New Histories of Pre-Columbian Florida

By Neill J. Wallis; Asa R. Randall | Go to book overview

7
North Gulf Coastal Archaeology
of the Here and Now

KENNETH E. SASSAMAN, PAULETTE S. MCFADDEN, MICAH P. MONÉS,
ANDREA PALMIOTTO, AND ASA R. RANDALL

By some measures, over half of the population of the United States today lives on or near the coasts of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans and the Gulf of Mexico. In Florida, which boasts over 3,660 kilometers of tidal coastline, the proportion of coastal dwellers is much higher, over 75 percent of an estimated 18.8 million state residents in 2010 (Bureau of Economic and Business Research 2011). This is an increase in coastal population of nearly 200 percent in just 40 years. Indeed, Florida coastal populations and economies have witnessed accelerated growth over the past two centuries, and many expect that to continue into the future. Although a variety of stakeholders have alerted us to the vulnerabilities of unbridled coastal development (Hinrichsen 1998; Pilkey and Young 2009), those with the authority to change the course of Florida’s history seem inclined to mortgage its future on continued, albeit now regulated, expansion (Schrope 2010).

The risks of demographic and economic expansion along Florida’s coasts have come into sharper focus with greater understanding that coastal environments can sustain only so much human exploitation. Many such limits have been imposed or accentuated by the very interventions that made expansion possible, such as the alteration of lands and habitats, the extraction of ground water, the emplacement of infrastructure, the replenishment of beaches, and channelization. Others can be viewed as long-term, unforeseen consequences of intensified practices, such as commercial fishing, farming, consumption of fossil fuels, and industrial operations that pollute. In both cases, human perceptions of change hinder imagined alternatives, in the former case because of short-term future horizons and in the latter case because of truncated histories. Although modern Florida is defined by its unprecedented growth over the past two centuries, it represents but a fleeting moment in a history of human occupation that spans at least 130 centuries (ca.

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