Suggesting Better Ways to Spend $180 Million

Wayne K. Swanson


January 17, 2005

    Can you say ‘‘stupid idea?’’ The Iowa rain forest, a reinvention of the wheel if there ever was one, is an absurd white elephant in the making. If the geniuses in charge of this project really wanted to educate Iowans about rain forests, they could much better use that $180 million.

    For instance, they could give $5,000 grants to Iowans to go live for six months in a country in Central or South America, Africa, or Asia that has a real rain forest. Grantees could learn about the ecosystem, the culture, the economy and the local language firsthand. This would be enough for 36,000 Iowans to participate. Or they could invest the money and use the interest to provide $5,000 grants to 1,800 Iowans a year.

    What would Iowa get for its money? It would get a much more globally informed populace. It would get valuable connections with people, businesses and governments in other parts of the world. It would get to keep and make good use of $180 million, which otherwise will be lost on a tawdry imitation.

    On the down side, there is the problem of keeping politicians’ sticky fingers off a $180 million pile of cash, but it might be worth the risk.

    Wayne K. Swanson

    Cedar Rapids