I heard a powerful presentation the other day (Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury on global warming at a SEDCOR forum) and was reminded of another. Storm Cunningham, author of The Restoration Economy, one of our book selections, made a big impression on me at an Urban Land Institute conference in 2002.
Mr. Cunningham was a Green Beret SCUBA medic and is an avid recreational diver. He described the degradation of the coral reefs he had been returning to over many years. He then described a happy snapshot of environmental success when he saw some of the coral reefs being restored from near extinction by the commitment of governments, business, NPOs and ordinary citizens.
Cunningham put two and two together and discovered a trillion dollar economy that he believes is still largely unrecognized: the Restoration Economy. We really aren’t building new highways and dams, we aren’t building new cities (except in China). Professionals today are busy designing new solutions to old problems. Historic restoration, urban renewal, and restoring wetlands are examples. We are just beginning to face the need of repairing, restoring and revitalizing our existing infrastructure, environment and communities.
In no uncertain terms Cunningham told his ULI audience that their days of developing bare land–turning farms, fields and forests into subdivisions–were numbered. The good news: opportunities to make money were growing in “restoration,” this unrecognized trillion dollar industry.
In Oregon, businesses and governments are recognizing the economic benefits of leading the restoration economy. Being known for expertise in environmental stewardship, urban development, land use planning and progressive infrastructure development is gaining Oregon a prominent role.
But, like raising children, you can never rest on success. New challenges–and new opportunities–face us every day.