Building With the Future in Mind Since 1955

Rick Dubrow’s “On The Level” Column in the Cascadia Weekly; Published 5-30-07

“Plunk your magic twanger, Froggy.”

If you remember this phrase, you must be old enough to remember the TV show ‘Froggy the Gremlin’.  It was 1948 when Froggy first appeared, three years before I was born.WhatcomCounty’s population was about 66,000.

Today our population is around 167,000, an increase of about 250% since Froggy began shouting “Hiya Kids, Hiya, Hiya”; an average increase of about 6 people per day. During the last decade, however, the daily rate of increase has been closer to 11 people.

Did you feel the impact of the additional 11 people that arrived in town yesterday?  Did you notice the increased traffic created by their 5 additional cars?

I think not.

Consider for a moment how much we humans are like Froggy the Gremlin. If you throw a frog (any frog, not just this frog) into a pot of boiling water, he’ll jump out. But if you place him into a pot of lukewarm water and slowly turn up the heat, he will boil to death.

Like him, we can hardly feel the impact of yesterday’s 11 new county residents.

So whatever happened to Froggy? He’s no longer on the air.  He must have boiled to death.  Perhaps he didn’t sense the slow, relentless popularity increase of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He should have paid closer attention.

So where does this leave you and me? Even 6 new people per day over 50 years will lead to some sizable impacts.  Then consider the world, whose population increases by 210,000 per day, or 2 people per second.  (You feel that?)

Eventually we boil.

Knowing this about ourselves demands that we stick a thermometer into the water, don’t you think?  Might we want to monitor – perhaps control — this slow, relentless growth so as to avoid boiling over and, like Froggy, going off the air?

A new thermometer has been created locally and it’s called Futurewise Whatcom – a local branch of a proven, effective state-wide organization called Futurewise.  Go to and check us out.  I say ‘us’ because I’m on the Steering Committee.  Yes, I’ve been concerned about the impact of population growth forever, and this latest endeavor to intelligently manage it has attracted me to our local pot of water.  I want to keep us from boiling.  Rather than stand by and just hope thatWhatcomCounty and its cities plan wisely for a new influx of citizens, Futurewise is actively involved in shaping a smart future for the county. We need your help, so please join us and contribute to our work. After all, it’s our community, our choices, and our future!

You’re already off the air if you’re not aware that WhatcomCountyfaces serious problems related to growth: loss of open space, farmland, shorelines, wildlife habitat, and forests; traffic congestion; higher taxes to pay for infrastructure, such as water, sewer, fire protection, parks, and schools. We can do a better job in our cities and the county: focus development inside existing cities where infrastructure already exists; protect open space in our rural areas.

In order to protect our quality of life, Futurewise Whatcom needs money.  The most important step is to hire a fulltime Executive Director, necessitating $75,000 a year.  This person would coordinate the work of our volunteers, conduct research on land-use issues, communicate with local government officials and the media, and help educate the public.

Care to be part of the solution and help us stay on the air? For more information and to get involved, please contact Eric Hirst ( or 360-656-6690; 1932 Rhododendron Way, Bellingham, WA 98229).

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