Sunday, July 9, 2023

Communitarianism in Florida

"The one greatest predictor of your longevity and health is your level of social interaction", University of Miami School of Architecture Professor Joanna Lombard told town planner Victor Dover. People, in short, need each other. To live atomized, lonely lives is not only sad and dull; it is actually bad for your well-being. 

Last May, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy admonished Americans that feeling isolated and lonely is as detrimental to your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. The lengthy report, titled Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation, painted a rather grim picture of, what the late Amitai Etzioni would have referred to as, America's "Radical Individualist" cultural ethos. 

From the report:

Loneliness is far more than just a bad feeling - it harms both individual and societal health. It is associated with a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, dementia, stroke, depression, anxiety, and premature death. The mortality impact of being socially disconnected is similar to that caused by smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day. 

This should scare you. By forgoing social interaction and civic engagement, we are, in effect, killing ourselves. While working remotely in your pajamas and binge-watching Netflix is fun and convenient, it is so unhealthy. 

Professor Lombard, however, says that city planning can encourage social-connectedness. A city replete with verdant walkways, bicycle lanes, and balconies and front porches can facilitate a healthier and less atomized citizenry. 

Lombard and Dover look to Lake Wales, Florida as a case in point. "When I look around at Florida and I see who's doing what", Lombard said, "I feel like Lake Wales has all the pieces." 

This short interview prompted me to look into Lake Wales. "Where is this magical communitarian paradise?", I wondered. Lake Wales is a small city of approximately 17,000 residents situated in Polk County, which is in the central part of the state. 

It is breathtakingly picturesque.

Robert Steutville writes about the interview in Public Square:

Dover's interview is part of a planning effort that Dover, Kohl & Partners is helping to lead for Lake Wales, Florida. The Lake Wales Envisioned Initiative is working with the City, citizens, and other groups, to plan a healthier, economically stronger, and more sustainable future for the suburban municipality in Central Florida, a town that is at the heart of a current mass migration into the Sunshine State. 

New Yorkers, in particular, have been moving to Florida in droves. In April of this year, Selim Algar wrote in a New York Post op-ed that the mass exodus of New Yorkers leaving for Florida "wasn't just a pandemic thing." "According to new figures from the Florida Department of Highway Safety" Algar writes, "10,824 Empire Staters swapped out their licenses in the first three months of this year." 

People crave community, and if there is a dearth of societal bonds in their current ZIP code, they will flee to somewhere else. In this case, Florida. 


1 comment:

  1. Community exists everywhere where we make it... People fleeing places like New York, Jersey, and PA, or other "blue" states may be doing so for their own economic and social betterment, but they are hurting the places where they have made their lives and achieved prosperity in every form. If we are to save the American nation, we must restore communities across every state. It can only happen organically, if people within these states, cities, and towns are willing to make an impact and create the change they need. Fleeing does not help anyone except those doing the moving, and I would argue that this mass migration to places like Florida has had a significant detrimental effect on the communities within that state which already existed. For instance, wealthy northerners from places like New York and New Jersey where the cost of living is much higher (and wages with it), are moving to a state like Florida which is "cheaper"- but wages are low. This influx of wealth has created a major problem for those native to Florida and as prices and the cost of living rise for many reasons, wages do not keep up. Now, this has been an overall trend for decades across America no matter the state or region, but I would be short-sighted if I did not at least point out that this migratory pattern of affluent northerners has certainly worsened the issue.

    In conclusion, Americans must stay and fight for the communities in which they have long inhabited. If everyone just picks up and moves to Florida or Texas, nothing will change for the better.