Who knew what the unintended outcome would be when President Richard Nixon visited China in the nineteen seventies. Originally, he went there on a goodwill mission, and because China, with its population of over one billion, represented an enormous opportunity for trade. Nixon’s two legacies are his visit to China and the Watergate Scandal. U.S. businesses flocked to China after that visit. He opened the door for trade. The first unintended consequence of his successful trip became the export of every major U.S. manufacturing job. The U.S.A. went from being the manufacturing center of the world to the importers of U.S. designed products manufactured in China. The company I worked for was no different, although they did hold off until the end of the migration. Our first step into the Chinese market was through Singapore, and ultimately into China.
China is thirsty for jobs and they take anything we send them. Their people are hungry and work for minimal wages. Anything over a dollar a day was a big buck job for them. U.S. companies saw the labor cost as a distinct advantage. At home our people demanded ten, fifteen, twenty dollars an hour. Our workers saw that wage difference not as a way for an U.S. company to make a profit, but rather as a theft of their own livelihood. American workers were comfortable with high wage mundane jobs. They could not see the wisdom of re-educating themselves to become marketable in another industry. Those who did see the light did stay employed. The final outcome is that the U.S.A. still struggles with how to create jobs for its people.
The most recent unintended consequence of Nixon’s visit is what I call a Chinese invasion of the U.S. mainland. The amazing thing is that they have done it without a single military brigade, or firing a single shot. They did it with a bug.
The Emerald Ash Borer
Since 2002, when Naturalists discovered the Emerald Ash Borer in Michigan forests, the invasion is proceeding across the country. The borer count is fifteen states and spreading. The cost of the bug in dead tree removal will come to billions of dollars. Estimates for the Ash tree population in the U.S.A. hover at around two billion trees. The latest dead-tree count is in the hundreds of thousands, and there is no plan for how to stop the incursion. There are a few University mitigation methods, but they are costly and do not carry a high success rate.
The reason for this high cost and mortality rate is because there are no known predators for the Emerald Ash Borer. No bird, no predator insect, no pathogen exists today.
So how did the Chinese pull off this highly successful invasion? One theory is that the bug entered the country via some ash boards used to stabilize loads on container ships. Once out of the wood in North America the borer went to town breeding and eating. Some say they also came inside wooden pallets which ship around the country. Whatever the reason, the borer is costing us a fortune in beautiful trees.
On my walk this morning, I counted the number of affected trees in a 500 foot stretch. We in Frankfort are proud of our old tree stands, and of the many neighborhoods with tree-lined streets. The neighborhood I live in now is twenty years old and the trees planted at that time are just beginning to give real shade and a lovely appearance. I counted nine affected ash trees in that 500 foot stretch.
The Village of Frankfort’s plan is to cut down these trees and to replant them with saplings of different species that are resistant to the borer. So far, my street not seen the axe, but it will be near me sooner than I wish.
Coincidentally, I noticed a very tall and dead Cottonwood tree at the back of my property which will cross the roof of my house if it happens to fall over in the direction it is leaning. Most trees do fall that way. I had an Arborist confirm its status and give me an estimate for removal. I’m still in sticker shock, the estimate is $1300.
Let us just say that it will cost $500 to remove each dead ash tree in America. The money spent is staggering. ($500 x 1 billion trees = $500 billion) That is a lot of money to clean up the devastation caused by a tiny bug. Add to that the cost of buying and replacing the dead ash trees with new saplings and another 15o billion dollars gets added for a total of 650 billions dollars. And we are upset because the Iraq and Afghanistan wars cost us a trillion dollars. This one bug will cost us more than half of that.
What is sad is that the Chinese haven’t fired a single bullet, or lost a single soldier in this one-sided war. The Pentagon should learn from this. What kind of bug can we export to the mid-east to cost them a fortune to exterminate?
Filed under: economy, family, Garden, Gardening, Government, Manufacturing, Science | Tagged: Ash, China, Emerald Ash Borer, Jobs, Manufacturing, Nixon, war, Watergate Scandal | 2 Comments »