Basket Weaving 101: No Bad Rap Here-Just Some Skills the New Congress May Find Helpful

Article excerpt

Perhaps Congress should take up basket weaving. It's true that basket weaving has a bad rap, but my suggestion isn't meant as a commentary on lawmakers' abilities. I've been a basket weaver for years, and there are lessons in this craft for all of us in the natural resources field.

The strength of a basket depends on its weave--tighter is stronger--in fact, some baskets are watertight. But even a loosely woven basket will hold together and may flex and bend but not pull apart. This is the way the environment should be seen: a strand that is woven together with the other strands, the human systems that serve the public good, systems like transportation, trade, and communications.

For too long the environment has been seen as a passive thing. It just lays there as we build our systems on top of it for better, or most likely, for worse. But the environment is a strand, a contiguous length of natural resources that form systems to cycle air, water, and carbon, very much like the reed used in weaving a basket.

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Our special focus Autumn issue demonstrated the wisdom of seeing the environment as one strand of many that also include human systems of trade, communications, and transportation, which must be woven together.

The challenge is to help those making development decisions start seeing the environment not as something "out there, far away," but as a continuous system to be woven into their region. The challenge for those who care about the environment is to see it as an integral part of development, and to see development as a way to ensure that the environmental systems are allowed to function as healthy systems.

This is a big change from the way things are done now, but one we are confident will spell not only better development practices, but better functioning ecosystems. …