Livability in New Hampshire can be sustainable
Beautiful New Hampshire is blessed with three major river systems, a short coast on the Gulf of Maine, numerous lakes and many of the highest mountains in the eastern United States. New Hampshire is 85% forested. We are a recreational paradise.
1.3 million residents live in New Hampshire's 243 cities and towns. In some ways, the state is a confederation of these towns and most are run by volunteers. In fact, more than 30,000 of our citizens are involved in volunteer activities. We have a long tradition of thrift at the state and local level and have weathered economic downturns better than other states. Our state government is the third least expensive in the nation as measured by the cost of government per capita. We have a strong economy based on medium sized specialty manufacturing and small, family run businesses. In test scores and public safety New Hampshire leads the nation.
However, livability does not equal sustainability for New Hampshire:
Our government has lived hand to mouth for so long that deferred investments in transportation infrastructure, information technology, education, public health and weatherization of public buildings often means that the state and its towns pay more for catastrophic failure than we would have paid through simple maintenance. The uneasy relationship between the legislature and the state government has created a cumbersome and bureaucratic state government supported by an antiquated tax structure with among the highest property taxes in the nation.
Because we have the fastest population growth in the Northeast, poorly planned sprawl has left its mark in many areas. Schools, recreation and shopping have become separated from residence, with the automobile bridging the gap. The average NH citizen drives twice as many miles in a day as we did 30 years ago.
The popularity of some cities and towns has caused real estate values to skyrocket, forcing the people who work in these towns into long commutes.
Our rivers and estuaries are polluted with excess nutrients which threaten our fisheries. Our air quality from the excess use of fossil fuels as well as prevailing wind patterns gives us the dubious distinction of being the "tailpipe of the nation." New Hampshire has one of the country's highest childhood asthma rates.
Our counterparts in Asia and Europe use half as much electricity, fuel oil and gasoline than we do without any reduction in quality of life. 100 years ago most seacoast residents could walk outside their house and get a confortable ride on public transportation within a few minutes. Grocery shopping was a few minutes away and most food came from nearby farms or your own garden. Today only 6% of what we eat is grown in New Hampshire.
Our environment, our talent and our resources are the New Hampshire advantage. Wise mobilization of these assets is the course to sustainability.