July 18, 2013

Florida’s Balance

Mary Campbell, Extension Director
and Community Resource Agent

Florida is still on track to break the 20 million mark by the end of 2015, becoming the third most populous state sometime before then—surpassing New York. Florida’s population has grown rapidly in recent decades, but growth rates have fluctuated considerably from one year to the next. For example, the state’s population grew by more than 400,000 between 2004 and 2005 but by less than 100,000 between 2008 and 2009.

Availability of jobs and economic opportunities play a big role in population growth. The last few years have seen a bit of a recovery. Florida’s population grew by 169,000 between 2011 and 2012, well below its historical average but more than twice the increase occurring between 2008 and 2009. With promising signs in the housing market and improving employment opportunities, growth will continue to accelerate over the next few years. Although it is unlikely that the state will return to the large annual increases seen in the middle of the last decade, it is expected that population growth will average around 278,000 per year by the end of the current decade (UF- Bureau of Economic and Business Research).

Between 1970 and 1990 Florida's urban areas sprawled over one million acres of formerly rural land. Natural habitats, farmland, and scenic open spaces were often converted to strip malls, housing developments, and low-density commercial development. Uncontrolled growth created environmental, social, and economic problems that threaten to destroy the very attractions that made many move to the state.

Water resources provide a good example. Florida has the highest domestic per capita water use in the country and ranks second nationally in water use for mining, fourth in use for public supply, and eleventh in use for irrigation. Due mostly to population growth, projections show that water supplies will not meet projected demands by 2020. Restrictions on water use are frequently implemented in urban areas for irrigating lawns. In addition, urban storm water contributes to water pollution and fertilizer ordinances have been implemented in several areas of the state. In Pinellas County, a fertilizer ban from June through September was implemented to decrease pollutants flowing into surrounding waters.

Sustainable communities recognize that their economic and social structures and the health of the local environment are intertwined. They understand that programs and policies that foster only one aspect of development, be it economic growth, social gain, or environmental protection, to the exclusion of the other two aspects will not promote sustained progress for the community. Each community must develop its own vision and plan of action. There is no single definition of sustainable community development because every community has its own unique characteristics and challenges. Yet sustainable communities share common themes and concerns: economic security, environmental protection, social justice, and a commitment to the welfare of future generations.

Imagine a community where the air and water are clean, water supplies fully meet demand and everyone enjoys access to locally supplied safe and healthy foods, wildlife flourishes and the landscape is pleasing to the eye. Within this community, full participation and a spirit of cooperation pervade decision-making. People have an impact over their community's future. The community revitalizes the city center, reduces sprawl and promotes regional identity and pride. Public transportation effectively reduces congestion and pollution from cars, reduces transportation costs, and improves access to jobs and services. A strong emphasis on education and training for all promotes an improved quality of life today and fosters future opportunities for the community's youth.

If you are interested in learning more about sustainable practices and becoming involved in local action, join us for the next Sustainable Floridian Training Program. For more information:

UF EDIS Sustainable Community Development

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