economically speaking, there's nothing wrong with a good clear-cut, why should rural
forested areas get all the benefits? Cities, too, deserve the fiscal boosts brought by
this form of landscape management.
Not many trees in cities, you say?
But just as forests are mostly composed of trees, cities are mostly made up of
We can apply the same harvesting logic.
Most of these urban buildings are clearly mature or over-mature. They have reached
their maximum growth. Many are becoming decadent and some already show signs of decay.
It's harvest time in the urban forest. Let's start removing all that building mass and
converting it into something useful in today's economy.
All those old buildings are ideal sources of rubble for fill. There's a great demand
for fill these days.
Plus, with the right equipment, after the buildings have been demolished and crushed to
rubble, much other valuable scrap material - metals, plastics, glass, even wood to be
chipped for re-manufacture, thus taking some of the pressure off trees - can no doubt be
sieved out for sale in our vibrant market economy.
Clearly, a great deal of employment will be generated in this urban equivalent of
clear-cutting. Additional jobs can be anticipated in what we might term domiciliculture,
as sites are prepared and re-urbanization begins. And the employment will be good stable
jobs, no doubt lasting for the 40 years or so before the city again reaches maturity and
its buildings are ready for harvest once more.
There may be some ecological objections to this proposal, of course, just as there are
to clear-cutting forests.
After all, cities are not only composed of buildings, any more than forests are
composed only of trees.
What about all the other creatures for whom urban areas constitute prime habitat?
Well, it could be hard on them.
Some of the more specialized urban species, the ones who have found and exploited their
niches there and are ill-adapted to life elsewhere, will undoubtedly suffer. Many will be
capable of migration to other urban areas not yet slated for harvest, though competition
in these new sites with long-established populations will no doubt be fierce.
The numbers of, say, bureaucrats and bankers, pigeons and cockroaches, hookers and
lawyers and currency speculators and other essentially urban species will decline. A few
may even become endangered, though the possibility of any actually becoming extinct is
surely rather remote.
And if one or two do become locally extirpated, well, that's the way the market economy
works. We can't be expected to do an EIA for every clear-cut, rural or urban.
Clear-cutting, after all, is an economic, not an ecological, management technique.
Contemplating the Urban Harvest is taken from George Peabody's forthcoming
collection Space Aliens Stole My Wheelbarrow and Other Puns and Proses, now slated for
publication in Fall 1998.