Wednesday, June 28, 2023

On the destruction of the Orick peanut: a symbol of the enduring jobs v. the environment debate

The Eureka (California) Times Standard reported a few weeks ago on the destruction of the artifact known as the Orick peanut.  It's a long-time symbol of a long-time debate over what to do when environmental protection conflicts with jobs--the need for jobs.  (And that, of course, is a frequent topic of posts on this blog).  Here's an excerpt from the June 8 story by Jackson Guilfoil: 
“It might be peanuts to you, but it’s jobs to us.”

That was the sign on the Orick peanut carving — a hulking mass of an old-growth redwood roughly 6 feet tall, 10 feet wide and weighing 9 tons — delivered to the White House in 1978. Orick loggers were protesting then-President Jimmy Carter’s decision to expand Redwood National Park, carving the wood to mock Carter’s time as a peanut farmer. The peanut was turned away at the White House by Carter’s aides after it was loaded on a trailer and driven from Humboldt County to the president’s door. It was returned to Orick, where it has rotted, unadorned and scarcely remembered for decades.

An Orick resident who did not want to be named told the Times-Standard that many of those involved in the peanut’s carving are likely dead. Carter still lives at 98 years old.

Sometime between the evening of June 3 and the morning of June 4, a driver crashed through the peanut, demolishing huge chunks of the rotting wood and violently bisecting the symbol of a doomed mission to preserve Humboldt County’s timber industry. Back in the mid-20th century, Orick had a population in the thousands, largely due to the thriving lumber business. Now, the number hovers around 300, according to American Community Survey data.

The Yurok Tribe owns the land the peanut sits on.

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