Monday, July 12, 2010

Is Oregon the Hokkaido of West Coast?

As I was doing research on my doc project, I came across some blogs on Northern Japan and it's industry- or rather, the slow contraction of the industry found there. There is an educated and well connected urban population in Sapporo and Hokadate- and then there are successful small farms and some well to do harbors. But then , there are many abandoned villages and quite a few struggling towns where people struggle to make the minimum for their lives, where people see schools and community centers close due to lack of young people and money.

I wondered: "Is Oregon the Hokkaido of the West Coast"? Having only experience Sapporo, which is a lot like Portland, I could not say for sure. For one, our sheer land mass and tiny population (about 4 million, maybe) makes for a difficult comparison. However, the insular, selfish thinking, the over reliance on extractive economy and a stubborness towards outsiders has made Oregon backwards in ways that one would not see if you all thought of Oregon was beer, bicycles and mountains.

In this state, there is still- still!- bitterness over the listing of the Spotted Owl. And instead of immediately coming up with new farms and bioscience so that loggers could still have a excellent wage and quality of life, there was plenty of protesting and bitching and brooding and as a result entire towns went down the drain. There is belated recognition of this, only to now result in the chase after the next big thing.

There is a chase after trends, after what's new and what next, after what can be done with minimum discomfort and maximum ease. This is a desire to become Silicon Forest after Seattle metro area and Northern California, but without any investment in education funding that is necessary and without sustained outreach to outside business and personnel. There no support for minority owned and supported businesses and a great deal of resentment towards educated outsiders.

There is consumption here, but very little significant inputs, in general. This could describe a great deal of Hokkaido.

But how does a state like avoid this slide and pick it self up again? I don't know, really- it will depend on the citizenry deciding that education, bold retraining of the rural areas and investment in bringing in sustainable business is worth something more than getting a kicker check in the mail.

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