Why Sustainability Activists Should Consider Florida’s Population Stabilization The Greatest Opportunity of Their Lifetimes

September 25, 2009 • Daily Email Recap

Many thanks to Joe Bish for this submission.

When Florida’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research recently reported that the Sunshine State had experienced a de-facto population stabilization during the last year, it did not take long for a chorus of sustainability ignoramuses to yelp and bray that the sky was falling.

But to those concerned with how the United States and the international community are going to adopt sustainable economic models, Florida’s situation offers the rarest – and most critical – of opportunities. If sustainability activists (of all stripes, expertise and areas of focus) do not bravely and boisterously explain why Florida’s population stabilization is the most wonderful moment in history of sustainable development, they can expect to see their cause suffer badly.

High on the list of sustainability dunces is Damion Cave of the NY Times, which peppered his report on the situation with so much pro-growth propaganda you get the sense he is a large shareholder in many Floridian development firms.

“Florida, in particular, was not built for emptying,” he laments. The end of double digit growth “…is, by all accounts, a life lived under capacity.” “The mood is dismal.” “Imagine the shock…”

He then trots out the reports by lead author, an economics professor at the University of Florida named Stanley Smith, who blurts that “It’s dramatic… You have a state that was booming and has been a leader in population growth for the last 100 years that suddenly has seen a substantial shift.”

Yes, that’s right, a 0.3% decline of residents (after gaining 88% since 1980 and 3456% since 1900) – represents something “sudden” and “dramatic” and “substantial”!

Well, yes it does – as I said before, it represents an unforeseen opportunity for environmentalists, ecological economists, steady-state economists, small government advocates, land preservationists, wildlife protectors, and entrepreneurs of all sorts the chance to explain to Floridians and the rest of the world why population stabilization is the best thing that ever happened to Florida.

For instance, a steady-state economist might note that this stabilization satisfies one of the two major criteria for implementing a sustainable economy. Needed next is an understanding of the intrinsic limits imposed by the regenerative capacity of the state’s renewable resources so the second major criteria can be satisfied — the implementation of a sustainable economic policy that efficiently keeps overall consumption within the state’s natural carrying capacity without degrading Florida’s environment any further. And, hopefully as time moves on, the economy can be geared towards consciously rehabilitating the damage already done to Florida’s environment.

A defender of wildlife might put it another way, and a small government advocate might put it yet another. There are an infinite number of ways that this amazing opportunity can be articulated – but the point is, these articulations need to happen now! We all know that if we don’t frame the issue, someone else will.

So, if you are in the sustainability business and pass up the opportunity to talk about Florida to your constituents, members, personal associates and professional colleagues, I have to ask:

Why are you in business?


More Links:

NY Times, “After Century of Growth, Tide Turns in Florida”

USA Today, “For Florida, ‘end of era’ of population growth”

Google news search as of 09/02/2009, keywords “florida” and “population”

Joe Bish is the acting executive director of the New England Coalition for Sustainable Population and Population Outreach Manager for Population Media Center.

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