Four years ago, I was part of a leadership exchange program that sent Philadelphians to Phoenix to see what the story was in the city that was about to surpass us in population. I experienced a lot of Phoenix envy there, between the temperate climate and scandal-free politics; but I wondered aloud how a city built on cheap gas and imported water could continue its breakneck growth.

Fast forward four years, and population data is telling us that older, denser cities are making a comeback after years of bleeding residents. This time next year, we'll have population data through July 2008, and I have to think that data will tell the same story or even more magnified.

Maybe we Americans are too wired for wide open spaces, too addicted to golf courses and water fountains in the middle of deserts, and the Phoenixes of the world will resume their steady uptick in population. Or could it be that we're in the middle of a sea change in migration patterns and real estate values, driven by the reality of scarce resources? If so, prepare for the Phoenicians to reciprocate by coming here to see what we've done to turn around our population decline.
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