Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

September 5, 2009


NPR - Demographers report that Florida's population shrank last year for the first time in more than 60 years. . . Stan Smith, an economist at the University of Florida, says the state's population dropped by 58,000 last year. He says there are two main factors: The poor economy means there are fewer jobs to attract workers. And there's also that little problem with housing. . . Out of a total population of 18.3 million, a loss of 58,000 residents might not sound like much. But it's a trend that could cloud the future of places such as St. Lucie County on Florida's Atlantic coast. County Commissioner Doug Coward notes that just a few years ago, it was one of the fastest-growing counties in the nation. "At one point, we had about 100-plus thousand homes that were proposed by out-of-town developers - which would nearly double the housing stock for a community which has been in existence for more than 100 years," he says. "And they wanted to accomplish that feat in about three or so [years]. The amount of speculative building and development was just unprecedented." Today that boom is but a memory. Residential building has ground to a halt. As construction jobs dried up, many people left the area to find work elsewhere. Across the county, several thousand homes now stand vacant.


Anonymous Mairead said...

They're going to lose quite a lot more, presently. To drowning if not to flitting. There are far too many stupid, crooked people in government down there.

September 5, 2009 4:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Florida’s recent decline in population is making national headlines (NY Times, USA Today) and is being portrayed as a major cause for concern. The truth is that those expressing this alarm are merely clinging to an old, tired, and harmful mode of thinking.

After 63 years of massive population expansion -- which changed forever the ecology, economy and society of the state – Florida’s 0.3% decline actually seems like an opportunity to many. It is a chance for America’s Sunshine State to develop a sustainable economy, which it can then model for the rest of the nation.

Ecological economists like Robert Costanza, Director of the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics at the University of Vermont, have know for a long time what seems to be eluding most mainstream economists: relying on ballooning populations and constant increases in infrastructure is not a sustainable economic model.

What once may have been possible and even desirable in the earlier part of American history is pernicious and unsustainable today.

“The long term solution is to move beyond ‘growth at all costs’,” says Costanza, who was raised and educated in Florida – a state which increased its population by 88% from 1980 to 2008.

“We must break our addiction to the current economic ideology and create a more sustainable and desirable future that focuses on quality of life rather than merely quantity of consumption or population growth. It will not be easy; it will require a new vision, new measures, and new institutions.”

The misguided hope among many is that, once this economic crisis dissipates, Florida will again experience a population expansion and greater consumption. But this would only reset the timer, beginning again the steady countdown to a renewed crisis. For a nation wrestling with high unemployment and a spiraling national debt – not to mention accelerating carbon emissions, climate change, and rapid species extinctions -- that’s not an option.

There are ways to do it, says Costanza. “It is not a sacrifice of quality of life to break this addiction. Quite the contrary, it is a sacrifice not to.”

September 6, 2009 10:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re: the 10:13 am post.

Great comments. And I have come to think this way about the whole U.S. economy.
It seems that the economy actually relies upon population GROWTH, and a required increase in the economy.

I suppose another mode of operation can't be introduced with our economic system revolving around Wall Street and that whole "profit" motive.

But is it possible to have a sustainable capitalist economy without an increasing population, unlimited natural resources, a necessary rate of inflation, and the 'welfare' discount rate to banks.

September 12, 2009 10:45 AM  

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