Governor Phil Scott in his 2019 Budget speech stressed that he wants to increase Vermont’s population with young people in response to our aging population.
However, population growth is the direct cause of all the very serious environmental problems Vermont is now facing. Population growth is also the underlying cause of many of our financial problems. Because of a larger population size, big box stores found it profitable to move to Vermont, Instead of locally owned businesses, most have been replaced by giant out-of-state owned corporations. With those revenues now leaving Vermont, many of our once-vibrant downtowns (such as Barre) now too many empty stores.
And if population growth is so good for the economy why has the Vermont population grown from 445,000 in 1970 to 626,000 in 2018, a 40% increase, but the poverty rate has stayed the same at about 11-12%, with now some 75,000 people living below the poverty level?
Instead of increasing the population we should figure out ways to adjust to the aging population. People are living longer, and so they can be working longer.
Technology and robots will reduce the need for many jobs.
Rather than growing the population what we should instead be focusing on is growing more of our own food and generating more of our own renewable energy. As the “food baskets” of the Midwest and South become more arid, those areas are going to produce less food. Let’s revitalize our agricultural economy and grow most of our own food, as was done back in the early 1900s.
Rather than encouraging more people to move here, let’s develop strategies to encourage younger people to stay here and to develop the skills that are needed, We should reduce college costs, raise the minimum wage, support paid family leave, provide health care for all, and provide more support services for young people now facing so many problems.
For the sake of our quality of life, protection of our unique Vermont environment, and to help reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, let us begin a conscious discussion on how to best adjust to an aging population and become a more “sustainable” state. It was great to hear the Governor use that term, but it seemed to be just in a feel-good sense. We have to define what we mean by sustainable accurately. For the best definition of that term, go to the home page: betternotbiggervt.org.
George Plumb, Washington
Board member of Better (not bigger) Vermont and the organizer of the 2014 report, “What is an Optimal/Sustainable Population for Vermont?”