This essay is excerpted from The New Economy of Nature: The Quest to Make Conservation Profitable.
In a cattle pasture south of downtown Napa, Calif., a clarinet, flute, and bass guitar strike up a jazzy version of “Up a Lazy River.” About sixty people, if you count the rubberneckers wandering over from a nearby retirement house, gather in the midsummer sun. Two young women in flowing dresses open paper boxes to release orange clouds of monarch butterflies. A few dogs wander through the crowd.
Photo: City of Napa.
It’s a markedly mellower scene than your average U.S. Army Corps of Engineers groundbreaking ceremony. Yet the mood of this morning, in late July 2000, is triumphant. This blue-collar, backwater city has fought Washington, D.C., and won. It has taken control of the shape of its future, declared its right to choose its battles — and now, with low-key pomp, it is celebrating a promising armistice.
For several decades, Napa, the depressed county seat of the glamorous grape-growing valley that bears its name, had lived at war with the river that runs through... Read more