deindustrialize, they are increasingly dominated by service sector firms with a strong stake in local quality of life. Highly skilled, creative workers tend to be footloose. While a lumberjack must live near the forest that he cuts down, a computer programmer can work just about anywhere with a computer and a high-speed Internet connection, and can write, debug, and ship code to customers far away. Consequently, firms must compete for such workers by offering not only higher salaries but also a higher quality of life.17 This makes them natural advocates for local environmental regulation.

14. Such a scenario played out recently when the entertainment mogul David Gef-fen sought to keep the public from having access to the Pacific Ocean near his Mal-ibu house. If he had won his case, then environmentalists would have had mixed feelings. As stakeholders Geffen and his fellow wealthy Malibu beachfront friends would be a powerful interest group in preserving this natural capital, but the general public would have less beach access. A philosophical issue arises: how much good is achieved by protecting natural capital if very few people have access to it? The California Coastal Commission issued a cease and desist order against the property owners, directing them to end the posting of no trespassing and private property signs. The public now has beach access through paths near these expensive homes. See Surfrider Foundation, "Beach Access" (www.surfrider.org/malibu/projects.htm #access [April 2006]).

16. An environmental justice advocate would point out that the community that receives the dump has not been explicitly compensated for receiving the dump. This boils down to a property rights issue. If each community had a veto right such that it could veto the placement of a dump in its vicinity, then one community would receive the dump plus compensation from the other communities that chose to pay to reduce their exposure to waste.

Cities that attract high-skilled, creative workers typically experience greater economic growth.18 Consequently, urban politicians are increasingly aware of the need to provide the lifestyle advantages that such workers demand.19 Mayors who do not care about the environment— but do care about their tax base—will become environmentalists if they sense that skilled workers value such amenities and are likely to "vote with their feet." This is particularly important in richer nations, which typically delegate more power to local decisionmakers and consequently give them more opportunities to compete for residents.20

In addition, in many postindustrial cities, the tourism sector is a growing employer. This industry represents another powerful force lobbying to preserve quality of life in urban areas. Growing interest in tourism, for example, has inspired cities ranging from Boston to Providence to Nashville to rediscover their waterways as urban amenities. As a result of this shift in perspective, many former dumping grounds have become valuable resources that local actors seek to rehabilitate and preserve.

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