YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Jesse Keenan is an associate professor of real estate in the school of architecture at Tulane University in New Orleans. He specializes in climate change and its effects on real estate.
Keenan has a theory that one day the Great Lakes region, which includes areas around Youngstown, will be the most desirable place to live in the United States.
Walking near Meander Reservoir Thursday, Keenan said the water mixed with the sound of rain and scenes of wildlife is a good thing.
“In our previous eras, our global competition was for oil. In the future, the global competition for resources will be water and fresh water, and water will be our single greatest commodity on Earth,” Keenan said.
Together, the five Great Lakes comprise the largest area of fresh water on earth, which Keenan says will draw people to live around the lakes. But it’s not just water. The extreme heat of the south and west, that causes drought and forest fires, will drive people to more moderate climates.
“In many ways, the evidence in building a case of not only are we on the move, but we’re going to be on the move in greater numbers in the coming generations,” Keenan said.
And that movement is going to be north.
“At least in the Northern Hemisphere. We’re moving north and the Southern Hemisphere they’ll be moving south. In fact, we’re already seeing that,” Keenan said.
Keenan says the migration north is not yet to the scale where’s it’s noticeable.
“What we are talking about in the context of climate change is on the margins at this point. It will take decades before we start to see sizeable numbers of people really shifting the electoral map,” Keenan said.
While the term climate change often generates fear in people, Keenan says communities in the north and around the Great Lakes should embrace it.
“For places like Youngstown and that part of the country, I think we should really view these changes as a real opportunity to build our communities,” Keenan said.
When Keenan shifted his focus 10 years ago to climate change and real estate, people told him he was crazy, but they aren’t saying that anymore.
“Nowadays, we understand that housing, mortgage markets, insurance markets are not only pricing climate change, it’s changing the value of homes. It’s changing how much debt we can borrow through a mortgage. It’s changing municipal finances,” Keenan said.
Keenan ended the interview by saying that Youngstown built America’s core industrial economy and Youngstown can do it again. He did stress, however, that we need to invest in our infrastructure to attract more people here.