Era of locust economy is gone | Taking Stock

By Tim Raetzloff | Sep 14, 2016

I was looking for the headquarters of Fortive, Snohomish County's newest and largest company.

I drove by a solitary coyote standing on the sidewalk of Seaway Boulevard. The coyote stood still, looking straight ahead, as if thinking, "What happened to the neighborhood?"

The coyote mixed in my mind with my fondness for ghost towns, including my favorite, Alpine, Wash.

The coyote and ghost towns are both symptoms of a changing world. The United States, and especially the western United States were built by a locust economy.

The West was filled with natural resources, there just for the taking. And that is what our ancestors did.

Whether it was timber or fish, gold or silver, coal or petroleum, copper or lead or iron, the land was full with richness.

In the mini-series “Gettysburg,” Col. Joshua Chamberlain, portrayed by Jeff Daniels, gives an impassioned speech to mutineers from Maine to enlist their return to duty.

In that speech Chamberlain says, "It is not about the land. There is always more land."

Americans of 150 years ago understandably believed that. There was always more land. When the land you have is used up, just go and get more land.

Which is why there are so many ghost towns in the West. Colorado claims to have more than 1,000. Who knows how many more in the rest of the West.

But we live in a different time. In the middle of the last century there was still plenty of land here where we live.

In 1950, the population of Mukilteo was 826. By 2010, that number had grown to 20,254. Edmonds in 1950 had 2,057 people. In 2010, Edmonds had 39,709 people.

Mill Creek didn't exist in 1950 – it was still rural open country. In 2010, Mill Creek had 18,244 residents.

The coyote's ancestors roamed open land, now the habitat of the coyote is surrounded by commercial real estate and the undeveloped land will certainly be developed in a measurable length of time, dooming the coyote's descendants.

I have driven Seattle Hill Road when it was still gravel. I don't remember a traffic signal on Mukilteo Speedway 50 years ago. Harbor Pointe hadn't begun to be developed.

Even the house I live in was rural Edmonds 50 years ago. It had been part of a larger estate; now it is surrounded on all sides by other houses.

Joshua Chamberlain was wrong; there is not more land. We have filled it. The coyote knows. But some humans don't seem to get it.

The occupation at the Malheur Reserve was about this. Ammon Bundy believes that land should be free for the taking as it once was. It certainly was for our ancestors.

We have filled the land and there isn't more to spare. Most of us enjoy getting out to rural streams to get away from our urban environment. We don't want to see those open spaces developed.

We continue to fill up the urban areas enough. Just ask the coyote.

I have been a promoter of the region for many years, and I certainly believe in economic growth.

But I also believe that we must learn to live with the land we have. We can't just use it up and move on. There is nowhere else to move to.

The locust economy was for a different era. We can't have it now. In the movie “Independence Day,” the evil aliens take over planets and use up the natural resources and move on.

We can't afford to do the same thing to our own planet because we don't have the means to move on. The coyote probably understands.

Tim Raetzloff operates Abarim Business Computers at Harbor Square in Edmonds. What he writes combines his sense of history and his sense of numbers. Neither he nor Abarim have an investment in any of the companies mentioned in this column.

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