An urban future means growth for all cities, not just mega-cities

By Hania Zlotnik

This story is part of What Happens Next, our complete guide to understanding the future. Read more predictions about the Future of Cities.

The future is urban—but it does not lie exclusively in mega-cities.

About a decade ago, for the first time in history, the number of people living in urban areas surpassed that of those living in rural ones. But “urban” does not mean New York or Beijing or Rome. About half the urban population still lives in fairly small cities of fewer than 500,000 people (at least in developing countries) that may resemble rural areas more than mega-cities. Europe, for instance, has just two mega-cities and many smaller cities.

There are already 29 mega-cities with populations of 10 million or more—including Delhi, Shanghai, Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Lagos and Kinshasa—but they make up just 12% of the global urban population. By 2035, we’re expected to have 50 mega-cities, but they would only account for 16% of all urban dwellers.

What’s more, urbanization has not advanced at the same pace in all regions. Europe and Northern America urbanized early, and their populations are already mostly urban (74.5% and 82% respectively). So are those of Latin America and the Caribbean, 81% of whose inhabitants live in urban areas. In sharp contrast, Africa’s population is still mostly rural (57%) and Asia’s has just become 50% urban.

Asia’s urbanization levels are largely determined by those of the two population giants, China and India. Until 1990, they were among the least urbanized countries in the world, with only 25% of their respective populations living in cities. Since then, China’s economic transformation has been accompanied by very rapid urbanization: China is expected to be three-quarters urban by 2038, up from 60% today. India, by contrast, still lags far behind with just about a third of its population living in cities, a proportion expected to rise to 45% by 2038.

High urbanization levels are associated with higher GDP. As the experience of China shows, rapid economic growth tends to accelerate urbanization. When high shares of the population make their living from agriculture, the productivity of that sector tends to be low. By contrast, during economic development, the most dynamic sectors of the economy tend to cluster in urban centers—or even give rise to them.

In China, for instance, the economic liberalization that began in 1978 promoted the development of enterprises in rural villages, which led to an economic boom in rural areas. The growth of rural enterprises spurred the development of new towns and cities by making villages become increasingly urban. As a consequence, the number of cities in China grew from 193 in 1978 to 655 in 2008, with the majority of new cities being small or medium-sized. The emergence of so many new cities—many located near the rural areas from which they derived their dynamism—helped reduce the impact of rural-to-urban migration on the large cities of China.

The movement of people from rural to urban areas is only one of the ways in which urban populations grow. Additions to the urban population also happen because births exceed deaths in urban areas, or because new cities emerge or existing cities expand, often encompassing former rural settlements. In some of the least developed countries, urban populations increase mainly because urban couples have many children who survive to be adults.

Rural-to-urban migration has not in general been the major contributor to urban population growth in developing countries.

 

For instance, in Niger, where the population is mostly rural (84%), the number of urban dwellers is doubling every 17 years because fertility is still a high seven children per women. Similarly, in much of Africa, high fertility is fueling rapid urban population growth, implying that increasing urbanization in the region is often not indicative of economic dynamism.

Demographers estimate that in most developing countries since the 1960s, the excess of births over deaths has accounted for well over half of the population increase in urban areas. Therefore, rural-to-urban migration, though significant over certain periods, has not in general been the major contributor to urban population growth in developing countries. Furthermore, in highly urbanized countries the majority of internal migrants already originate in cities and simply move to other cities, therefore having no impact on the overall size of the urban population. That is the case in the United States, in most European countries, and in highly urbanized developing countries, such as Brazil.

Urbanization is mostly positive. Evidence from developing countries shows that, on average, people living in urban areas are better off than rural dwellers. Because urbanites have better access to health care, they have better health and live longer than rural dwellers; their educational attainment is higher because educational institutions are better and more easily accessible in urban than in rural areas; and they benefit from a more diversified labor market than that typical of rural areas.  Nevertheless, cities in developing countries are not free from stresses: high levels of underemployment, the growth of slums, lack of adequate infrastructure, and costly services are problems that remain on the agenda of countless cities.

The expected expansion of cities in the developing world poses a number of challenges, including the necessity of generating decent jobs for their growing populations and providing them with adequate urban services in terms of housing, water and sanitation, transportation, electrification, nutrition, education, and health care. Furthermore, over the next few decades, cities will have to increase their resilience to the consequences of climate change, especially considering that many populous cities—such as Shanghai, Osaka, Mumbai, New York, Miami, Rio de Janeiro, Alexandria, and Durban—are located in coastal areas that are very likely to be affected by rising sea levels. Though a few of the coastal cities are beginning to take measures to increase their resilience to floods and storm surges, if the average global temperature increases beyond 2° celsius, large tracts of urban land will be submerged and people will have to move elsewhere.

Technology and economies of scale may facilitate addressing some of these challenges. But in most countries, proactive planning for ensuring the resilience of urban centers is still the exception rather than the rule. Innovative approaches will be necessary to ensure that urban centers may continue to offer the best chances of enjoying long and productive lives. These approaches will require educating and nudging people to practice resource conservation, especially with regard to energy and water use. Technology may provide some solutions but it is ultimately the adoption and consistent use of appropriate technologies by each of us that will make a difference.

(Note: All statistics cited in this piece are derived from World Urbanization Prospects: The 2018 Revision, produced by the Population Division of the United Nations.)

Millennial workforce split on transit options

September 17, 2018 11:14 AM
Updated September 17, 2018 11:14 AM
This week’s question to South Florida CEOs who are on the Miami Herald CEO Roundtable: Statistics show millennials don’t want to own cars and prefer to use Uber and public transportation whenever possible. Have you seen this trend reflected in your workforce?

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While there are Community Care Plan employees who will use Uber or public transportation on an occasional basis, given that our office isn’t in a downtown urban location, I don’t believe that it has been a trend for our employees.

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We have quite a few millennials working for us, and they all enjoy their automobiles. The statistics which shows that many millennials prefer not to own cars are heavily influenced by cities that have had far better public transportation for many years than most major cities in Florida. The independence of owning our own cars is deeply entrenched in the minds of all Floridians, including millennials.

Armando Caceres, CEO, founder, All Florida Paper

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Many of our younger employees choose to live downtown and put off owning a car. I’m noticing the buses, trolleys and Metrorail are bustling with people and all of these services are becoming more reliable because of increased use. This is all great news for our city.

Kelly-Ann Cartwright, executive partner, Holland & Knight Miami chair of the firm’s Directors Committee

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Although I have not yet seen it in my workforce, I have seen it with millennial family members. There is something to be said about being able to shed the expenses and headaches that come with automobiles/commuting and instead, using that time and money for more fulfilling endeavors. I think millennials are on the right track with this trend.

Ralph De La Rosa, president, CEO, Imperial Freight

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None of our employees use public transportation, likely because we aren’t located near any major transit system. Uber has been a great addition to the market, but as a company, we don’t use it all that much.

Jalal Farooq, principal, Al-Farooq Corporation

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In the last several years, we have seen a steady decline in students bringing a car to campus. Students are using Uber and Lyft, Zip Cars, biking and bike-share, public transit, e-scooters, and other ways to get around. The university is encouraging carpooling, especially through app-based services, to further reduce traffic on and around campus. The University of Miami is working with community partners to make a variety of transit options more available and we strive to create a campus that is increasingly pedestrian-friendly.

Dr. Julio Frenk, president, University of Miami

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We haven’t seen that phenomenon with the millennials at our workplace. They all still enjoy owning their own cars.

Kaizad Hansotia, founder, CEO, Gurkha Cigars

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I can’t say that any of our employees have given up their cars completely. Miami is a big city and the truth is you need a car. That being said, I know that the employees based out of our Coral Gables office are constantly taking advantage of the Freebee cars and trolleys. They’re extremely convenient to get around Downtown Gables — particularly in these hot summer months. Uber and Lyft also are good options when you need to get to a meeting in Downtown or Brickell and want to avoid the inconvenience and high cost of parking.

Javier Holtz, chairman, CEO, Marquis Bank

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Yes, most millennials do not want the cost and commitment associated with owning, insuring and maintaining a vehicle and are used to shared concepts as opposed to private ownership. We are living in the Uber generation and developers need to consider this when planning future developments. For example, our upcoming Miami River Walk apartment development is a transit-oriented project, which will appeal to millennials due to its extensive amenity offering, close proximity to offices and entertainment options in Downtown and Brickell, and value price offering.

Camilo Miguel Jr., founder, CEO, Mast Capital

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We find most people are still driving to work. However, I have recently experienced upper level management using Uber for daytime meetings in order to maximize efficiency.

Noreen Sablotsky, founder, CEO, Imalac

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I have witnessed a few employees opting for Uber/Lyft service going to and from work. Though it only seems to make sense monetarily if they use the shared ride option, which cuts costs and lowers their carbon footprint. Otherwise, it can cost more than the expenses for a used car, depending on how often they are out and about, i.e., monthly note, gas, car insurance, parking.

Deborah Spiegelman, CEO, Miami Children’s Museum

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While there is an uptick in use of Uber and ride-share as options, many of our associates are millennials and they still drive to work daily. We haven’t yet seen an increase in the use of public transportation among the millennial demographic specifically.

Steve Upshaw, CEO, Cross Country Home Services

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Bob Knight: Public money wasted on unnecessary water projects

Posted Sep 11, 2018 at 2:00 AM

 

Nature’s water cycle is amazing and free. Solar energy lifts fresh water from the ocean as vapor, transports it over the land with wind currents and deposits precipitation on Florida at an average rate of about 150 billion gallons each day.

About 15 billion gallons of this rainfall daily recharges the state’s natural underground water storage and conveyance system. The remaining 90 percent evaporates or runs off in rivers to the ocean. This is like a natural Jacuzzi, bathing Florida’s environment in life-giving freshwater at no cost.

Fast forward to 2018. Humans have corralled and re-directed Florida’s natural water cycle to fulfill their own desires. Florida’s rivers and lakes are widely impaired due to poorly regulated pollutant discharges and excessive withdrawals. Increasingly, Floridians have turned to underground waters for supply, first for drinking water and then for nearly every other use, including landscape and crop irrigation that was traditionally supported by rain.

The consequence of this shift is the increasing depletion of Florida’s most precious and least plentiful fresh water supply — the groundwater in Florida’s aquifers. In north and central Florida, the resulting destruction of our natural springs and rivers that rely on groundwater inputs for dry-season baseflow is visible to all who care to look. Downstate in the absence of springs, aquifer depletion is harder to see.

Rather than facing this calamity head on by establishing a cap on groundwater pumping to reserve adequate water to protect natural environments, Florida’s leaders continue to kick the can down the road under cover of poor science and public apathy.

Some of us consume less than 30 gallons per day of groundwater for drinking, bathing and cleaning and are content to rely on rain to water our grass. But the average Floridan consumes closer to 100 gallons per day of groundwater. Just by cutting out unnecessary water uses, we could reduce the public’s 3 billion gallon per day groundwater habit to less than 1 billion gallons per day.

Fortunately, a few areas of the state are concerned enough about depleted aquifers to have already cut historic water uses in half. Unfortunately, the benefits realized by this growing Florida water ethic are undone by a much smaller group of water users — namely for-profit business owners who shamelessly drink for free at the public water trough. With no charge for using groundwater, the cunning few who control the water-permitting system easily gain permits to withdraw gigantic quantities of groundwater at no charge.

While water bottlers are a convenient target for public wrath about this corporate welfare, they are a drop in the bucket compared to phosphate mines, paper mills, industrial farms and others. More than 30,000 consumptive use permits allocate nearly half of all groundwater recharge in Florida’s Springs Region. Averaging more than 150,000 gallons per day each, these permits legalize groundwater extractions that are collectively killing our springs.

Despite compelling evidence that Florida’s springs are drying up, the state’s leaders continue to promote their costly charade justifying new water consumption permits based on obfuscation and flawed groundwater flow models. While restoring Florida’s springs is as easy and free as reducing permitted groundwater allocations, the water management districts would rather bilk taxpayers for the cost of their own water.

For example, St. Johns River Water Management District leaders seriously considered putting a pipe in the Ocklawaha River downstream from Silver Springs and pumping the water to a treatment and recharge system next to the spring at an estimated capital cost of more than $100 million and annual operating costs of nearly $1 million. District employees privately dubbed this ridiculous idea the “Jacuzzi Project.”

The same water district is implementing a $40 million scheme to pump water from Black Creek to restore water levels in the Keystone area lakes. Once again, the cost for this Ponzi scheme will be borne by taxpayers rather than by the businesses who continue to profit by depleting the aquifer.

A series of similar projects are in the planning stages in the Suwannee River Water Management District. Together these two water districts have projected a $300 million price tag to provide “alternative” water supplies to meet future demands.

How can these “public servants” continue to expend public money to implement these unnecessary water supply projects? The simple answer is that they are desperate enough to try anything to keep their jobs. If we don’t demand better of our leaders, you can bet we won’t get it.

Dr. Bob Knight is director of the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute in High Springs.

Welcome to water world!

Updated

 

Welcome to water world!
The sunset from South Pointe Park in Miami Beach.

Head for the coast, and on a good weekend, thousands of people are at the shore, enjoying the sun, water and sugar-white sands.

Beaches are the original Florida — the lure that drew Northerners to a swampy peninsula decades before Walt Disney’s company decided to make the Sunshine State home.

Today, these original tourist attractions generate billions of dollars for the state economy and support nearly 400,000 jobs. Their salt-air allure is part of the foundation of modern Florida.

“If the beaches weren’t here, Disney would have thought twice about locating (its theme parks) in Florida,” said Kevin Murphy, professor and chair of the Hospitality Services Department at Rosen College of Hospitality Management at University of Central Florida.

“Our sun, sea and sand is the primary reason why people come here.”

Modern threats from toxic algae, erosion, rising sea levels and oil spills have failed to dim the public’s love of these natural wonders. If the weather’s good on a holiday like Labor Day, the sun-loving crowds prove it again and again.

But the numbers prove it, too.

The United States Lifesaving Association, which compiles data from public safety agencies on ocean rescues, estimates that more than 85.7 million people visited Florida beaches in 2017. That’s the highest attendance the organization recorded in the last 10 years.

It also represents more than a quarter of the more than 385 million people nationwide who visited beaches last year, the group said.

At least 43 of Florida’s state parks have beaches. Combined, they welcomed 14 million to 17 million visitors during each of the last five years, according to data from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which oversees the Florida Park Service.

That’s higher than the number of people who visited any one of Florida’s theme parks in 2017, except for Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.

Florida’s most popular state park with a beach is Honeymoon Island State Park in Dunedin, near Clearwater. It drew more than 1.5 million visitors in each of the last two years, as many visitors as Universal Orlando’s newest theme park Volcano Bay in its first year of business.

And that’s just part of the story.

The more you look, the more it becomes clear that Florida is the nation’s undisputed beach king.

How Florida leads in beaches

Florida has a geographic advantage that favors its high beach attendance.

It has about 1,350 miles of coastline, more than any other state in the continental U.S, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Although the Sunshine State doesn’t come close to matching Alaska’s 6,640-mile coastline, it has at least 825 miles of coastline with beaches, according to the Florida Shore and Beach Preservation Association.

“Florida uniquely has beaches on two different U.S. coastlines, the Atlantic and the Gulf. This means different wave and water patterns, temperatures and culture,” said Derek Brockbank, executive director of the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association. “Florida also has beaches with different sand composition, ranging from sugary-white, to filled with tropical shells, to golden-hued.”

This diversity in beach landscapes offers different experiences that attract not only tourists, but also Villagers and other Florida residents.

“Our people love to swim,” said Sharon Jones, the Village of Hemingway resident who leads beach trips with The Villages Barefoot Beachcombers, one of at least five beach clubs in the community. “They’re not the kind of people that sit in a chair all day.”

Beyond the abundant coastline and three distinct beach regions to explore, Florida beaches have other significant advantages.

One selling point stands apart in the minds of many tourists planning their beach getaways: a mild climate for most of the year.

So when blizzards cover Nassau County, New York, with piles of snow, visitors can head south to bask in the sun in places like Amelia Island in Nassau County, Florida.

“If you look at some of the great tourist destinations in the world like New York and Paris, they’re not necessarily surrounded by beaches,” said Murphy, of UCF. “But when you look at millions of people coming to Central Florida, which encompasses two coasts, they often plan that visit around the beaches like Daytona Beach and Clearwater. To attract people to the coastal communities is paramount.”

Leading by acclaim

Florida doesn’t thrive as a beach tourism hotspot only by having beaches open all year.

It also has some of the best beaches in the nation, as ranked by several authoritative travel sources.

Florida beaches featured prominently on TripAdvisor’s annual list of the best beaches in the United States, including six in the top 10: Clearwater Beach at No. 1, Siesta Beach in Sarasota at No. 2, South Beach in Miami at No. 4, Fort Lauderdale Beach at No. 6, St. Pete Beach at No. 7 and Hollywood Beach at No. 8.

Those destinations also are favorites on the annual top 10 lists of Dr. Stephen Leatherman, a coastal ecologist at Florida International University. Although he’s one of the world’s top researchers on sea level rise and rip currents, Leatherman is perhaps best known by his nickname, “Dr. Beach.”

This year, he ranked Grayton Beach State Park in Santa Rosa Beach at No. 3 on his list, and Caladesi Island State Park in Dunedin at No. 7. In 2017, Siesta Beach — a frequent entrant on his annual lists — was No. 1.

Attendance to Siesta Beach that year likely received a boost from press coverage of its ranking on the Dr. Beach list that received more than 600 million audience impressions, he said, citing tourism officials in Sarasota.

Other Florida beaches that won his acclaim in prior years include Bahia Honda State Park in the Florida Keys, St. Andrews State Park in Panama City Beach, St. Joseph Peninsula State Park in Port St. Joe, and Fort DeSoto Park in St. Petersburg.

“Florida has clean beaches, clean water, clean sand and good access,” Leatherman said in an interview. “And (Florida beaches) are well-managed.”

To compile his lists, he grades beaches using a set of 50 criteria that includes the color and softness of sand, whether wildlife is present, and whether the beach has scenic vistas or is close to urban areas.

The most important qualities Leatherman looks for in a beach are the cleanliness of the water, public safety, and how well the beach is managed.

“If you don’t have clean water, you don’t have anything,” he said. “The Department of Health checks our water, and it’s excellent. There’s places where it’s not very good, but overall, our water quality is very good in Florida.”

Why beaches matter to Florida’s economy

Depending on where you go, the cost of a beach visit in Florida ranges from free to inexpensive.

Yet, they play a major role in Florida’s economy.

Tourism and recreation in the state’s coastal counties — not limited to, but including beaches — contributed more than $16 billion to Florida’s gross domestic product in 2011, 2012, and 2015, according to the most recent research available from the National Ocean Economics Program, which monitors the ocean economies of the U.S.

Florida and California, a state with $22 billion in GDP and more than 418,000 jobs tied to coastal tourism, together comprise one-third of the nation’s total employment and GDP tied to coastal tourism.

“The reason we don’t have state income taxes (in Florida) is because of the people coming to the beaches,” said Luke Cunningham, a charter boat captain in Clearwater. “It’s a critical part of our economy, that’s for sure.”

It’s certainly critical to Cunningham and many other people, since coastal tourism and recreation supported more than 397,000 jobs in 2015, according to the National Ocean Economics Program.

In its latest economic study on Florida beaches, also from 2015, the state’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research found beaches generate $5.40 for every dollar the state invests on beach management and restoration.

The study reviewed tourist spending related to beach travel compared with state leaders’ beach management and restoration investments during the 2010-11, 2011-12 and 2012-13 fiscal years.

During that time, state leaders spent about $44 million in taxpayer dollars in beach management projects that improved and enhanced the quality of Florida beaches.

That work contributed to more than $764 million in beach spending from domestic and international visitors, the report showed.

Many out-of-state visitors identify Florida with beaches more than they do theme parks.

In fact, the state Economic and Demographic Research study found that 25.5 percent of visitors to Florida called beaches the most attractive feature of the state’s brand. Theme parks trailed slightly at 24.3 percent.

“It may be noted that, while beaches are the most attractive feature to visitors, they generally do not directly generate revenue,” the report stated. “Instead, they facilitate an array of expenditures that collectively comprise the cost of the tourism experience.”

The beach tends to be such a lucrative destination, tourists will pay big bucks to stay close to it.

About 63 percent of hotel and motel business in Florida comes from coastal areas, according to a recent economic impact analysis for Visit Florida, the state’s public-private tourism marketer.

STR, a company that tracks market data, found that visitors to Monroe, Collier, Nassau, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and Walton counties this year paid an average of about or more than $200 per night for lodging.

Other statewide indicators highlight the significance of beach tourism to Florida.

Of the eight Florida counties that state leaders consider high-impact tourism areas — places where bed taxes raise at least $30 million a year — six of them are counties where beaches are a primary attraction: Duval, Volusia, Pinellas, Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade.

The other two — Orange and Osceola — have no coastline, but plenty of theme parks to make up for it.

“When we’re reaching out to visitors outside the area, we always lead with the beach,” said Kate Holcomb, spokeswoman for the Daytona Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau in Volusia County. “We definitely know our iconic beach is our main asset.”

Wide appeal, lots of activities

Saying you’re going to the beach offers only a broad description of how to spend the day.

A trip offers many possibilities, as simple or as elaborate as a visitor wants to make it.

Families with young children, teenagers and young adults, and senior citizens alike pack the shores of Clearwater Beach on an average weekend, their paths meandering around colored umbrellas, chairs and blankets.

If the kids aren’t in the water, they study the sands with toy pails and shovels in tow as they scout out spots to build a perfect sand castle.

Some adults, inspired by the childhood pastime, enjoy sand sculpting — an art that involves building more elaborate objects using the sand, not limited to, but including castles.

Depending on the beach, people also may find anglers casting rods and reels from fishing piers, players lofting volleyballs across an oceanfront net, standup paddle boarders gliding along the ocean, or parasailers soaring above the surf.

Add in surfers, snorkelers and scuba divers, and the beach becomes a moving spectacle of outdoor activity.

Grayton Beach, halfway between Destin and Panama City in Florida’s Panhandle, is where people can view the Underwater Museum of Art, America’s first underwater museum. It’s a sculpture garden accessible only by scuba diving.

Despite debuting only three months ago, Time Magazine recently named the underwater museum one of its top 100 places in the world to visit. Only one other Florida landmark made the list, Pandora — The World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Caladesi Island, a Dr. Beach favorite near Clearwater, attracts many paddleboaters because a canoe or kayak is the only other way besides a ferry to reach the beach.

Among those paddlers last year was a group of 12 members of The Villages Canoe and Kayak Club. Jim Zoschenko, who led that trip and now serves as the club’s vice president, said the paddle trail across Hurricane Pass from Honeymoon Island leads through tunnels of mangroves.

The Village of Pennecamp resident said the club organizes at least one coastal paddle every year. He’s planning a return visit to Caladesi Island for the club next spring.

More members enjoyed the paddle to the beach than the beach itself, Zoschenko said.

“It was interesting that on that trip very few of our club members got in the water,” he said, “which was bizarre since the conditions were idyllic.”

Michael Salerno is a senior writer with The Villages Daily Sun. He can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5369, or michael.salerno@thevillagesmedia.com.