Do jobs make the renaissance?
For some people, to associate the word "renaissance" with a city merely requires a development resurgence, some neighborhood revitalization, and the optimism that comes with them. For others, the term demands more than restored buildings, new architecture, and added public attractions.
Sure, Buffalo has a waterfront that’s quickly becoming a national attraction, and housing prices continue to rise. But what about jobs? For many, that’s the real measure of rebirth.
A matter of perspective
Unemployment in Buffalo is at its lowest in decades, suggesting to some that the final piece of the renaissance puzzle has fallen into place. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
The Buffalo of today is looking better when compared to the Buffalo of yesterday, but from the outside looking in, things are still pretty bad. So says the Wall Street Journal (WSJ). In a study ranking the best and worst job markets in the US, Buffalo placed second last out of fifty-three metro areas. The only city that rated worse was our neighbor to the east, Rochester. That’s right, the Chicken Wing Capital and Home of the Garbage Plate were neck and neck frontrunners on WSJ’s "Wall of Shame."
One reason is population stagnation. Cities at the top of the rankings are growing. Buffalo is not (see below). Another reason cited previously in LSS: lack of a workforce. According to the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, we need population growth to have the workers for businesses to expand. But we need thriving businesses for people to move here and grow the population. Catch 22. Among residents already here, there’s a "skill gap" for the jobs that are available.
No single factor puts some cities at the bottom and others at the top of the rankings. But Buffalo, Rochester, and Upstate New York in general suffer from the hat trick of bad economic juju: colder climate, high taxes, and detrimental political policies.
What’s the plan?
Fortunately, there is a solution: wait eighty years for global warming to fully kick in. According to a story in Future Human, Buffalo will then be one of the five best places in the entire world in which to live. So, barring any improvement in taxes or politics, look for climate change to start producing measurable results in thirty to forty years.
The incredible shrinking city
In 1950, Buffalo was the fifteenth largest city in the US, with a population of 580,132. In 2016, the city’s estimated population was less than half that. And our population is still shrinking.
In the years between ten-year census intervals, the US Census Bureau estimates city and town populations. Its latest guess has Buffalo down about 5000 residents since 2010. Inner suburbs like Cheektowaga, Tonawanda, and Lackawanna have also lost population, as have Niagara Falls, North Tonawanda, and Lockport.
Are there any gains?
Yes! Amherst added over 3,200 people since 2010. West Seneca grew somewhat too, as did Clarence, Hamburg, and Lancaster. Clarence was the percentage winner, at over six percent increase. Pendleton is also knocking it out of the park with 400 new residents, bringing its total to 6,700.
2020 census is the decider
All of these are estimates, until the 2020 brings us definitive numbers. For now, you can read all sorts of Buffalo population statistics (and search for other regions) here.
At the start of every gardening season, I fondly recall my former next-door neighbor and dear friend, the late artist, Jackie Felix. Jackie was the first person to introduce me to Roundup herbicide, which she praised for its weed controlling properties. A couple years later, she was the first person to tell me I should never use Roundup again.
Jackie was a woman of extremes; on this subject, she embodied (at different times) both ends of the Roundup debate.
You may have heard recently that in three court cases, glyphosate (AKA Roundup) was found "guilty" of causing cancer in humans, and its inventor, Monsanto, was ordered to pay $2.05 billion in damages (the case is being appealed). You may also have heard that Costco has announced it will stop carrying the product.
Maybe you know someone who asserts with absolute certainty that Roundup will kill you and destroy the environment. Possibly you know someone who claims with equal conviction that it’s completely and unquestionably safe. Both claims are hyperbole.
I was involved in a lively debate last season on the online networking site Nextdoor (Elmwood Village), where it became clear that emotions on this subject run high. People should learn the facts and make up their own minds.
Just the facts:
•Roundup was introduced to the market by Monsanto in 1974.
•It’s the most widely used herbicide around the world.
Glyphosate does not persist in the environment and doesn’t build up in groundwater as earlier herbicides did. It’s less toxic than alternatives, such as paraquat.
•By 1996, genetically modified, glyphosate-tolerant plants enabled farmers to spray Roundup directly onto fields, killing weeds without damaging crops.
•There are traces of Glyphosate in many nonorganic foods we eat or drink, including wine, at levels that are not considered a risk.
•In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the World Health Organization, concluded that Glyphosate is "probably carcinogenic to humans," and that there is "limited evidence" that exposure to Glyphosate increases the risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The IARC categorizes Glyphosate as a "Group 2A" carcinogen, meaning the chemical is a contributor to cancer, but not a direct cause.
Later that year, personal injury lawyers began to "round up" clients.
•The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the European Food Safety Authority, reviewed the evidence—looking at a much larger number of studies than the IARC—and concluded that the science does not support the conclusion that Glyphosate causes cancer. Canadian health authorities agree.
•Large-scale French, Norwegian, and North American studies have also found glyphosate to be safe.
•A 2017, Reuters article revealed that the IARC report "underwent significant changes and deletions," editing out evidence that Glyphosate is non-carcinogenic.
•Monsanto tried to quell negative publicity, and possibly influence the EPA, and embarrassing internal communications were used as evidence against the company in court.
•In Europe, Roundup is formulated with different surfactant chemicals (which allow Glyphosate to absorb into plants) that are considered safer.
What everyone agrees on
If Glyphosate is a carcinogen, researchers believe the level of exposure needed to cause cancer is substantial. Lawsuit plaintiff, DeWayne Johnson, for instance, is a school groundskeeper who sprayed a high-concentration version of the product around school property between twenty and thirty times a year for four years. Twice, he was accidentally drenched in the herbicide.
The US Food and Drug Administration recommends that pets stay off lawns and plants freshly sprayed with Glyphosate.
Long Story Short is an opinion column by artist and educator Bruce Adams, a longtime contributor to Buffalo Spree.
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