The estimated change is just one-half percent, and it's still too earlier to tell if the trend is real. But already people are gloating over the recent news of population growth in Northeast Ohio.

"More people, more promise," crowed The Plain Dealer in an editorial. "The figures offer encouraging evidence that this area's long population drain has bottomed out."

The figures from the Population Reference Bureau estimate that between April 1990 and July 1991 the Cleveland-Akron metropolitan area gained more than 18,000 people. And it's understandable that the PD should gloat. The more readers it has, the more it can charge for ads. Big retailers will be happy, too. So will utilities like Centerior, which need a growing population and economy to get rid of excess nuclear power. Everyone in the region will be able to feel like a winner instead of a rust belt loser.

But will unquestioned growth in population and consumption necessarily improve our quality of life? Will it make Northeast Ohio a better place for our grandchildren?

The book, Beyond the Limits, talks about how a truly sustainable society would be more interested in qualitative development than physical expansion. "Before this society would decide on any specific growth proposal, it would ask what the growth is for, and who would benefit, and what it would cost, and how long it would last, and whether it could be accommodated by the sources and [pollution] sinks of the planet. A sustainable society would apply its values and its best knowledge of the earth's limits to choose only those kinds of growth that would actually serve social goals and enhance sustainability. And when any physical growth had accomplished its purposes, it would be brought to a stop."



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