Column Date 2006-06-11

A modest proposal to reduce Florida's population

Since so many of us New Yorkers go to Florida each year, I think it’s important to know that everyone down there thinks Florida has become much too crowded. (Well, O.K., not exactly everyone. The people involved in the only serious industry in Florida, the real estate developers, have a different point of view.)

But the fact is, Florida’s population has risen dramatically, from 12 million in 1990 to over 18 million this year.

And 77,000,000 baby boomers, looking for warm weather retirement communities with lots of golf courses, are casting a covetous eye on the state.

Housing is springing up on every available square inch, pushing closer and closer to the Everglades to the south and into the Panhandle (which doesn’t even have Florida’s warm weather) to the north.

Traffic jams are becoming as bad as the infamous Cross Bronx Expressway, there are periodic water shortages across the state, and the lines at movies and restaurants get longer every winter.

One local joke has it that real estate prices on Florida’s west coast have skyrocketed because the east coast is full -- and the whole peninsula is in danger of tipping over into the Atlantic.

It’s time for action. And, I think, the answer is staring us in the face:

Let loose the alligators.

From a genetic point of view, it makes sense: only those quick and smart enough to avoid the gators will be represented in the next generation.

From a housing point of view, it makes sense: unless you’re a billionaire, chances are you’ll never afford a home anyplace near the water (which is, after all, a major part of Florida life). With alligators reducing the population, the demand for homes, and therefore their prices, will plummet, giving ordinary folks a chance to enjoy waterfront property.

From an ecological point of view, it makes sense: alligators are a protected species, and an important part of the food chain, and this would help restore the balance of nature.

This plan, which I call the “Go Gators! Act,” would have other benefits: it would reduce the number of tourists jamming the roads and beaches every winter, and dramatically increase the number of adventure TV shows shot in Florida, adding to the state’s income.

And, since the elderly don’t react to danger as quickly as the young, it will soon lower the average age in the state, making Florida more appealing to a younger crowd.

Don’t get me wrong: we’re not talking about alligators eating people here. (Well, maybe just a few. Politicians are the first group that comes to mind.)

We’re talking about letting them roam free, returning to their original habitat, and scaring the timid and weak-minded back to their home states.

And why shouldn’t alligators be freed up to solve this serious problem? After all, since 1987, the alligator has been the official state reptile of Florida.

It’s about time they earned their keep.

©2006 Peter Tannen