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Opinion
Justin Fox

We Might Be Near Peak Environmental Impact

Future growth won't depend on using ever-more resources.
Seeing the forest.

Seeing the forest.

Photographer: Thomas Trutschel/Photothek/Getty Images

The Northeastern U.S. is full of forests these days, and those forests are increasingly full of bears, coyotes and other wildlife. This probably would have seemed inconceivable 150 years ago, when the region’s trees were being clear-cut to oblivion. Undesirable, too. "Wilderness” didn’t have really positive connotations at the time.

What happened? Coal replaced wood as heating fuel. Rising agricultural productivity reduced the need for farmland. And so the trees began to come back.