In this chapter we provide background information concerning the challenges and opportunities that confront the South Florida region today. How and why the Governor's Commission for a Sustainable South Florida came into being and its charge are explained. An overview of the physical, geographic, and socio-economic context of the area is given, as is an introduction to the concept of "sustainability."


"Sustainability" is most often defined as "meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs" (World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987). In short this means living within your means or living off the interest, not the principal.

South Florida is laden with assets. At many levels, the South Florida community is thriving. It is a mecca for business, tourists, retirees, and outdoor enthusiasts. As concluded by the South Florida Vision 2025 Assembly on May 26, 1995, "South Florida has the potential to become one of the premier regions in the world. It has a wonderful climate, multi-cultural population, an expanding economy, and many other assets" (SFRPC, 1995b). It also has many treasures, both natural and socio-political. Take for example the unique and bejeweled waters of the Florida Keys or Mahogany Hammock in Everglades National Park. Stroll along the barrier islands of Captiva or Sanibel. Experience bass fishing in Lake Okeechobee or canoe on the Loxahatchee River. Commune with nature in the Matlacha Pass and Pine Island Wildlife Refuges. Discover the wonder of seeing newly hatched sea turtles make their way toward the Atlantic Ocean, or admire hundreds of Roseate Spoonbills as they roost in Flamingo. Examine the bold, innovative planning and zoning initiatives of the City of Boca Raton, the Island of Sanibel, Monroe County (i.e., its new rate of growth ordinance), and the delightful town centers of Coral Gables and Coconut Grove. Sample some of the world's premier fresh citrus and vegetables. Experience the vibrancy of Calle Ocho in Miami's Little Havana, or watch the setting sun over the fishing vessels nestled in the scenic harbors of Naples or Ft. Myers. All of these and more are vignettes of South Florida which beckon and seduce its current and future residents, making it one of the highest growth areas in the country.

In addition to its natural and social treasures, the South Florida region has many allies. There is an abundance of active players in South Florida who are dedicating time, money, and mental energy to fix some of South Florida's problems. A notable list, by no means complete, includes organizations such as the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force and its participating federal agencies, the Seminole Tribe, the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians, universities from all over the world, state agencies, 5 regional planning councils, untold efforts at the city and county levels, and incredible citizen involvement-the most heralded and lauded being Marjory Stoneman Douglas, the original defender of the Everglades.

Unfortunately, trends facing South Florida today defy most principles of sustainability. Much damage has been done to South Florida's environmental systems such as: the channelization of the Kissimmee River in the 1960s and '70s; the deterioration of water quality and aquatic life in Lake Okeechobee during the last 2 decades; the excessive drainage caused by the Golden Gate and Faka Union canal systems within Collier County; and the environmental degradation of the Everglades, Florida Bay, and the coastal reefs (SFWMD, 1994b). South Florida's systems continue to suffer additional casualties, including severe degradation of estuaries and aquatic life and loss of valuable uplands. As noted in The Save Our Everglades Report, "Our quality of life is inextricably linked to the health and viability of natural systems; that a healthy Everglades system is vital to natural plant, animal and human populations alike" (Governor's Office, 1993: p. 6).

Marjory Stoneman Douglas once said,

As water is the liquid heart of Florida, so the people and their leaders are its intellect. In the past, the dark side of this intellect has polluted, exploited and wasted the water and the wetlands. Still, there is hope and expectation that the mind and will of man will triumph, reverse the errors, restore and preserve the wet natural systems that sustain the precious water.

The Everglades ecosystem today embraces a massive, unique, and fragile natural system with over 5 million human inhabitants. This water-dominated system encompasses a myriad of interconnected freshwater rivers, lakes, marshes, prairies, forests, and estuaries, and includes the Kissimmee River Basin, Lake Okeechobee, the Everglades, Big Cypress Swamp, and the estuaries of Florida Bay, Biscayne Bay, Charlotte Harbor, and Indian River Lagoon. It also includes the tourist meccas surrounding Orlando, such as Disney World; the Everglades Agricultural Area south of Lake Okeechobee; small rural towns such as Pahokee, La Belle, and Belle Glade; and urban centers, such as Ft. Myers on the west coast and the cities on the southeast coast stretching from Ft. Pierce to Key West.

In the past, as population grew, the existing natural system diminished through drainage, development, agriculture, and other human-induced activities. With over half of the Everglades' wetlands gone and with population projected to triple by the year 2050, South Florida must reassess and redirect its priorities. The ecological price of our past endeavors haunts our present. Just as the canary in the coal mines was a harbinger of imminent death, the current condition of the Everglades ecosystem, particularly Florida Bay, sends warnings of mortal danger.

Florida Bay, the Everglades ecosystem's "end of the line," may be dying. The Bay's signals: reduced pink shrimp and Florida lobster catches; mangrove, seagrass, and sponge die-offs; huge algal blooms; recent fish kills; hypersalinity; a deterioration of estuarine productivity (McIvor et al., 1994); and a declining coral reef system (the only coral reef system in the continental United States) denote a system possibly on the verge of catastrophic collapse. "The productivity of Florida Bay is declining under current management practices" (McIvor et al., 1994: p. 118). Even "the pace of deterioration seems to be increasing" (Science Subgroup, 1994a: p. 3). The Bay's possible demise results from both its physical location (at the end of the line) and the alterations of its natural hydrologic, biological, and chemical properties which are connected to the Everglades ecosystem at large. Florida Bay's repair requires restoration of the larger system's hydrologic health (Ramsdell, 1995).

Potentially, if the problems of Florida Bay are left unattended, a quarter of the present level of tourists and seasonal residents could be lost. This would threaten thousands of jobs and tens of millions of dollars in personal income and would probably exceed the potential losses associated with a decline in commercial fishing. It is estimated that 12,000 jobs and $200 million annually in personal income from tourist impacts; over 500 jobs and $32 million annually in personal income from pink shrimp impacts; and 2,800 primary and secondary jobs and $20 million annually in personal income from commercial harvesting of lobster, snapper, and grouper are threatened. Because of the lag in tourism behind environmental degradation, losses in tourism are likely to persist, even if the Bay were to recover relatively quickly. (Congressional Research, 1994)

The larger Everglades ecosystem is also at a precipitous juncture. Its warning signs have been varied and manifest for decades. Nesting populations of wading birds have decreased by 90% (Bancroft et al., 1994), and 56 plant and animal species are either threatened with, or endangered with extinction. In addition to the catastrophic Florida Bay events described above, the Everglades have suffered wetland losses, organic soil subsidence, and exotic plant and animal invasions (SFERWG, 1994).

The hydrology of South Florida has been deeply affected by changes brought about by human activities over the past decades. "Not only has the entire integrated system of water flow been rearranged but soil composition, habitat, the identity and numbers of land and water species, and the relationship between fresh and salt water have all changed" (p. xi). Functional losses to the system include (1) reduced spatial extent of aquatic and total system productivity, (2) reduced aquatic productivity of the southern Everglades due to shortened hydroperiods and interrupted flows, (3) reduced spatial extent of wet prairie/slough and related aquatic productivity throughout the remaining wet prairie/slough-sawgrass-tree island mosaic, (4) loss of habitat diversity, and (5) reduced possible early dry season feeding habitat of wading birds (Davis et al., 1994).

The interconnection of the system, both within and without its boundaries, cannot be ignored for its contributions and its complexity.

The ecosystems from the Kissimmee River, through the Everglades, and the Bay and on to the barrier reefs off the Keys are, in fact, connected and constitute an interdependent landscape-seascape, but have been viewed and managed as if they were in isolation from one another. What is now needed is a broader perspective which integrates the watershed, the Bay, the Keys and the reef (Boesch et al., 1993: p. iii).

Water quality problems also abound. As described in the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Working Group's (SFERWG) report (1994), nutrients have been identified as a concern for Lake Okeechobee, the Everglades, the Indian River Estuary, and the Caloosahatchee River. Anthropogenic nutrients or disturbances in the nutrient cycling process have been suggested as a possible cause of symptoms of ecological degradation observed in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and the coral reef system. Other water quality issues include the widespread contamination of plants and animals throughout the Everglades ecosystem with mercury from unknown source(s), contamination of public drinking water supplies along the lower east coast with synthetic organic chemicals, contamination of the Miami River, and seagrass loss due to poor water quality. Toxicological contaminants of concern in the system include metals, organic compounds, and pesticides.

The SFERWG reports that nutrient-laden agricultural runoff has altered wetland plant communities which diminishes their role in the food chain and habitats. Extensive eutrophication has been found in the Everglades. Elevated concentrations of pesticides or their derivates have been found in great egrets and other wading birds from Water Conservation Area-1 (WCA-1) (SFERWG, 1994). Florida's water quality is also poor when compared to the national level. For instance, Biscayne Bay was ranked in the top 10 list of estuaries having the potential for pesticide impacts to estuarine organisms (Pait et al., 1992). In addition, the state was classified as the worst in the U.S. in a 1991-1992 composite water pollution index (Hall and Kerr, 1991).

Another culprit in the demise of the system has been the systematic loss of the ecosystem's expanse. Since the 1900s the roughly 4 million acres of the Everglades ecosystem have been reduced to less than half that size. Due to the consequences of farming and urban/suburban development, South Florida's landscape is no longer able to adequately serve its natural functions. Even if the water management and water quality problems can be perfectly solved, the remaining Everglades will still fail if they are consumed by suburban sprawl. Current land use trends are not sustainable and harsh measures must be undertaken to curtail the suburbanization of what is left of South Florida.

The detrimental effects of all the above changes are broad and far reaching. They directly impact the tourist industry and the local/regional economy which are based on, and continue to depend on, a healthy natural system. In addition, water and air borne pollutants can have immediate and long term health effects on South Florida, threatening fundamental public health, safety, and welfare.

Based on the above, it is easy to see that our present course in South Florida is not sustainable. The inextricable link between the human community and the natural system is obvious. The natural system is the basis for our public health, safety, recreation, welfare, and aesthetic activities. "Many who live in South Florida do not realize the benefits they receive continuously from a functioning natural ecosystem and what ecosystem collapse would mean to them" (p. 6). The current trends cannot continue. Time is of the essence. If we are to curtail the deterioration and evade further catastrophe, urgent strategic action is needed.

Henry Ford once stated, "Don't find fault. Find a remedy." The remedies are clear. Hydrologic restoration is both the key and a prerequisite to ecosystem restoration (Science Subgroup, 1994b; SFWMD, 1994b; SFERWG, 1994; Robertson and Frederick, 1994). Restoring the historic volume, timing, and location of freshwater flow to the Everglades, Florida Bay, Biscayne Bay, and other water bodies is essential. Currently, billions of dollars are being spent on restoration efforts through the Kissimmee River Restoration, the Everglades Forever Act, the Everglades National Park expansion, and numerous other physical modifications, land purchases, and management practices. Florida Bay should hopefully reap the benefits of the C-111 and the Modified Water Delivery projects. All of these initiatives are a great start but will not alone solve the problem. A sustainable South Florida will require a continuous, expensive, and long term investment of people and dollars.

Equally imperative to hydrologic restoration is the need to define the extent of the area needed for the healthy functioning of the remaining natural system from both a hydrologic and biological standpoint. This "map" should identify critical parcels needed to be preserved now, in order not to prematurely eliminate or foreclose hydrologic or natural systems management alternatives. Buffer areas must also be defined, which will serve to act as multi-purpose transition areas (e.g., recharge, water quality improvement, storage, marshes, open space, recreation, etc.) and reliable, long-term locations for agriculture. Concurrently, suburbanization that threatens the sustainability of South Florida must cease.

The good news, according to Robertson and Frederick, is that biological restoration of the Everglades wetlands appears feasible (1994). Even though it has lost more than one-half of its original extent, the natural area is still very large and is still potentially one of the largest wetland preserves on earth. The bad news is that prospects for upland restoration are limited because of reduced spatial extent and continuity of upland habitats in Southern Florida (1994). Since the prospect for re-establishing corridors is doubtful in portions of South Florida, an intensive, long-term, many species management approach may prove the only feasible alternative at present.

Another key to restoration is defining the fluctuating water quantity needs of the natural system. Increased water demands and the inability to supply water at the right time and the right location must be reconciled for the long and short term. The natural system must be entitled to water in suitable quantities, timing, and duration which enable it to survive over the long haul. Already most of South Florida has been designated a "critical water supply problem area" by the SFWMD (only Charlotte, Glades, Martin, Okeechobee, and Highlands counties are not totally covered by this designation). This designation is applied to a geographic region where water resources are critical or are anticipated to become critical over the next 20 years (SFWMD, 1995a). The water management districts have the authority to establish the limit at which further withdrawals or levels would be significantly harmful to the water resources or ecology of the area (minimum flows and levels [' 373.042, FS]). They also have the authority to reserve water for the protection of fish and wildlife or the public health and safety (' 373.223(3) FS). The baseline natural system needs or critical thresholds must be quantified so that environmental degradation does not continue. Water management must balance all of these needs and phase in restoration quantities and qualities for both the natural and human systems as needed.

Water quality is the third key. Immediate action needs to be taken to recognize the damage caused by nutrients, contaminants, and other materials introduced into the system and to significantly reduce them from the air and water to below-detrimental levels, or eliminate them completely. At a minimum, greater understanding is needed of what biogeochemical disturbances are compatible with restoration, what threshold values for total phosphorus can be released safely into the Everglades ecosystem, and what sources, modes of transport, interactions, and sinks exist for pesticides (Science Subgroup, 1994a).

The overall goal of the restoration effort is to restore a sustainable South Florida ecosystem that preserves the valued properties of South Florida's natural systems and supports productive agriculture, fishery, and tourist-based economies and a high quality of urban life. Sustainability means high natural productivity, human and ecosystem health, and resiliency to climate extremes and catastrophic events. It also means accommodation of needs of human systems - flood control, irrigation and drinking water supply (Science Subgroup, 1994b: p. 4).

The reclamation of what is left of the natural system must be the fundamental assumption behind any restoration initiative. Further degradation is unacceptable. The health of the natural system cannot be compromised because of its fundamental role in sustaining all life in South Florida. Restoration must seek to regain the hydrologic and biological values that have been lost. Robertson and Frederick note that "There is no obvious biological reason why restoration should fail . . . it does not appear to be particularly difficult. The only real problem is political - the need to resolve competing uses of resources and competing visions of the future" (1994: p. 729). Zubrow et al., confirms this observation by explaining that "The problem of environmental restoration is not technical, it's cultural and economic . . . . The solution must be seen to be more than a local problem or even a regional problem" (1995: p. 445-446). Like the diversity of communities which characterize South Florida, the vision of Everglades ecosystem restoration must be greater than the sum of its parts. Its vitality, diversity, and longevity must be ensured.

The ceaseless, relentless growth and urbanization of South Florida, long the envy of other states, has caused additional problems. It has led to reduced groundwater recharge, lowered groundwater tables, and increased pollution. It has eroded the natural system's vitality and has increased human and property liabilities for those located in floodprone areas. Growth has also given rise to a proliferation of low density development and other negative consequences including gridlock, isolation, disparity, factionalism, mind numbing homogeneity, and a distinct lack of a sense of place.

Infrastructure, the panacea of the growth management "concurrency" thrust, has failed to keep pace with the region's growth problems. The infrastructure backlog continues to grow. Longman describes the beneficial purposes of having capacity available to meet projected growth (1994). Unfortunately, complications such as "Locally Unpopular Land Uses" (LULUs) and "Not In My Backyards" (NIMBYs) have oftentimes created an adversarial environment. In the past, portions of the transportation concurrency requirements worked counter to what most persons would consider a livable solution by promoting a sprawling suburban landscape. The slogan, "build the roads and they will come," was cited as the most instrumental cause of the virtual explosion in housing in western Broward County (Bader, 1993).

The fact that most of Florida's growth in the second half of this century has come in the form of sprawl is primarily what explains why traffic continues to grow faster than population. While Florida's population has increased by 90% in the last two decades, the number of registered vehicles has increased by 166% (Longman, 1994: p.46).

Even if transportation levels were reduced by half in the future, just maintaining the current road conditions and traffic congestion over the next 20 years would require $26.3 billion in revenue (1994).

One of the most immediate effects of the growth and development patterns mentioned above has been the escalating consumption of water by urban and agricultural users. Increasing demands are being placed on a hydrologic system whose recharge potential is reduced by drainage and runoff caused by human alterations. This results in frequent water shortages and creates the irony of a natural system dying of thirst in a subtropical environment with over 53 inches of rain per year.

The economy of South Florida does not portend a rosy future. Although the state is among the leaders in the nation in job creation and, in 1994, was producing jobs at a rate 34% faster than the U.S. as a whole, these jobs were mainly low wage with a disproportionate share of part-time and/or temporary positions. Additionally, average earnings per employee lag more than 10% below the U.S. average (Longman, 1995).

South Florida's economic destiny continues to be determined by decisions made outside its boundaries. Because its economy is dominated by tourism, retirement, and, to a lesser extent, trade and defense spending, South Florida is primarily living off wealth created elsewhere. The relative lack of importance of manufacturing in the state as a whole is consistent with the above. Manufacturing provides 15.9% of total U.S. jobs, while in Florida it provides only 8.3%. This imbalance between production and services retards growth of personal income across the state and results in high exposure to economic contractions. Florida must broaden its economic base by raising average wages and diversifying its economy (Longman, 1995).

Changing perceptions of South Florida have impacted the state's economic future. Forty-one percent of Americans who have either never been to Florida, or have not visited the state in the past 5 years, give as one of their reasons for not coming, the fact that it is too "urban, commercial and crowded" (Longman, 1995). Of those that visited between 1989 and 1993, 37.9% agreed with that statement. The image that non-residents have of Florida is changing. Visions of a tropical paradise have been replaced by notions of urban sprawl with all of its associated problems, such as the overburdened transportation system and increased crime rates. For example, Southeast Florida visitors declined by 1.2% after a series of highly publicized tourist murders. European tourism was particularly affected. German visitor rates declined by 59% overall (Longman, 1995) and by 57.3% in Dade County (Megee, personal communication). The drop in tourism is one of the many drawbacks created by Florida's failure to contain urban sprawl and otherwise manage growth responsibly.

Florida's use of alternative means to attract new businesses has not been successful in either the venture capital or the enterprise zone routes. One author notes that "For the 12 months ending March 31, 1994, $125 million in venture capital was invested in Florida . . . . [T]hat compares to Venture Economics Magazine's estimate that California attracted $1.2 billion in 1993" (Miracle, 1995). Another author quotes Florida's Auditor General as stating that efforts to bring business to blighted areas have failed, with the biggest barrier being the lack of appropriate business incentives. The author concludes that Florida's tax structure, the degree of red tape, and procedural complexity make the enterprise zone process very difficult (Johnson, 1993).

South Florida must be cautious in its zeal to broaden and expand its economic base. The ecosystem can little afford additional demands or face further threats to its tenuous existence. Impacts from expanded economic interests must be minimized; no incremental or cumulative environmental repercussions should result from their introduction. More importantly, the regional economy must be geared toward a non-degradation orientation.

Florida's forecasted future fiscal crisis also looms ominously over its delicate economic base. Robertson describes how every year the Florida budget, which is currently greater than $38 billion, grows. This growth is fueled by the fact that Florida is a magnet for residents, visitors, and businesses. With annual increases of 270,000 residents, 1 million visitors, and 1,000 business operations, demand for services (e.g., education, welfare, prisons, roads, etc.) is increasing at a faster rate than the funding needed to pay for them. Projected general revenue deficits resulting from these growth-related pressures range from $700 million in 1995-96 to $1.3 billion in 1998-99 (Robertson, 1995).

Lt. Governor Buddy MacKay once quoted the sociologist Robert E. Park who characterized Florida as "a crowd, not a community" (Berry, 1994). Webster's Dictionary defines a community as a "unified body of individuals" or "people with common interests living in a particular area." Thus a crowd does not a community make. Upon addressing the Governor's Commission for a Sustainable South Florida for the first time in April 1994, the Lt. Governor remarked that we need to find a way to develop the state's economy without cannibalizing the environment and to find a way to get better without getting bigger. He cautioned the newly created Governor's Commission with the observation that if we are having this much crisis with 5 million South Floridians, how will we make it work with 15 to 30 million residents? He suggested that we do not yet have in place a structure of laws or the intergovernmental relationships to address these looming problems. He explained that we need "to move from the economics of exploitation to the economics of sustainability" and that "Economic growth, economic development, and environmental protection are not separate issues, they are the same issue" (Governor's Commission, 1994).

A new sense of community, stewardship, and citizen enabling is needed to propel South Florida into the 21st century and beyond. A "sustainable community" is a:

community that uses its resources to meet current needs while ensuring that adequate resources are available for future generations. It seeks improved public health and a better quality of life for all its residents by limiting waste, preventing pollution, maximizing conservation and promoting efficiency, and developing local resources to revitalize the local economy (Petrovich, 1994: p. 8).

South Florida needs to reassess its problems in light of its assets. The crux of the issue, however, is to what physical and biological extent can society restore a degraded system, while acknowledging the necessity of, and providing for, a healthy regional economy and quality communities. The Governor's Commission for a Sustainable South Florida was appointed to address this challenge.

Map A.1 on the following page is a graphic illustration of the 16 counties comprising the Commission's study area. Map A.2 illustrates some of the major physiographic elements of the South Florida region. Section B, which follows, describes the composition and charge of the Commission.

  • (Map A.1 of Region)
  • (Map A.2 of Region)

    Governor Lawton Chiles on March 3, 1994, signed into effect Executive Order 94-54, creating the Governor's Commission for a Sustainable South Florida. This Commission was created to assure that a healthy Everglades ecosystem can coexist and be mutually supportive of a sustainable South Florida economy. Fundamental premises of the Executive Order recognize that the Everglades ecosystem is known as a unique area, both nationally and internationally; that it is home to a significant number of threatened and endangered wildlife species; and that it contains the only living coral reef in the continental United States. More than 5 million South Floridians currently depend on this system as their major source of fresh water. The system provides the foundation for the region as an international commercial, agricultural, and tourist center.

    The Executive Order further recognizes that the results of rapid population growth, including land development, water management activities, and land conversion, have negatively impacted the Everglades ecosystem and that its water quality has been degraded and the associated natural systems no longer adequately accomplish the functions they once performed. With population expected to triple in the South Florida region in the next half century, it is increasingly critical that decisions are made which will curb the deleterious effects of growth and development and that recommendations are offered on how to ensure ecological health and a sustainable economy for South Florida over the long run.

    To make these decisions, Governor Lawton Chiles appointed a 42 member standing Commission consisting of 37 voting members from the South Florida community. These members include representatives of the South Florida business and economic community; public interest and environmental organizations; county and city officials; the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD); the regional planning councils; the Secretaries of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission, the Florida Department of Commerce, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), and the Florida Department of Community Affairs (DCA); representatives of the Seminole Tribe and Miccosukee Tribe of Indians; and a member of the Florida House of Representatives and a member of the Florida Senate. Five non-voting members were also appointed to represent federal interests; they include representatives of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of the Interior, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force.

    The Commission's unique charge and composition should not be understated. The task at hand is how to bring about change that will affect Floridians today and in the future in a manner that ensures quality community development both economically and ecologically. Past attempts have failed to clearly delineate and chart a measurable quality future for South Florida. A collective, shared vision and solutions will fully utilize the creative energy of all Commission participants. This Initial Report to the Governor and Cabinet presents the Commission's preliminary findings and recommendations.


    The Governor's Commission for a Sustainable South Florida is concerned with the Everglades ecosystem, which includes the same hydrologically significant geographic boundaries as the SFWMD. The Everglades ecosystem stretches from the Kissimmee-Lake Okeechobee region to the coral reef (Ring, 1993, and Corn et al., 1993). It includes the Everglades, the Florida Keys, Florida Bay, and other hydrologically related systems, including all or parts of 16 counties. At one time, the Everglades proper covered 4 million acres of Florida and received nourishment from a slowly moving sheet of freshwater drifting southward. For thousands of years the ecosystem remained basically unchanged. During the last 100 years, approximately half of the Everglades has disappeared. It has been drained, channelized, and altered to allow for Florida's rapid agricultural and urban growth. Parts of the Everglades are still in relatively pristine condition but much of it has changed. Changes in water quality, quantity, distribution, and timing have contributed significantly to Everglades degradation (Ring, 1993, and Corn et al., 1993).

    The South Florida region contains approximately 5.2 million people (SFWMD, 1995a), 40% of Florida's total population (Lenze, 1994). The population is expected to reach 8 million by the year 2010 (SFWMD, 1995a) and triple in the region by the year 2050 (SFWMD, 1994c). Table I depicts the regional population and projected growth by county. According to Lenze (1994), the majority of the growth will be concentrated in the urban centers. Almost one quarter of the growth is destined for the Orlando metropolitan statistical area (MSA) and almost half is projected for the 3 southeast MSAs: West Palm Beach, Ft. Lauderdale, and Miami. Currently, almost 85% of the region's population resides in the latter areas.

    Migration has played the predominant role in South Florida's population growth, accounting for 85% of the new residents in the 3 southeast counties between 1950 and 1990 (SFRPC, 1995a). This trend has slowed,

    due in part to the increasing density and congestion of urban South Florida. The region [Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties] now attracts a declining proportion of the elderly who migrate to Florida . . . . For this southeast region as a whole, previous generations of elderly immigrants are not being replaced by new ones (p.12).

    One-third of the southeast region's 1990 population is foreign-born. "[T]he rich ethnic and cultural diversity these residents bring are a strength for the region, helping to mold South Florida into a world class cultural center with a world class workforce" (p. 13).



        County          1990         2010       % Change   
                     Population   Population               
    Broward            1,255,488    1,773,034          46% 
    Charlotte*               500        1,178         136% 
    Collier              152,099      293,469          93% 
    Dade               1,937,094    2,560,097          32% 
    Glades                 7,591       14,800          95% 
    Hendry                25,773       41,610          61% 
    Highlands*             9,150       14,269          56% 
    Lee                  335,113      640,516          91% 
    Martin               100,900      179,426          78% 
    Monroe                78,024       94,337          21% 
    Okeechobee*           28,947       46,315          60% 
    Orange*              127,785      183,164          43% 
    Osceola*             104,514      188,370          80% 
    Palm Beach           863,518    1,597,535          85% 
    Polk*                 12,823       19,625          53% 
    St. Lucie            150,171      290,100          93% 
              TOTAL    5,189,490    7,937,845          53% 

    Indicates counties which are not entirely within the boundaries of South Florida. The population shown reflects only that portion within South Florida.

    SOURCES: Bureau of Economic and Business Research, Florida Statistical Abstract (1993); SFWMD, Water Supply Needs and Sources, 1990-2010 (1992); Local Government Comprehensive Plans.

    In 1991, the Miami Hialeah area was the intended destination of 3.2% (58,918 persons) of the foreign immigrants admitted to the U.S. (Bureau of Economic and Business Research, 1993). This figure does not include the more than 85,000 Cubans and Haitians who have arrived in Florida since 1983 (Spinthourakis, et al., 1994).

    Age also plays a role in the demographic composition of South Florida. The region's population is older when compared to the rest of the country and the state as a whole (SFRPC, 1995a and SWFRPC, 1995c). Less than one-half of South Florida's population (47%) is in its prime working years (20-54), approximately 19% is 65 or older, and approximately 18% is school age (5-19) (Lenze, 1994).

    The economy of South Florida reflects the greater state pattern with distribution of earnings of 33% for services; 19% for trade (combined wholesale and retail); and around 14% for government. Finance, insurance, and real estate together account for approximately 8.4% and agriculture (agricultural services, forestry and fishing) approximately 3.3% (Harmon, 1994). The role of agriculture in South Florida is problematic as it comprises the majority of the land use in the area. Statewide, about 70% of the arable land is devoted to farming (Davidson, 1994). The top 5 Florida counties in agricultural cash receipts were all among the top 10 most populated counties in the state. South Florida reflects the greater state trend inasmuch as its major metropolitan areas are often juxtaposed with large agricultural production areas. A total of 142,000 people work in agriculture, according to Harmon (1994), a small percentage when compared to total regional employment. Overall, agriculture in Florida has a $16 billion impact compared to tourism which has a $30 billion dollar impact. However, agriculture is responsible for up to 30% of the earnings in some of the interior South Florida counties. Moreover, it continues to be the dominant land use in many of the region's counties such as those in the lower west coast (43%), Osceola (77.5%), Highlands (68%), Okeechobee (93%), and Glades County (99%).

    In his presentation to the Governor's Commission on June 1, 1994, Dr. Dennis Harmon reviewed the high growth industries for South Florida, noting that 4 of the top 15 were in some type of printing and publishing activity. Eight of the 15 could be considered high technology. The only agricultural item in the leading growth industry list was bakery products (manufacturing). The bottom 10 on the list were particularly interesting because computer and office equipment showed up as industries projected to experience the steepest declines. In reference to international trade, Dr. Harmon noted an estimated $42 billion impact from importing and exporting activities, which complements the $16 billion and $30 billion impacts from agriculture and tourism respectively. In conclusion, Dr. Harmon highlighted some of the critical issues emerging in South Florida. These included the growing disparity between the "haves" and the "have nots," which is also indicative of the differing economic realities of the various counties. He also commented on the opportunities to be derived from the North American Free Trade Agreement and noted that several local economic development organizations are beginning to shift their focus from quantity of jobs created to quality. The South Florida Regional Planning Council (SFRPC) notes that in the southeast counties,

    the changing composition of the region's population has contributed to the shifting base of the economy, which is increasingly focused on international linkages and that historically the South Florida economy was strongly influenced by tourism and in-migration. The economy has become more service-oriented, with an increasing share of employment in the service-producing industries and a decreasing share of employment in goods-producing industries. In recent years, there has been a significant increase in international trade as integration with the global economy has accelerated (p.14).

    Approximately 10% of the state's work force is directly or indirectly involved in foreign trade. During the first 3 quarters of 1994, imports and exports were up 13.5 and 12.1%, respectively, from the previous year (Longman, 1995).

    The SFRPC emphasizes that,

    Those communities that are successful in economic development will possess a diversified economy, pursue global markets to strengthen their economic base and possess the necessary infrastructure to sustain a healthy economy. The creation and retention of quality jobs and dependable tax bases in the South Florida region will depend on such a healthy economy (1995a, p. 14).

    The SFRPC has found that more than 300 multinational companies have opened world, regional, and Latin American sales, service, administrative, research, training, and manufacturing facilities in Dade County. In 1993, $28 billion worth of exports and imports were processed through the Miami Customs District. In addition, South Florida is emerging as an administrative and managerial hub, a point of access to which companies are moving decision-making functions for Euro-Latin trade.

    To support a growing role in the world market, the SFRPC suggests that the current economic base must be broadened and shifted toward higher value-added industries and that international trade must be broadened to increase trade with European, Asian, and African countries. Necessary companion initiatives would have to be fashioned to develop a quality workforce which has access to training, adequate infrastructure, technology transfer, and start-up venture capital. The notable lack of economic development planning in the current growth management system needs to be rectified in order for the region to remain competitive.

    The trend of declining personal incomes over the last 2 decades is a concern in the southeast region. The SFRPC comments on this trend, "In both the region and the state, earnings from wages, salaries and professional fees, net of taxes, have been lower than the national average and have fallen" (1995a: p. 17-18). Transfer payments in the region have mirrored those in the rest of the country. The SFRPC notes that the "Lower earnings have been compensated by a significantly higher share for dividends, interest, and rent in total income in South Florida and the state when compared with the national average" (1995a: p. 18).

    Despite the above trends, the growing level of poverty among the elderly is a particular concern in the southeast region, especially in periods of declining interest rates. Furthermore, the SFRPC finds a continuing pattern of occupational disparities along ethnic and racial lines. It points out that "African-Americans still remain significantly over-represented among lower-paid unskilled laborers." Moreover, the SFRPC also points out regional economic disparities, "The percent of families below the poverty level in 1989 was much higher in Dade County (14%) than the State average (9%). Both Broward (7%) and Monroe (7%) were below the State average." According to the Council, 7 municipalities in South Florida had percentages of families below poverty level that were more than twice as high as the state average. The Council states that a recent study found that approximately 1 in every 3 children in Ft. Lauderdale and more than 4 out of every 10 children in Miami live in poverty. The Council cautions that, "Unless strategic action is taken on a regional level, the net results of world trade and the globalization of South Florida will deepen the social and economic disparities that already exist" (1995a: p. 19). It also warns that the bottom half of South Florida's society faces an ominous trend. Service industries, the largest employers in the area, are automating jobs and displacing lower skilled workers. In addition, declining pay for the bottom half may not be reflected statistically, since average incomes should rise as the top half does better. The resentment created by this widening inequity and by increased welfare and unemployment costs is an equation for a collision course.

    The southwest portion of the region mirrors the trends discussed above, but with diminished magnitudes. The region's major economic sector is service-related, resulting from the needs of the large retiree and tourist population in coastal counties and agriculture in the interior. Retail trade ranks second as a source of jobs in the coastal counties. The southwest region has an unusually high rate of unemployment and low wage scales in its rural areas (SWFRPC, 1995a).


    In the late 1970s and early 1980s, a number of independent scientists, activists, and policymakers were working on responses to the interconnected problems of environment and development. They began to use the term "sustainability" to describe the goal of integrating environmental and developmental concerns. It wasn't until the 1987 United Nations' World Commission on Environment and Development released its report, "Our Common Future," that the terms "sustainability" and "sustainable development" came into wide-spread use. "Our Common Future" (or the "Brundtland Report," named after the Commission's Chair, Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland) defined sustainable development as "development which meets the needs of the present without endangering the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."

    That Commission established several key principles of sustainability:

    ! That the needs of the future must not be sacrificed to the demands of the present;

    ! That humanity's economic future is linked to the integrity of natural systems; and

    ! That protecting the environment is impossible unless we improve the economic prospects of the Earth's poorest peoples.

    There are several major attributes to this concept. The first is the distinction between growth and development. Dr. Herman Daly (Environment Department, World Bank) describes the differences by defining 'growth' as the "expansion in scale of physical dimensions of an economic system while 'development' refers to a qualitative change (improvement or degradation) of a physically, non-growing economic system in a state of dynamic equilibrium maintained by its environment."

    Another attribute of the concept is that it is not a new, revolutionary, or radical notion. People have been familiarized with the idea through the common usage of such terms as carrying capacity, sustained management practices, sustainable yield, systems approaches, limits to growth, and more.

    At the June 1992 United Nations' Conference on Environment and Development (the "Earth Summit" or UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, representatives from nearly every nation on Earth adopted the Brundtland principles in the form of international treaties and agreements designed to begin protecting natural systems while meeting the needs of the world's poor. At the same time, a "Global Forum" of citizens' groups from around the world developed grass-roots initiatives designed to monitor governments and push sustainability efforts beyond what governmental processes were able to do. These latter efforts were aligned with Agenda 21, 1 of 5 documents signed at the UNCED conference. Donald A. Brown (1994-95) describes Agenda 21 as a non-binding, comprehensive blueprint for global action into the 21st century. He explains that "the greatest historical significance of Agenda 21 is that it puts environmental protection and development activities on the same footing under the notion of 'sustainable development'" (p. 1-2). Brown concludes that Agenda 21 is a means of forcing the integration of environmental, economic, and social planning at the state level and that it should be used as a "tool for reconciling economic, environment, and development tensions and conflicts" (p. 3).

    Today we are on the threshold of trying to bring these ideals to fruition. How to do that is the question. In 1985, a Global Tomorrow Coalition report noted that,

    The main problem in development is not the lack of technical answers, but failure for political and socio-economic reasons to put known solutions into effect soon enough and widely enough. We believe that questions of democracy, the role of markets, the debt crisis, land tenure, and international institutions are central to the development process.

    Recently, the U.S. Man in the Biosphere Program (1994: p. 2) concluded that, "A sustainable South Florida environment is achievable only through utilizing ecosystem management principles that recognize the inter-dependency of humans and their environment." Therefore, is the human environment part of or independent of the natural system? The consensus appears to be that it is the successful integration of the two and that sustainability is the test of whether they are integrated in a way in which specified fundamental environmental constraints are not violated. For example: Colin Isaccs, Executive Director of the Pollution Probe Foundation in Toronto, Ontario, in his remarks to a session of "Environment and Economy, Partners for the Future," a conference on the theme of sustainable development held in December 1989, stated,

    Sustainable development is sustainable development, not sustainable economic development, not sustainable DEVELOPMENT, but almost one word: sustainabledevelopment . . . . It's not the economy or the economics that we are trying to sustain, it's the environment and the economy that we are trying to sustain. . . . Sustainable development clearly means development in controlled quantity, enough to meet the globe's economic and environmental needs and no more.

    Paul Hawken, in "The Ecology of Commerce: A Declaration of Sustainability" (1993) states that "sustainability" can be defined in terms of carrying capacity of the ecosystem, and described with input-output models of energy and resource consumption. Sustainability is an economic state where the demands placed upon the environment by people and commerce can be met without reducing the capacity of the environment to provide for future generations. He goes on to note that sustainability means that services or products should not compete in the marketplace in terms of image, power, speed, packaging, etc., but instead should compete in a way that reduces consumption, energy use, distribution costs, economic concentrations, soil erosion, atmospheric pollution, and other forms of environmental damage.

    Overall, sustainability is an ethical consideration. The term, by itself, is meaningless unless it is used in the context of sustainable uses or of something that can be identified and measured. Numerous states and municipalities have attempted to quantify those "sustainable" markers, or benchmarks, in attempts to establish and measure progress. Of particular note are the Oregon Benchmarks (1992), Mainewatch (1990), Minnesota Sustainable Development Initiative (1994), Sustainable Seattle (1993), Virginia (Environmental Law Institute, 1994), the City of Jacksonville (Henderson, 1991), and the Florida Commission on Government and Accountability to the People (1995). Sustainability can be looked at as an ecological constraint on human activities and a way to make deliberate ethical decisions to ensure future generations meet their own needs.

    The issue at hand is how to bring about change that will affect Floridians today and tomorrow in a manner that ensures quality community development both economically and ecologically. Past attempts have failed in clearly delineating and charting a measurable quality future for South Florida. A vigorous economy and a healthy ecosystem must be the lever and the fulcrum, respectively, of our present and future activities. This Commission will strive to make that difference; it is that important to us all.

    In this Chapter we have "set the problem." In the next Chapter we provide our suggested solutions.

    Last modified Monday March 12 2001