Beauty Strips – and the Failure of America

I grew up in logging country. Oregon, Washington, Northern California. In logging country they had something that people in the rest of the world may not be familiar with. It was called ‘Beauty Strips’.

Here’s how beauty strips work. Timber companies go in and they clearcut all the old growth forests. They harvest everything they can and completely destroy the natural environment in the process by cutting roads, extracting timber, and destroying habitat in brush, streams, fields, and forests. The timber companies pretty quickly realized that when the non-timber families of America see nature raped and despoiled, people complain to the government – and since most of the clear cutting was happening on land owned by the government – this created a big issue they had to solve. Did they solve it by adopting a more environmentally friendly timber harvesting method? That would have been some intelligent long term thinking but it would have cost short term profits – so instead, they solved it with beauty strips.

Beauty strips are swathes of forest that are left in a natural state on either side of highways and tourist traveled roads. They are usually about 100 feet thick and provide almost no benefit to wildlife, the forests, or the planet – but they allow people who are driving through and don’t understand ‘timber families’ to blissfully think they are driving through a pristine forest – even though just 100 feet away is a clear cut monstrosity that is a literal crime against nature (and humanity).

Over time the greed of the timber companies thins the beauty strips – little by little – until finally the devastation is visible. Then, when ‘environmentalists’ complain – they cut down the beauty strips, replant the area with taxpayer dollars, and post signs that say things like “This area replanted by Earth Rapers, Inc. We support Timber Families”

So, now you know about beauty strips.

My recent trip to the Pacific Northwest has reminded me of beauty strips. All of the old growth timber is mostly already gone – so beauty strips no longer really apply but it has occurred to me that America has been living in a world of beauty strips for the past forty years or so. Rather than around environment, this has mostly been a result of homelessness, poverty, and the degradation of the American human condition. Our beauty strips have been malls, gated communities, and urban renewal programs through things like Americorps. The pandemic has pushed the illusion away though – cutting away the ‘beauty strips’ along the side of the roads and now – for the first time in decades – America is on full display.

Our human environmental degradation in the United States has been exposed. I thought that maybe homelessness such as we have it was limited to Hawaii or San Francisco or Los Angeles – but as I talk with people, I realize – it’s everywhere. There are homeless people EVERYWHERE in America. Portland, Hawaii, Los Angeles and San Francisco are perhaps where you see it most obviously – but it is everywhere, this huge problem.

The number of homeless people in Portland, Oregon, and up and down the west coast is astounding. It’s sad and depressing and mind blowing. It would be unbelievable if it wasn’t right in front of my face without the beauty strips hiding it any longer.

The beauty strips are almost completely gone – so, now we just need to wait for the moment when the signs come up “This urban area renewed by Human Rapers, Inc. We support Families”

It’s coming. Watch for it.

Posted in USA
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