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Covid-19 completely disrupted the global workplace. The two years – more or less- of living in a pandemic are receding but the ramification of it are fully present and real. [Covid is still with us, but not top of mind. Currently some 400 people die every day in the U.S. from it, which is 146,000 a year, or just about twice the casualties of the Viet Nam War].
In numerous columns during Covid, I suggested that the two years of Covid triggered some five years of change into the 2020s. Entire industries took off much faster. Entire industries and marketplaces went away or were severely damaged. Work was changed forever.
Many of you who have read my books know that, in the Shift Age, there are now two realities that we live in: the physical reality we have always lived in and the 15 years of new screen reality we experience on screens. Think of what you do every day. You are active in the physical reality as you have been all your life. This is what we think of as life or reality. Then there is your screen reality – on your smart phone and computer- which didn’t exist much before 2000 and is now a major part of our daily living experience.
When the lockdown occurred, hundreds of millions of people moved from working in the physical reality to working in the screen reality. We all learned how to Zoom. We embraced the screen reality as death was possibly knocking at the door. Many workers, all of a sudden ,were home schooling children which of course created a lot of stress. Once we moved into 2021 and the availability of vaccines, these working parents, particularly mothers, were confronted with a big problem. With schools, and many colleges operating virtually, moms could not go back to work in the office as they needed to work from home as childcare or other options were not available.
We have entered the post-covid workplace now in 2022 but we are looking at something new. Recent federal reports make clear that there are some six million people unemployed and/or actively looking for work at the same time that there are some 11 million job openings. Now that hasn’t happened before; twice the number of open jobs as people looking for them.
The ”great resignation” was about the unprecedented reality that throughout much of 2021 there were some 500,000 people leaving jobs every month. To go where? To do what? Well more than 5 million people created new businesses. It was the biggest year in US history for new business start-ups. The general thinking is that is was due to a widely felt sense that working at a stressful job, with a less than compassionate boss, and hours of costly commuting every week was the trigger to start a business.
The problem with the current work landscape is that it is being thought of too simply. Back to the office or work from home. Hybrid is the word most used. A combination of the two at best. Or let all work from home or make all come back to the office forcing probable confrontations, resignations or less than happy workers.
The way to think of the workplace is that we are entering into a radical, fundamental shift in how we all work. We now work in the digital world of work. I have long suggested that this would be the emerging reality of the Shift Age and that the 2020s would be the disruptive decade of change.
The Industrial Revolution, from 1800-1950, reshaped how we all live. This was a time when cities grew, when the single greatest migration was from rural to urban areas. The factory and the high-rise office became the models of where we work. We all went to a place to work. In the 1980s only one percent of the U.S. work force were independent contractors. By 2019 that number was at 12 percent. Given the record number of start-ups in 2021 that number has increased to perhaps 13-14 percent. This was a category of workers that could work from home.
The Information Age from roughly 1950-2000 gave us the computer, the personal computer, fax technology and ultimately the Internet. This wave of technology transformed work as much as anything in human history. Productivity soared, the speed of business increased, connectivity expanded and we all seemed to be in a constant state of learning new technologies at work.
The model though became overly structured and change resistant. We all rode or drove to and from our place of work often dedicating hours of our time and costs for travel every week, . We had our own place at work be it a place on an assembly line, or an office or cubicle in a big office space. Structures dictated our work: the commute, the coffee break, lunch break, coffee break, and meeting after meeting after meeting and then another commute back home.
In this old model, if there were say 100 people who worked for a company, all 100 people had a place at work of their own, be it a corner office, a window office, a windowless office, a cubicle, or a work station. This old model was based upon the need for bosses to “see” that the employees were working. [Which is why most office workers figured out ways to “look busy”]. How dated and antiquated that now sounds!
Now compare that old model to this new model, the model for the digital workplace. The company has 100 people employed. The office is now about two-thirds the size which saves on overhead cost. There are “places” or workstations for 50 people. Each station is fully equipped from a technological point of view. All the person needs to do is to plug-in the laptop they work on from home into the workstation computer.
In addition to these workstations there is the usual conference room or two for group meetings. Then there are several small rooms where 2-5 people can meet, brainstorm and spend time interacting in person. This is key as allows the deepening of relationships that are increasingly virtual. Times when members of a team can meet, or department heads can brainstorm.
The concept is that not everyone needs to be in the office all five days every week. For example, sales would come into the office one day a week on the same day. Marketing, perhaps two days a week. HR and administration four days a week, finance two to three days a week, but no one would come in more than four days.
So the new offices and workplaces will increasingly move to this new model. In addition, there is a new, rapidly increasing group of workers called “digital nomads”. This new group is almost exclusively white collar, knowledge workers that can work from anywhere. The couple who both work at jobs but travel around the country in an RV while doing so. Or the young couple that move to a less-stressful, smaller city with lower cost of living. Or even the person who lives in Europe and time-shifts the work day to be present for the home office in the states.
It has been variously forecast that there might be more than a billion digital nomads globally by the early 2030s. That loosely translates into some 50-100 million digital nomads in the U.S. in ten years. This of course will trigger all kinds of cascading changes, for example the local funding for schools, changes in public transport and the changing need for places to work at home other than the kitchen table
The workplace will continue to evolve. Covid and the 2020s will be looked back upon as having triggered more change in how and where we all work, than anything else or any other time. Embrace this change or lose.
Over the years, one of the most frequent questions I get is “what books would you recommend I read?” So, from time to time I give readers a selection of stimulating, mind expanding books to consider reading. Consider this my summer list for 2022.
Now, in the depth of summer, we all like a good “beach read”, which usually translates into a thriller or mystery, a “page-turner” in publishing parlance. These books recommended below are non-fiction and force the reader to think, perhaps to think differently, which is the point.
So, all of these books relate to big trends, dynamics and forces that are and will shape our world in the future.
Novacene: The Coming Age 0f Hyperintelligence James Lovelock. A beautiful, lyrical book about the next stage of human evolution, written by the scientist who invented the concept of Gaia. A unique vision that combines humanity, artificial intelligence and the climate crisis into a serene view of our future. This book was published to coincide with Lovelock’s 100th birthday in 2019. Unfortunately, he just died at age 103 in July. I think this a jewel of a book and highly recommend it.
LIFE 3.0 Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence Max Tegmark. The future of humanity and Artificial Intelligence. Tegmark, an MIT professor is one of the leading thinkers on AI and this book is breathtaking in its scope. I feel much better about the future of super intelligence with people like Tegmark at the epicenter of the global community collectively creating this evolutionary new technology. Read this and have a solid understanding about what our future might be like as super intelligence is created this century.
A Planet of 3 Billion Christopher Tucker This book altered my thinking on what humanity has to do in the face of the catastrophic global warming. The quote from Jane Goodall on the cover states it well: “Essential reading for anyone who cares about the fate of our planet and our species.” Tucker, as Chairman of the American Geographical Society, uses a beautiful maps approach to explain the multiple climates on earth. This book will change your thinking about population.
Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow Yuval Noah Harari. Harari is one of the biggest brains on the planet today. Best known for his recasting of history with his first book “Sapiens”, I think that of his three books, this is the most profound, as it looks into this century with insight and vision. This book will change how you think about a lot of things. If you love this book – and take as many notes as I did- take a look at his follow-up book “21 Lessons for the 21st Century”
Post Growth : Life After Capitalism Tim Jackson. One of the hardest things that humanity will need to do this century is to move to a post-growth form of capitalism. Given that we have never lived in non-growth economies, this is an extremely difficult idea to comprehend. But our survival might well depend upon it. This is a good introductory primer on what lies ahead as capitalism gets reinvented in a time of catastrophic global warming.
The Changing World Order: Why Nations Succeed and Fail Ray Dalio Dalio is one of the most successful hedge fund managers in history. His first book “Principles” was a global best seller. He is a true thinker. The genesis for this book is that he realized that things were happening that he had never experienced. He wanted to look back at the last 2,000 years of civilization – with a focus on the last 500 years-to see how nations succeed and fail. If you are wondering whether we are living in the late stage of the American Empire, this book will be a profound read.
All of the above of course are available immediately from Amazon, and I assume, from local libraries.
The last entry on this short list is from a local Sarasota resident, Roy Wysnewski. [Note: I live in Sarasota and have met the author]A Tale of Four Graphs : An Essay About Sarasota, Florida’s Changing Climate. This book is exactly that, a short essay with four charts. The good news is that it is free if you set up a Smashwords account.[ Or you can purchase from Amazon for $.99]. This being given free is a public service as everyone reading this column can download this, and should. In four charts – history of human population over 12,000 years, carbon dioxide over 800,000 years and global average temperature over the last 2,000 years and finally a chart that shows the warming temperature of Sarasota since 1900. Read this book and it becomes clear why global warming is occurring and why this is a unique time in planetary history. It is free folks, get it and read it!
Any one of these eight books will change your thinking. Read them all and transform how you will look at the future. If you like my writings here, you might like to also read “The 2020s: The Golden Age of Design and Redesign” written by James Fathers and yours truly. This is Book 3 in the 2020s book series, and shows why almost everything in our lives will need to be either redesigned or designed anew.
The future is now. The 2020s decade is a true historical transition from what was to what will be. The future we will share in the next 20 years will be incredibly disruptive and transformative. The books listed above will help you anticipate and prepare for it
It’s the economy, stupid!” James Carville, 1992
It seems like half of the economists in the world think we are heading toward a recession. The other half of the economists think there won’t be a recession, but a “softening”. Of the first group, half of them think the recession will be a really deep and painful one.
[It must be stated here that, among professional futurists, the friendly thinking is that if you want forecasts of the future that will be wrong, ask an economist.]
The general tenor of economic thinking today is one of confusion. Lots of talking but no certainty:
-inflation is at a 40 year high
-record low unemployment
-11 million job openings in the US
-price of gas coming down
-consumer spending is strong but consumer sentiment is plunging
-have we been in a recession if the GDP numbers of the last two quarters are down?
And on and on and on. MSM endlessly having all the cliched stories about the guy at the pump, the priced out potential home buyer, and the bearer of student debt burden working two jobs.
The single, and probably most understandable way to look at all this confusion is that we are one fourth of the way through the most disruptive decade in human history. The old metrics don’t seem to work. We don’t yet have new metrics or definitions to replace them. The wisdom of the elders is based upon largely 20th century thinking that doesn’t seem to explain what is going on. As the poet laureate of my generation stated:
“because something is happening here but you don’t know what it is”
This is understandable. The 2020s decade is a historic transition from the past to the future. What was is giving away to what will be. This means that old ways of thinking are fading, and the new ways are not completely clear, yet. We don’t have new terms, experiences, correlations to work with as there is never consensus about the future. Without consensus it is difficult to look into even the near future with much veracity.
The other key thing is that in times of such disruption and transformation, big things happen that are simply manifestations of such powerful forces and they take time to assimilate. We are so buffeted by change that we cannot seem to find solid ground upon which to stand. Just think about just some of what has happened in the first 25% of the decade:
-A global pandemic that is still ongoing
-A fast recession
-A bear market in equites
-A bull market in equities
-Massive social justice upheavals – #BLM
-A land war in Europe
-The fastest loss of jobs in US history
-The fastest job recovery in US history
-Unprecedented fires / floods/ droughts / heat waves / tornados
-Bear equities market
-Rise and collapse of the crypto market
-The complete recasting of the work/employment landscape
-The beginning of the end of the “social media era”
– A new “pandemic” – monkeypox
-Explosive percentage growth in global EV sales
-Start of space tourism and commercial space flights
-First storming of the Capitol in 200 years – first by US citizens
-Overturning of Roe vs. Wade
-Record number of mass shootings
-Worst inflation in 40 years
All just in the last 30 months
In times of massive change, the old no longer seems true and the new has yet to be fully understood. Think of 1775-1825 and 1875-1925, both 50 year periods when the world completely changed. Both of these 50 year periods birthed entirely new ways of thinking. In the first there was the creation of democracy, capitalism and the industrial age. The second 50 year period gave us the internal combustion engine, electricity, air travel, vaccines, the telephone, the radio, sound recording.
I took a look at these two eras in Book 2 of the 2020s series.
Given that each of these historic transitions were 50 years in length, it meant that the change was experienced over two or three generations. The 2020s is one decade, so we are experiencing half of the change of those 50-year eras – together and in one ten year period.
In addition, information only traveled at the speed of horse days, or telegraph in the second era. This meant that while there was an invention in say the US, it might take years for it to become known, let alone used elsewhere in the world. Today we get our information via fiber optics that move information at 187,000 mph. We learn about anything in the world seconds or minutes after it has happened.
These two realities means that all of us alive today are experiencing and having to process more change than at any other time in human history.
So, no wonder we can’t find consensus on the immediate economic future, let alone much else.
As you wonder what will happen to the economy, global warming, politics, technology and just about anything else facing into the future, remember the time we are in: The 2020s: The Most Disruptive Decade in History
[Much of this column was originally published in the Sarasota Herald Tribune that is part of a series on the “loss of paradise” and the need to be preemptive in planning for the future. This planning must no longer be the propagation of what was, what might have worked in the past, or as named in the last column, legacy thinking.
Legacy thinking is really the enemy for looking into the future. Most people think that today will be like yesterday, that tomorrow will be like today. Such a perception simply carries forward the thought of yesterday, so that many people cannot see the NOW, which is where the future is born. If one approaches today or tomorrow with the thoughts of yesterday, one will not see the NOW clearly and therefore will be jolted by the future.
This is true in the Gulf Coast of Florida, in the plains of the Midwest, in the mountains of the west and of course any urban area built on the ideas of yesterday.
This column looks at two of the obvious and big areas of change directly ahead: energy and transportation. These two sectors together comprise roughly 40% of both the U.S. and global GDP. By the end of the 2020s the huge changes in both of these sectors will be full blown and will be the new emerging reality.
Substantially new content has been added to this column from its initial publication]
The vast majority of homes that have solar panels are generally worth more in the U.S. and Florida. Buyers of homes see such installations as being of great value. With the recent run-up in the cost of energy, the sun’s energy is free and, in the Sunshine State, plentiful.
Make sure that any homeowner that wants to install solar panels should be able to do so. If Sarasota can increase the community-wide installation of solar panels, the cost of living goes down. In addition, it has been made clear in the national real estate market that dollars invested in making homes ever more energy efficient or independent disproportionately increase the home value.
We have half a dozen wind chimes around our house and they seem to make their wonderful sounds much of the time. Well, there are now many options for the installation of small wind turbines for home use now on the market. For hundreds up to thousands of dollars, a homeowner call offset much of their energy costs by simply installing a small wind turbine. Again, not just the right thing to do in our climate-crisis state, but also a way to lower living costs.
There should be no restrictions on the installation of any solar or wind energy systems in the Gulf Coast. In addition, rental apartment complexes can do the right thing by using such on-site installations.
In the 2020s, the U.S. will be moving away from internal combustion engine cars to electric ones. While the percentage of EVs as part of the overall cars on the road is still in single digits, it will be well into double digits by the end of the decade.
Currently, the purchase price of EVs is still more than the comparable ICE vehicles, which has slowed growth. A Tesla is still thought of as a luxury purchase, even with the $7,500 federal offset. By 2025 all the major automotive companies will offer multiple models of EVs. There will be more than 20-30 models available and the clear understanding in the automotive industry is that the goal is to make a good number of them affordable and competitively priced to ICE vehicles. I expect to buy an affordable EV in 2025-26.
Bringing down the price, in part, will be innovations and inventions in the battery business. Billions of dollars are going into battery breakthrough technologies driven by the exploding EV market and the need to make variable energy sources more competitive.
Yes, EVs are the right thing to do in our climate crisis. Yes, EVs are desirable in a world of high-priced gas. They are also silent, which means the sounds of distant full-throated ICE engines will lessen. Sometimes it sounds and feels like the arterial streets in Sarasota and Bradenton are places for drag racing.
What will be important is for the area to begin right now to install universal charging stations for EVs. Right now, there are a number of Tesla charging stations, but they may not be compatible for other EVs. This the industry or government will change as the cost of this charging infrastructure nationally will dictate universal charging station technology. Sarasota, in its new parking garages, has done a good job of installing charging stations, but soon this will need to be scaled up.
There are always huge business opportunities that are created whenever there is a massive move to new technology. For example, before PCs and Apples, there was no real need for a “tech support” industry. Millions of people now work support our tech needs around the world.
There are millions of “classic” cars and trucks owned in the U.S. People have them and collect them for a variety of reasons, but nostalgia and style are key. A huge business opportunity ahead will be to take Internal Combustion Engine [ICE] vehicles and convert them to electric. “De-Icing” will allow owners of beloved older ICE cars to power them with the new electric technology. An added benefit of course is that the older the car, usually the lower the gas mileage, so this De-Icing industry will allow people to lower GHG emissions. I am convinced this will be a huge business by the end of the decade.
Finally, and this is more toward the end of the decade than the move to EVs, is the move to autonomous vehicles, driverless cars and trucks. This is the new world of personal transport. The elimination of the most dangerous part of the driving experience, the driver.
What autonomous vehicles will do is dramatically lessen the number of vehicles on the road.
For example, I live in a developed community of 103 houses. All have two- and three-car garages. By the looks of it, there are probably 200-250 cars, SUVs and pickup trucks in the community. In the autonomous vehicle future, there might be only some 20-25 vehicles needed instead of 10 times that. Why? These vehicles will operate up to 22 hours a day with two hours taken for self-recharging. A car request app will bring a car to your house.
The average American drives their car only 10% of the time. The rest of the time it is parked at home, at work or in a parking lot while shopping. In 10 years, that will be remembered as a huge waste of time and money.
With an ever-increasing number of us working from home and with traffic that didn’t exist 10 years ago, having autonomous cars will allow our communities to have far fewer cars on the road and thus much less time-consuming traffic problems.
So, in summary, the coming energy and transportation trends can truly allow any area to become more livable, lower our costs and increase our time for other things. However, we need to start to think, plan and act on this rapidly approaching future.
[As mentioned in the last column, this column was first published in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. While it is about Sarasota and the Gulf Coast of Florida, the issues are national in scope. The climate crisis, generational issues and the legacy thinking and legacy economics are relevant in the country and the world. Sea Level Rise is and will be a huge issue for Florida. It will also be relevant to the Gulf Coast, the East Coast and much of the sub-continent of Asia. Elsewhere it will be issues around water, drought and fires. The generational demographics in America are largely the same as in Florida. This is the second about the issues. The next few will be about the trends, technologies and dynamics that can help to shape and redirect our collective futures.]
In my last column I suggested that we may be witnessing the end of “paradise” on the Gulf Coast – and Sarasota in particular – due to lack of foresight, planning and basic short-term greed. Evidently, this is a topic that is top of mind with residents. I received a greater number of supportive and lengthy emails from readers than any column in recent memory.
I wrote back to many of these readers promising to write columns in the future about trends and technologies ahead that could be brought to bear on saving “paradise” from becoming another overpriced, congested, problematic place to live. Better understanding the possibilities and dynamics ahead is essential if we want to keep the paradise many of you feel we are losing.
The current way that residential housing is viewed in our area will be a dead-end street. The top 10% of the population is being served at the cost of the remaining 90%. This may have been partially intentional to create a moneyed community that brings upscale tastes and desires. The problem with this was mentioned in the last column: creating a service- and tourist-oriented economy relies on housing for workers.
Help wanted signs are still everywhere, but who could fill those jobs if they can’t afford to live here?
Sea-level rise is coming, but when?
The two long-term trends that will affect housing on the Gulf Coast are the climate crisis and demographics. Both are national in scope but will be particularly acute for us living on the west coast of Florida
Florida has consistently been listed as the No. 1 state at risk from the effects of climate change, primarily due to due to sea-level rise (SLR). SLR will start to become a real issue in the region in the 2030s. A good visual of this impending reality is this video that I produced and directed along with Tim Rumage back in October 2016 that we called “Bird’s Eye View” Basically, there will be no Siesta Beach by 2040. It is a scientifically sound statement to say that there will be no beaches on the barrier islands by the 2040s. To be fair, the SLR shown in this video is at the high-end range of forecasts, but the direction is clear: a foot of sea-level rise is coming and only the timing is unknown. By mid-century, the region will largely be without beaches.
Beach replenishment has worked in the past, to restore beach lost due to erosion. That won’t work with SLR. “Beachfront property” will become “waterfront property.” Another way to think of it is that the priciest real estate will become the most discounted. Once the effects of SLR can be seen, there will be far more distressed inventory than buyers available.
Another huge housing local issue is a demographic one. In the last 15 years the market became largely influenced by the Baby Boomer generation relocating and retiring to luxurious housing.
The question I have always had about this trend is simple: who is going to buy these homes when the Boomers die?
The largest generation in our country’s history are the Boomers. They are the drivers of the local real estate economy. The smallest generation was GenX, born 1965-1980. Their numbers are so low that there will not be enough of them to buy all the Boomer housing. So the demand for second homes and retirement homes will trend down from the mid-2020s to 2040.
Millennials are now the largest generation in our country’s history. They are also the largest generation in the workforce. Born from 1981-1997, the oldest of the generation is in their early 40s, some 20-30 years away from retirement. This translates into the 2050s as the time when this generation will be retiring. Right at the time when the beaches will have gone.
What we know about the Millennial generation is that, at this stage, they are much less affluent than the Boomers were at their age. We have all experienced or read about this generation living at home well into their 20s. “Late to launch” is a phrase that has been used to describe this delayed entrance into independent lifestyle. So they are late in developing financial wealth.
On top of that is the reality of massive amounts of student loan debt this generation carries. More than a trillion dollars of it is currently on the books. While there are discussions to have the government forgive all federal college loans, this is not certain and does not cover all the debt.
Millennials are having fewer children and have shown to be more frugal – out of necessity – than the Boomers were at their age. These two dynamics suggest that when the Millennials retire, they will not be interested in 3,000-plus square-foot homes with luxury amenities, exactly what has and is being built on the Gulf Coast today.
Currently, the overarching residential real estate market story of our region is how expensive everything has become, from buying a huge luxury home to renting a one-bedroom apartment. People can’t afford to move here. There is no comparative price advantage, something Sarasota had in its favor until recently.
So, the next few years will see a lessening of relocation here due to the cost of living. The end of the Boomer generation will continue to move here for retirement, but only the affluent.
The 2030s will see the Boomers dying off but not being replaced by the GenX retirees as there will be so few of them comparatively. At this same time the clear and unmistakable effect of SLR will become reality. Beachfront property will begin its rapid decline in value. If, as forecasted, hurricanes become ever more powerful due to the climate crisis, there will be even less attraction to move to the region.
The 2040s real estate market here will be unprecedented in several ways. First, the effects of global warming and SLR will be real and profound. Second, the number of retirees will be at a historical low. Third, the Millennials will most likely have a much lower incidence of second home purchases than the Boomers or the Silent Generation before them.
So, what is going on in real estate development in the region now? High-end, expensive, large houses and condos in an effort to bring to market what the market has said it wants this past decade. Exactly the housing stock that is counter to all the trends discussed in this column.
Maybe, just maybe, there will be some effort in the next few years to create housing stock that will serve the 90% of the population that is now not being served. It is this type of housing that will become more attractive through time due to the climate and demographic trends discussed here. Or, we keep doing what we have been doing and hurtle down a one-way street to somewhere other than paradise.
In future columns I will write about certain trends in technology, housing, transportation and new ways of thinking in hopes that future thinking may take hold as we look ahead to truly disruptive times.
[First, an apology for tbe length of time between posts. I have been taking a break from all forms of writing the past two months. Back now.]
This column and the next column were initially published in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune where I write a column every two weeks in the Business Weekly section [yes I took a break there as well]. I live in Sarasota FL, on the Gulf Coast of Florida, so the particulars of these columns are about this city and region. However, while there are local and regional particulars, probably every state and many smaller cities have undergone a unique and , in some cases disruptive series of changes due to how people reacted to COVID.
The trends are about real estate, working from home, the national lack of affordable housing, the huge run-up in housing prices and rents and now, historic inflation. People reacted to COVID by fleeing the congested urban areas for less congestion -risk of disease- better climate and more space. Florida was one of the big recipients of this relocation. The county in which I live had the fifth highest number of out of state relocations in 2020-2021 in Florida, so these trends have had a huge effect.
When I moved from Chicago to Sarasota in 2016, I was struck by how much less the cost of living was in Sarasota. There was free parking everywhere and traffic congestion only around a narrow rush hour in the evening. Except for the price of gas, the cost of living is now at or higher than in Chicago. There is traffic outside of rush hour. And there are help wanted/now hiring signs in practically every retail and service establishments.
So this column, and the one that will follow are specific to the city and region in which I live, but there are now hundreds of communities in the country that are dealing with similar issues.
Finally, there is a loose, smiling reference about living in Sarasota, that I have heard for decades; that it is ‘living in paradise’ due to the wonderful weather. That is what is behind the paradise references .
‘Gulf Coast Alert: It’s Getting Hard ‘Living in Paradise”
Sarasota has undergone a transformation this century. Boomers flooding into the area for pre- and actual retirement. Beaches getting nationally and globally ranked. Cities being named in national top 10 lists. Downtown Sarasota has been transformed from what it was even 10 years ago into the beginning of a pedestrian lifestyle.
COVID-19 accelerated changes that were totally unexpected. Vast numbers of Americans left congested cities for more room and to be closer to the outdoors. Millions moved from colder to warmer states. The digital nomad trend benefited areas that had affordable real estate, good climate and amenities.
From Tampa down to Naples, all were near the top of the Florida and national lists for greatest influx of people relocating due to the pandemic. This resulted in a breathless rise in residential real estate values up and down the coast. It was recently reported that the average home sale in Sarasota County had reached $500,000, up substantially from 2020.
The rental market exploded as well, with rents up almost 50% in the area.
Layer on dynamics like historically high inflation resulting from the now-waning pandemic buying spree, supply-chain problems and the war in Ukraine and the problems begin to become very clear. It is increasingly expensive to live here.
One of the key problems is that Sarasota specifically, and the Gulf Coast generally, are becoming relatively expensive to live compared to both elsewhere and our recent past. I have spoken to senior executives on the Gulf Coast who all say that affordability has become the key issue when trying to recruit top talent from out of state. They tell me that when the chosen applicant shows interest in a job, the company brings them down to the area to close the deal, at which time the potential hire explains that they cannot afford to make the move unless the compensation package is increased significantly.
We are rapidly developing a dual market, where the rich are fine and everyone else is beginning to struggle. This is both a global and national phenomenon, but the statistics and trends suggest that on the Gulf Coast of Florida the situation is worse than most other U.S. locations.
My grandparents moved from Ontario to Sarasota around 1900. My father was born here in 1913 and he and his four siblings grew up here. My father was the only sibling who left, getting bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Florida during the Depression. He then moved to Chicago where he had an illustrious academic career at the University of Chicago, largely being acknowledged as having created the field of adult education. So I am a third-generation resident of Sarasota, though most of my life I lived elsewhere.
I mention this because, as a child, my parents and I traveled down to Florida to “visit the family” in the 1950s and 1960s. Back then, much of what Sarasota was can still be seen on “north U.S. 41” as one drives from downtown to the airport. It was a quiet fishing and resort community with motels instead of convention hotels, with ranch homes instead of condo high-rises. In the 1990s, my parents had retired to Plymouth Harbor, in their 70s, and soon they were having major health problems. As an only child I was down here several times a year during that decade. At that time, the only residential high rises were on the harbor, facing Marina Jack, which was a moderate family restaurant at the time.
So, for me, the clear demarcation line was the beginning of the new century, 2000. I have spoken to many lifelong residents of the area who wistfully speak of how the beaches weren’t crowded, the traffic was minimal and the living was easy and inexpensive. Until this century.
There are many stories about really wonderful, places, mostly vacation destinations, where the affluent visited, fell in love and bought second homes to spend more than vacation time. This resulted in the explosion in real estate values, higher-priced restaurants and ever more costly services. This meant that the ski bums and beach bums who lived for the lifestyle and worked to serve the new visitors could no longer live in-market. The Colorado ski towns solved this by creating low-cost dorms and cheap dormitory-type housing miles down the road. Affordable housing is something that politicians and developers only gave lip service to. The NIMBY dynamic (Not In My Back Yard) was joined by NOMBL from developers (Not On My Bottom Line). One of the most erudite and knowledgeable people on affordable housing in our area is Jon Thaxton, a senior VP at the Gulf Coast Foundation. He recently gave a talk on affordable housing and there were two quotes worth noting:
“Affordable housing has graduated from a moral dilemma to an existential threat to our economy.”
And: “There is no quick fix. It took Sarasota 30 years to get in this hole and we’re not going to get out of it overnight.”
Ten years ago I found myself speaking of this as a possible future for our area. It is common now to go to a restaurant and see vacant seating areas and be told there would be a wait, simply because the restaurant does not have enough staff. Walk into most retail establishments and there are never enough people working.
Now this is a huge national trend, often referred to as the “great resignation.” As this column is being written, it was just reported that 5.9 million people left their jobs in April and at the same time there were 11 million job openings, a 2-1 ratio.
Folks, we live in a bifurcated economy; the affluent and those who are struggling. Sarasota – the Gulf Coast town I know best – is not a well-balanced market. It is a high-priced real-estate market, heavy on service industry jobs that don’t pay enough for workers to live here.This could have been foreseen, and avoided.
Yes, a lot of the developments mentioned in this column are trends, dynamics and macro forces that were not our doing and to which we must respond. But a lot of the problem can be laid at the feet of business owners, politicians and real estate developers and the zoning variances that were allowed. In addition, the development of the future by the area’s leaders was to create affluent retirement communities and high-end tourist hotels and restaurants, with visions of money and profit. I am sure some investigative reporter can uncover numerous cases where the authorities did not force the building of affordable housing that was required or at the least, clearly needed.
Rapidly escalating real estate valuations drove interest in the Gulf Coast. It has now become one of the main inhibitors to what used to be called “living in paradise.
This was my Earth Day column in 2021
NOTE: 12 years ago I wrote the column below. I did it because I was getting pitched about Earth Day ideas I should write about. As in people wanted to tout what they were going to do for Earth Day. I simply lost it. Don’t talk to me about Earth Day, Earth Month, Earth Year or even Earth Decade. I wrote, for the first time, that we should commit to the reality of the Earth Century.
I then developed this thinking to make Earth Century one of the Five Contexts of the Shift Age in “Entering the Shift Age”
So, if you care about the climate catastrophe make it a century long commitment. The next decade is critical, but Earth Day will be just another day in the Earth Century.
I have been writing this blog for more than five years. Particularly in the first three years, I wrote a number of columns on energy, peak oil, electric cars, alternative and renewable forms of energy and conservation. I wrote early and often about how humanity, and the United States in particular, would in the future need to completely alter its view of energy and the use of resources.
One consequence of those columns was that I was increasingly regarded as a “thought shaper” in the world of energy, the environment and all things “green.” This resulted in me being invited to attend and speak at conferences about the energy and green future of America. In addition, people and companies began sending me press releases about new and innovative products, new research and new conferences. This in and of itself was good, as it helped me stay current on innovation in the area of energy and sustainability.
Unfortunately, two other things occurred in relation to this ever-increasing in-bound flow of PR and news items. First, the awareness of my blog increased the amount of less-than-relevant information I received when the “greenmailing” of America exploded. Second, entities felt that they could earn points by making announcement on or around Earth Day.
Now, I am the first person to say that anything that creates alternative and renewable sources of energy, increases sustainability, changes thinking on use of resources and opens up thinking for this new century on how we will manage to all live on Spaceship Earth should be embraced. However, starting somewhere in mid-March, I began to get an increasing number of emails touting new announcements tied into Earth Day. Would I like to interview so and so in preparation for Earth Day? Would I like to consider writing about this LEED-certified new building technique for Earth Day? Would I like to profile this new energy company that will be revealing a new method of utilizing algae for Earth Day? Enough, people! No! No! No!
Don’t you get it, folks? Step outside your obsessive promotion and your completely antiquated view of Earth Day as a meaningful event. It is no longer about you and the cool stuff you are doing for Earth Day. Earth Day was a brilliant concept to raise awareness about all things environmental. When it first occurred in 1970, I embraced it as a way to highlight the need for us to change our thinking about the environment and the planet. Flowing from the first Whole Earth photograph and the catalogue of the same name, it was a wonderful event to support. However, it is time to retire Earth Day, for it has served its purpose.
Don’t tell me what you are going to do or announce on Earth Day. Commit to doing it every day, every week, every month, and every year. It is no longer a Day. This is Earth Decade, as it will be between now and 2020 when we will either alter our direction or suffer dire consequences. This 10-year period is incredibly critical to changing thinking, behavior, policy and creating breakthrough innovation in the areas of energy and sustainability. Send me a press release on what you are committing to do for the next 10 years. Now that would be something of interest.
In a column dated 01-01-10, I called 2010-2020 the Transformation Decade. That column took off, and I have since delivered numerous speeches on the topic. The definition of transformation is “a change in nature, character, shape or form.” This is the decade when humanity and most of its institutions will change in nature, character, shape and form.
All aspects of energy use and resource use will be transformed in this decade. We will also create a new long-term view of human life on Spaceship Earth. In many ways – as I often speak about – 2010-2020 will be the first full decade of human thought about the 21st century, as we have powered into this 21st century with 20th century legacy thinking.
The 21st century will be the Earth Century. It will be during this century that humanity faces the reality of whether it wants to destroy itself and much of what exists on this magnificent planet or not. Assuming we make essential course corrections, future historians will write about the Earth Century as a turning point in human history.
So folks, stop getting excited about Earth Day. Retire that thinking and refocus on the next 90 years of the Earth Century.
I appreciate all readers of this blog. Week in and week out -for now 16 years I often get thoughtful comments from many of you and even some emails saying simply that you enjoy the column. Many of you remember various forecasts and predictions I make in this space and call me out about them.
Well, this is a bit of an accountability column for my regular readers. A look back to some of the larger forecasts I have made here in the past two years. All are under the umbrella of the 2020s being the most disruptive decade in history
Just about two years ago I noted that this book was the first of a series of short, high-level books about the 2020s. In this first book I stated that the 2020s would have more change than any other 30-50 year period in history. Well, we are now 20% through the decade. What has happened in these short 27 months?
-a global pandemic rivaling the Spanish Flu epidemic of 100 years ago, millions dead globally
-a pandemic triggered global recession
-the “great resignation”
-global demonstrations in support of #BlackLivesMatter
-a storming of the Capitol, first time in 200 years, and by citizens
-first time defeat of an incumbent president this century
-unprecedented supply-chain disruption
-rise of crypto and digital currencies
-ongoing massive floods, storms and fires due to the climate crisis
-another huge failure to face the climate crisis at COP26 in Glasgow
-the beginning of private space travel
-explosive growth in the sales of EVs
-huge bull market in equities
-a land war in Europe
-a huge move from the physical to the screen reality.
-massive amounts of personal transformation resulting from the pandemic and lockdowns
This list is just some of the changes that have occurred since the decade began.
I have written in this space since the pandemic first began that “going back” or “returning to normal” is simply impossible in this decade. There is no “new normal” – though the media absolutely loves that phrase- as the change is constant and will continue to accelerate. No pause, no time-out, no return to what was.
Accept this and you will have solved the single greatest issue of the 2020s: that of fully adapting to new realities across the board.
Stand in change as change is the only constant in the universe. Resistance is futile and is of high risk.
In the last two years, I have advised companies that it is of greater risk to not change than to change. Status Quo is a path to failure. Historically, times of great change have been the same times that great opportunities occur. Think of the Belle Epoque that occurred in the U.S. and Europe between the 1870s and WWI. This was the age of great wealth and fortunes, of robber barons and entirely new industries. The internal combustion engine, fossil fuels, railroads, electricity, air travel, telegraph, radio and rapid urbanization triggered massive changes and also massive new wealth as the Industrial Age matured.
We are now in another critical transition from the past of the 20th century to the realities of the 21st century. Entire new markets, industries and companies will be formed this decade that will set up humanity’s future for the next several decades.
Some of the greatest fortunes in history will be created in the next 10-15 years.
What will be some of the major changes between now and 2030? Here is a short list:
-massive breakthroughs in medical science and health care
-transformative change in K-12 and Higher Ed to update them for the 21st Century
-the end of media as it has been, into its’ next technological evolution of full emersion
-massive global move to EVs and to a lesser degree Autonomous Vehicles
-full integration of Technological Intelligence into one’s daily life.
Enough for now. Understand that this time of passage, the 2020s into the 20320s is one of the most important transitions in history. In less than 20 years, we will have largely moved from the pre-2000 reality to the new reality of the late 2030s.
An evolutionary next step for humanity.
We see the need to stand up – for the planet, for freedom, for the Ukrainians- both for our own integrity and the reality that transformative changes can occur when there are massive numbers of global citizens who are loud, collaborative and collective in action.
Russia and the Ukraine War
This column suggests to buy 10% less gasoline until Russia leaves Ukraine is a next step for the collective and collaborative WE. Russia is committing atrocities in Ukraine and fuels it through the oil they sell which is 10% of the global supply. Collectively and collaboratively humanity can reduce gasoline consumption by 10% without politicians or national leaders. WE just buy less and live a lifestyle of living with less and by so doing, affect geo-politics. We will have to do this regularly to face the climate crisis. We are demand!
If tens or hundreds of millions of people around the world let it be known – and have it amplified by the global media entities- that we will use less gasoline until Russia leaves Ukraine, it will make national leaders follow. If the world shows that it doesn’t need Russian oil, and WE trigger a 10% lessening of global demand, we will feel empowered and leaders around the world will take note.
In addition, if the only way to get rid of Putin is to have him be taken down by an insider group at the highest level of government and influence, then the sight of half a billion people buying less gas will give more impetus to this group to remove Putin.
Corporations and the Invasion of Ukraine.
In moments of historic and moral moments, corporations increasingly realize they have to take a stand. I wrote about this here relative to the restriction of voting rights. Corporations used to hide behind statements that they don’t get involved in political or moral issues. No longer. Not in this century.
Except for a few corporations that have a moral center, that understand they are major stakeholders within society, most corporations are reactive to their customer base but fearful of taking stands on controversial issues. In the time since the above linked column on corporations, many of the corporations who said they would no longer make political contributions to legislators who vote to restrict voting have gone back to making them. Moral hypocrisy.
Who can make corporations take a stand? US! WE! The growing list of companies who are leaving Russia or ceasing to do business there includes many companies who immediately took steps to do so. It also includes companies that did nothing at first, perhaps then had a mealy-mouthed response, and then finally gave into people/customer pressure. Yes WE can!
We are the demand. We are their customers. We make them take a stand, or we stop being their customers. This collective, collaborative power needs to be used to move to #humanityfirst
China, Russia and Taiwan
China and Russia have been stated close allies. Putin flew to Beijing for the opening Olympic ceremony. While there, he evidently promised Xi that he would not invade Ukraine until after the Olympics. Once the games were over, Russia invaded Ukraine.
Russia is a nation that has a declining population, a now declining economy and has thus doubled down on military power as the source of its’ influence – along with oil. This monolithic dark, iron curtain era threat of military might has been shown to be a joke by the Ukrainian military. Ukraine has been winning the ground war in terms of military engagement. This has resulted in Russia committing the war crimes we have all seen in recent days with the bombing of hospitals, schools, apartment buildings and now the theater. Can’t beat the armed forces, well, let’s kill a lot of civilians to demoralize the country.
Tell me, do you see a demoralized Ukraine or one that has united around this invasion to become ever more vigilant in defense of their freedoms. Putin has united the Ukrainians!
The world opinion has now turned against Russia and Putin’s folly. Ghastly images of women and children injured by dumb bombs is not the way to win friends and gain allies. NATO is now united and stronger than ever. Europeans have risen up when confronted with the unthinkable for the 21st century: a land war in Europe. Sanctions are evidently having effect in Russia. The world sees a bully exposed, a country in decline and complete immorality. Even the United States Senate, that model of do-nothing partisanship has been moved to bipartisan action.
Thank you Mr. Putin for uniting humanity!
Russia thrives on instability. China, with its’ deep integration into the global economy, thrives on stability.
So President Xi, how do you feel now about standing with Russia?
The idea behind tens of millions of people buying less gas until Russia leaves Ukraine – if amplified by global media- will be noticed by Xi and the Chinese Communist Party. Xi has made it clear that it is his, and therefore China’s intention to retake Taiwan and make it part of China. Hmmm, a bully dictatorship attacks a functioning democracy, where have we seen this? Oh yes, the Ukrainian War. Not working out so well for the dictator.
What about WE making commitments to not buy anything with the “Made in China” tag if China invades Taiwan? I will do that. Will you?
What if China provides military or economic support to Russia? Would you commit to not buying anything made in China as much as possible? I will.
This is a defining historical hinge moment when WE the people, we global citizens can act with collective power to influence the reshaping of the geo-political landscape.
Yes WE can!
The 2020s is a key moment in history. It is a transition from what was to what will be. From the past to the future. From a hierarchical, centralized past, to a decentralized, distributed future. WE must lead to the future we want.
Change often starts at the edges and moves to the center. Guerilla forces live and thrive in the mountains and then move to the cities. A Greta Thunberg changes the world by her one girl demonstrations and actions, far more than some national leader using the total cop-out phrase of “being carbon neutral by 2050” [I promise a column on that soon as it is so antithetical to facing the climate crisis and is a cover for the ignorant or the non-caring.]
So… you have the power…..together we have the power…. Our leaders will follow us…. It is finally time for bringing our leaders with us, not letting them divide us.
Let us take it and rise to this historical occasion!