In this economic era of global competition, localities are desperately seeking unique local assets (what Professor MaryAnn Feldman calls “jurisdictional advantage” – see her paper on the Athena Alliance website) upon which to build a competitive advantage.
Yet, here we have a case of a locality in the process of destroying a unique local asset. WSJ.com – In Tasmanian Forests, A Battle Breaks Out Over Bees and Trees:
Leatherwood grows only on this heart-shaped island the size of Ireland, a hundred miles south of the Australian mainland and 800 miles west of New Zealand. The trees’ small, star-shaped flowers blossom into the autumn, generating 70% of the 1,200 tons of honey produced in Tasmania each year.
But today, a battle of trees versus bees is unfolding here. For more than 30 years, timber companies have been energetically converting the forests of this Australian state, which have the tallest and oldest flowering trees in the world, into sawdust and woodchips, which are shipped primarily to Japan. The loggers want the huge eucalyptus, but like dolphins caught in a tuna net, the leatherwood, Huon and King Billy pines that grow alongside them are harvested as well. The loggers then firebomb the forests to clear out the debris, a process that can lead to runaway “regeneration burns” and inadvertently destroy nearby leatherwood, and threaten the hives.
If the logging of leatherwood isn’t limited, the beekeepers warn, not only will their livelihood disappear, but so will the world’s only source of leatherwood honey, which has a sharp, musky flavor similar to honey from chestnuts or thyme.
Reminds me of the story Jared Diamond tells about Easter Island — “and so what was that inhabitant of Easter Island thinking of when he cut down the last tree” and thereby destroyed a key pillar of the local economy.