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Communities and Consequences, Francese and MerrillCommunities & Consequences: The Unbalancing of New Hampshire's Human Ecology, and What We Can Do About It

by Peter Francese and Lorraine Stuart Merrill

Communities & Consequences is an important new title written by demographer Peter Francese, and co-author Lorraine Merrill, the newly appointed New Hampshire Commissioner of Agriculture, Markets & Food, and published by Peter E. Randall Publisher. The title offers a clear-eyed view of what is truly affecting the development, growth and tax rates of the state of New Hampshire, and the rest of New England. Francese and Merrill explain the consequences to our communities when the individual communities make decisions that they feel are in the best interest of preservation and yet are in actuality fueling unbalanced growth and a frightening demographic shift, with clearly unintended results. The new book is a companion to a documentary by the same name, due to be aired on New Hampshire Public Television and in yet to be announced theater locations around the state. Copies of the new books are available by visiting the website, or contacting independent bookstores in the state.

One issue the authors highlight, and substantiate with hard statistics, is how concerns about increases in school costs often motivate individual towns to restrict growth. Using legislation at the town level, local officials aim to control the growth of residential housing, rising school costs and, hopefully, sprawl. Yet in actuality sprawl is increasing, school enrollments are dropping all over New England and New Hampshire is becoming a state losing its social capital as younger workers and families have to face longer commutes. Spending up to one hour for each commute per day limits the level of involvement these individuals can have in their home communities and even within their own families. Another effect is that many young families are unable to live near their aging family members, which fractures the heart of New England’s strong family roots and ideals. While the aim of these local measures is to protect a small town, family oriented way of life, in fact the opposite is the result.

As the introduction states, “Loss or absence of members of one or another segment of a human community can have a profound impact on the health and prosperity of the whole. In New England, and particularly in our state of New Hampshire, we are starting to see that well-intentioned actions by members of small communities can have unfortunate long-term consequences for the region’s inhabitants.

This book, along with its companion documentary and Web site, is our effort to show how a relatively small segment of the human ecosystem—the state of New Hampshire—is being substantially altered in just this way, to its economic and social detriment. The most significant and potentially most harmful consequence is the high out-migration of young adults. This exodus will leave New Hampshire with slowing workforce growth, declining numbers of children—the future workforce—and a population aging at an even faster rate due to increasing numbers of older residents….New Hampshire’s quality of life, cultural opportunities, and advantageous tax climate have attracted large numbers of maturing baby boomers and retired people. This influx has to a degree camouflaged the exodus of young adults. But New Hampshire and the rest of New England are aging more rapidly than other areas, greatly diminishing the region’s prospects for economic growth.”

The new title outlines the problems, but it also offers solutions. From the introduction, “Fortunately, the unbalancing of New Hampshire’s human ecology is happening slowly enough that it can be changed. If people act soon, working together in towns and cities over the next few years, we can avert a very undesirable future.” The goal of this project is “to raise awareness of the negative outcomes of basing local residential development decisions primarily on one issue—school costs—instead of on the full range of social, economic, and environmental needs and concerns of balanced, vibrant communities.”

Communities & Consequences is dedicated to the volunteers of the eight regional, workforce, housing coalitions across the state of New Hampshire. Sponsors for the project; book, DVD and website, include; Donahue, Tucker & Ciandella, PLLC, New Hampshire Association of Realtors, New Hampshire Business & Industry Association, New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, New Hampshire College & University Council, New Hampshire Hospital Association, New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority, Northeast Delta Dental, Public Service of New Hampshire, RiverWoods at Exeter, and the University System of New Hampshire.

Interactive Reader Involvement

Want to learn more about New Hampshire’s human ecology and how you can make a difference in its future? Visit the Web site to:

  • view film clips from the documentary
  • get periodic updates of information in this book
  • post your comments about what you see in your town
  • participate in one of the organizations described in this book

About the Authors

Peter Francese, a graduate of Cornell University, speaks and writes frequently on demographic and consumer trends. He founded American Demographics Magazine which became part of Dow Jones & Company but is now within Advertising Age Magazine. His most recent book was titled Marketing Insights to Help Your Business Grow and he writes a monthly column on housing trends for the New Hampshire Association of Realtors. Francese is currently the demographic trends analyst for the worldwide advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather, and the New England Economic Partnership has appointed him to be its director of demographic forecasts. He was the recipient of the Silver Bell Award from the Advertising Council for distinguished public service. He and his wife Paula have lived in Exeter for many years.

Lorraine Stuart Merrill is a writer specializing in agriculture, business, community planning, and the environment. She has contributed articles in Forest Notes, the University of New Hampshire Magazine, the Boston Sunday Globe, the Christian Science Monitor,2nd Home Journal, regional and national farm magazines, and publications on Smart Growth and preserving rural character for the state Office of Energy and Planning. She and her family own a dairy farm in Stratham. Merrill and her husband, John, received the American Farmland Trust’s 2003 Steward of the Land Award for “outstanding leadership at the national, state, and local levels in protecting farmland and caring for the environment.”

A graduate of the University of New Hampshire, Merrill was a 2007 Food & Society Policy Fellow, supported by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation and Thomas Jefferson Agricultural Institute. In November 2007 Merrill was appointed by Governor John Lynch as New Hampshire Commissioner of Agriculture, Markets & Food.

6x9 trade paper, 125 pages, illustrations, index, ISBN13: 978-1-931807-67-8, $14.95

Ordering Information

Distribution: Enfield Publishing & Distribution, PO Box 699, Enfield, NH 03748
Tel: 603-632-7377 / / Email:

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