Milford celebrates 375 years

This year, Milford turns 375. Happy Birthday! Milford’s Anniversary Committee has scheduled some great community events during the year, peaking June 9-15, so we can all get right up close and personal with our history over 15 generations and explore every aspect of living in Connecticut on the delicate fringe of North America.

During 2014, Hot Air will look at our forebears’ environment and its links to our own, starting with Milford’s Founding Image: The turf and twig.

Per the History of Milford, Connecticut, the Paugusset Indian chief Ansantawae, “taking the piece of turf in one hand, and the twig in the other,…thrust the twig into the turf, and handed it to the English, [thus signifying] that the Indians relinquished all the land specified in the deed and everything growing upon it.”

Could any image be more “green”? Imagine if such a land conveyance ceremony took place today. “Taking a piece of asphalt in one hand, and a plastic model of a strip-mall in the other, the mayor placed the plastic on top of the asphalt and handed it to the buyer’s lawyer, thus signifying that the city relinquished all the infrastructure specified in the deed and all the commercial development associated with it.”

But before Hot Air starts comparing Milford’s 17th-century and present environments, let’s look to the future. Let’s frame our view in terms of a famous 1980 wager between an environmentalist and a denier.

Paul Ehrlich, a distinguished chemist and a founder of Earth Day, had written a popular book with his wife entitled The Population Bomb, arguing that the world population was growing beyond its natural limits to the point of threatening “an age of scarcity” in terms of energy, food, and other consumables.

Julian Simon, a free-market economist, believed that population growth was a solution, not a problem. His theory was that greater numbers of people would lead to larger economies, and that human ingenuity would create technological progress on such a scale as to make the concept of biological and physical limits obsolete.

Ehrlich and Simon narrowed their opposition to a simple bet: Over 10 years the combined price of five metals considered as stand-ins for natural resources — chromium, copper, nickel, tin and tungsten — would decline (Simon), or rise (Ehrlich). Simon won. In 1990, the price of the metals had dropped by $576.07.

If Milfordites now were to place a bet with some bookie on the future of Milford’s natural resources when it reached the age of 750, what exactly would the bet be? The price for a glass of fresh water? Thought experiments like this offer the potential for us to count environmental value not in money but in quality of life.

As we celebrate Milford’s 375th, looking both behind and ahead, let’s consider what our measure of value should be, and, based on the answer, what Milford’s environment would look like if we were able to return here in 2389.