Florida’s Population Paradox
The following Op-Ed was published in the Miami Herald on January 3rd, 2013. It is written by Jerry Karnas, the new population campaign director for the Center for Biological Diversity. Jerry graduated from Swarthmore College with majors in political science and environmental studies. Before joining the CBD he led campaigns on climate change, clean energy, manatees, Everglades restoration and oil drilling; he also advised clean-energy companies and political candidates. He was a climate advisor to Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and in 2008 won an Emmy Award for best public service announcement for the “Faces of Climate Change” campaign.
Florida’s Population Paradox
Explaining why 600 people a day moved to the Sunshine State, the late Florida Senate President Jim King used to say, “Florida is the land of milk and honey.”
The axiom still applies: In December the U.S. Census Bureau confirmed that more people move to Florida every year than to any other state. Over the course of the state’s history, its population has doubled every 20 years. Today there are more than 19 million Floridians.
Gov. Rick Scott recently touted this population growth as evidence that our economy is on the mend. It’s true that the state’s economy is predicated on growth, but that growth comes at a steep price. While we squeeze more people into Florida, we’re squeezing out wildlife, wild places, wetlands, fresh water sources and indeed our own quality of life. That’s the paradox of Florida: The very qualities that attract newcomers are continuously undermined and degraded by our attempt to accommodate them.
There’s nothing new about this paradox. What’s different is the scale and the timing: Over the past 50 years the state has grown faster and more furiously than ever before. We’re paying for that in sacrificed panthers, manatees and other wild creatures, as well as in springs that are drying up just as the state’s beset by climate change and rising sea levels. We’re at a crucial moment that demands careful governance.
In his seminal book The Swamp, author Michael Grunwald recounted a meeting early in Gov. Bob Graham’s first term, in 1981, when the governor was shown a Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue – which featured not only Christie Brinkley photographed on Captiva Island but also an article called Trouble in Paradise that said the state was “going down the tubes” because of out-of-control growth. The piece shook Graham to the core. He hadn’t run for governor as an environmentalist; but eventually he dedicated a large portion of his governorship to the state’s environmental woes. In the end his leadership left Florida better prepared for future growth.
Most of our subsequent governors have shared, albeit to varying degrees, Graham’s understanding that a balance between growth and environmental protection is needed.. That’s not to say they were all paragons of environmental stewardship across the board; but a trajectory toward better management was visible.
Unfortunately, Gov. Scott has taken a radically different approach.
To read the full article, please click here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/01/07/3168118/floridas-population-paradox.html