Nature’s incredible ability to provide plentiful water, filter pollutants, and protect us from floods and other weather-related events is declining. In the next 30 years Florida is expected to grow by more than 12 million people; we will max out our aquifer, and sea-level rise will flood many of our coastal and inland waterways. Meanwhile the caretakers of our environment, rural people, are suffering, with rural poverty 6% greater than urban areas, and a 5% decline in rural jobs since 2008. One answer to our ecological and economic decline is to create an eco-utility: a utility service provider, conservation agency, and economic development program. Hudson argues that an eco-utility would preserve our outdoor environment, put rural people to work restoring and improving our green infrastructure, and be financed by customers paying directly for clean water and storm water protection, often at rates cheaper than a traditional “gray infrastructure” utility.
Marc Hudson is a conservationist with a passion for issues of rural economic justice. He has preserved tens of thousands of acres of farms and natural areas from development in New York, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida, all the while working in depressed rural economic areas with scores of foresters, farmers, and ranchers. In the course of his regular conservation work he utilized dozens of incentive and market-based conservation programs to save wild places and family farms. He is a Kinship Conservation Fellow for market-based conservation strategies. He was a co-founder of Groundwork Jacksonville, an environmental justice nonprofit focused on Jacksonville’s urban core. He is currently the Land Protection Director at the North Florida Land Trust, a conservation nonprofit in Jacksonville, and in that role he directs their land preservation programs and strategies.