Economic Development


Are Working Landscapes Desirable?

Natural Resources

Economic Development

Government Presence

Neighbor vs. Neighbor

Public vs. Private

Urban Sprawl


Have you ever walked around in a store with shelves filled with expensive fine china and glass? You probably were extremely careful because you didn't want to break anything fragile. Just like a store that sells china, some ecosystems are fragile. An ecosystem is a community of organisms and their physical environment. They work together as a unit. When one part of an ecosystem is changed or damaged, the rest of the ecosystem is also changed or damaged.

When humans interact with ecosystems, bad results can happen, especially in fragile places. We have the potential to cause a lot of problems (and break a lot of glass!). When we build homes or businesses, we impact the ecosystems in that area by removing plants, displacing animals, and changing the watershed. Ecosystems pay the price when humans make poor decisions while developing or working in areas. Biodiversity, the mix of plants and animals, is at risk. Water quality is jeopardized. Soil erodes.

We all want more jobs, more money, and more places to shop and eat. So, how can we balance the need for economic development with the need to sustain the fragile ecosystems we build in? How can we walk around the store filled with glass without knocking all of the shelves over?

An Example: Farms
An example of healthy economic development within a working landscape might be a farm. Working the land provides economic support to the farming family. Farmers support and sustain the health of the land when they make ecologically thoughtful decisions. If the scales start to tilt to productivity rather than conservation, the farm can be an unhealthy example of economic development within a working landscape. Successfully balancing the productivity of the land with proper conservation practices makes a farm a good economic development element within a working landscape. It's a tricky balancing act.

Different Opinions
Some people feel that sacrificing land, plants, and animals is okay in order for people to make money on businesses and residential development. Others would rather ban economic development within fragile ecosystems. Still others think that both can co-exist peacefully, but this peaceful co-existence takes constant hard work.

Economic development within a successful working landscape relies on sustainable development. Sustainable development requires that people don't just act in their own best interests. Money needs to be made from the landscape while the landscape gets the care it needs to thrive.

As we look into the future of economic development within working landscapes, we need to strike that delicate balance between what we need and what our ecosystems need. We need to make decisions on which is more important and if they can both co-exist.

What do you think?
In what ways can economic development and a working landscape co-exist?


Explore More: Working Landscapes
Copyright 2004, Iowa Public Television
The Explore More project is supported by funds from the
Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust
and the USDE Star Schools Program.






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PBS NewsHour Online Links

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