Words have power. Words move us to heights of euphoria, and to the depths of despair. Words can move mountains, and they can be the things that unite or divide us. I write today to speak in defense, and in support, of the word “no.”
Our friend, the word “no,” has been much maligned as of late. Those who would question the growth machine in Florida and the havoc that it sets in motion, are often accused of being “the forces of no.” Those of us who have the audacity to prefer the old Florida and its charms and simplicity to the new Florida and its pavement and sprawl are accused of just saying no to say no.
Well, it’s a tad more nuanced than that. What those who would prefer sustainability to the public policy disaster that surrounds us in Florida say no to is growth for growth’s sake. Growth, and the sprawl and gridlock….the concrete and pollution…the degraded quality of life, that is seemingly justified because we can conceive of no alternative and are told to accept the inevitable. To this growth for growth’s sake I say “no.”
No more loss of open space. No more degraded coastal ecosystems. No more corrupt politicians who take contributions from developers and then try to convince the public that it would never influence their vote. No more crowded schools, roads, and parks. No more soul crushing degradation of quality of life. To all this, the direct result of a growth machine gone mad in Florida, I say no.
The real test for Florida’s future is who else might learn to say no. There is not a regulatory government agency in Florida at the local, state, or federal level who seems to have the ability to say no to much at all. Roads already too crowded? Water in short supply? Schools overcrowded? Well, one more development here or there won’t hurt.
I want the government agencies who are supposed to be protecting our air and water, our transportation and education systems, and our quality of life to learn the word “no.” Once they get the hang of it, I would like them to start using the word loudly and frequently when the developers come seeking another project, another stripmall, and another subdivision.
In fairness, simply saying no is not enough. We need to define what we want to say yes to, and what we want our elected officials and government agencies to say yes to. I say yes to sustainable, environmentally friendly growth that builds communities and respects the rights of the citizens and taxpayers that are already in a community. The first rule should be “do no harm.” If a project can be designed to protect natural resources, not burden the infrastructure network, and be integrated into the existing community then a hearty “yes” is called for. If it can’t, then Florida’s future demands that elected officials and government agencies learn to say “no.”
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