I have been participating in the Rhode Map process and have been somewhat troubled by its approach. The most troubling is that it is mostly focused on economic growth with the other factors that sustain communities relegated to the second tier, subservient to growth. The reason this troubles me so much is that economic growth, the kind that lifts all ships as productivity rises, has disappeared from the industrial world and is not coming back. While many people scoff at the end of growth, the literature describing why this is happening, and how, is large. The concept is still under observation, and there are ways to get a little growth in the short term, but to put all of our marbles in the growth basket is naive under conditions on planet Earth in the 21st Century.
The ecological collapse/global weirding that we are observing in the loss of forests, extreme storms, and food insecurity is deeply connected to the growing inequality that has overrun the global and American economies as the wealthy look for speculative investment rather than steady productivity gains. The casino economy and our obsession with the business climate as opposed to the changes in the actual climate are clearly related to the end of growth as the wealthy can not find actually productive investments that return what they expect and have resorted to rent seeking and buying the political process. Real estate speculation and the financialization of the economy are what they turn to when there is nothing else. They have figured out how to profit from bubbles. While the rest of us get poorer. And the rest of us getting poorer is exactly why we know we are at the end of growth.
RhodeMap with its emphasis on growth centers it almost entirely a real estate speculation oriented program. It merely seeks to move the real estate speculation to specific places rather than question why real estate speculation is our major economic indicator and how it relates to the further impoverishment of the people of Rhode Island.
While paying lip service to ecology, biodiversity, equity, it is clear Rhode Map is driven by the desires of the rich, and is therefore likely to produce little of what really benefits the people of Rhode Island. We would be much better served by a program that put ecology and equity first with the direction of investment coming after that, and that was also based on an understanding that the economy of Rhode Island will shrink over the next generation and we would be best served if we managed the shrinkage in a way that reduced the power of the rich and shared the income more equally.