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Moving America Toward a Sustainable Future: Four Factors to Succeed

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By Frosty Wooldridge

American citizens enjoy one of most remarkable continents on this planet!  They revel under blue skies, majestic mountains, the Great Plains, white water streams and unlimited recreation opportunities.  Millions ski the peaks, raft the rivers and race their bicycles through an endless “Wilderness Disneyland!”

However, as we progress into the 21st century, everything we take for granted today vanishes for future generations.  Why? Short answer: hyper-population growth! 

Each year, quietly and without fanfare, America adds, net gain, 3.1 to 3.4 million people.  In the past 40 years, we added 100 million people mostly through immigration since the American female averages 2.03 children or replacement only.  According to Fogel/Martin March 2006 “U.S. Population Projections”, we expect to add 100 million more people by 2035.  What does that mean to average citizens?

For starters, it explodes our current 306 million population to well over 400 million.  It multiplies by 100 million people our gridlocked traffic, air pollution, water and energy usage.

Within cities like Los Angeles, Houston and Denver, rush hour traffic causes  hundreds of accidents daily, five days a week as a normal part of their overloaded highways. Ozone alerts and air pollution keep everyone breathing highly polluted air known as the ‘Brown Cloud’ over those cities.  Can you imagine how much more toxic that cloud might be with two to three million more people living in Chicago, Houston, Atlanta and New York? 

What about ‘quality of life’?  That latest word in the American lexicon addresses our loss of wild places, and peace and quiet needed for our spiritual well being.  

My old friend John Muir said, “Tell me what you will of the benefactions of city civilization, of the sweet security of streets--all as part of the natural upgrowth of man towards the high destiny we hear so much of.  I know that our bodies were made to thrive only in pure air, and the scenes in which pure air is found.  If the death exhalations of that brood the broad towns in which we so fondly compact ourselves were made visible, we should flee as from a plague.  All are more or less sick; there is not a perfectly sane man in San Francisco.”

When it comes to nature, how will America’s wildlife fare as we build homes and communities in their habitats?  How will they maintain their lives?  Don’t fool yourself that habitat is of no consequence to a global ecosystem.  Right now, according to The National Academy of Sciences, in America, we lose 2,500 plants and animals to extinction every decade from habitat encroachment by humans.   That begs the question: what moral or ethical right do we possess as cognitive humans to cause so much destruction of our fellow creatures on this planet home?

What happens when we compact ourselves like rats in cities across America?  What kind of Hobson’s Choice will we encounter when we add that extra five million human beings?  What about our water supplies that already force us into ever increasing consequences?

On the energy front, how will we survive the coming Peak Oil dilemmas and lack of natural gas?  We experienced rolling blackouts in California and Colorado three years ago.  Oil prices in Europe run $9.00 a gallon while we freaked out with $4.10 a gallon this summer.  What happens when oil prices in the U.S. climb to $9.00 a gallon?--Which they will!

No leaders and few folks make any plans for what we face.  But, as you understand, everything you hear and read applauds unending growth.  Growth cannot solve the problem; ‘growth’ is the problem!  It remains an anachronistic paradigm and totally unworkable. 

As we race pell-mell toward our destiny, what responsibilities do we owe future Americans?  What can they expect from our actions today?  What will they encounter as we make poor choices?  What might constitute positive choices?

As CU’s famous demographer Dr. Albert Bartlett said, “Can you think of any problem in any area of human endeavor on any scale, from microscopic to global, whose long-term solution is in any demonstrable way aided, assisted, or advanced by further increases of population, locally, nationally, or globally.” 

I cannot! Can you?  Therefore, if none exist, let’s boldly and intelligently pursue a new path for America. Let’s move toward ‘steady state economics’ and a stable and sustainable population.

Every restaurant, pool and movie house observes a limited seating capacity.  Every airplane must carry the number of passengers within its capacity—and not one single person over its limit.

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Frosty Wooldridge Bio: Frosty Wooldridge possesses a unique view of the world, cultures and families in that he has bicycled around the globe 100,000 miles, on six continents and six times across the United States in the past 30 years. His books (more...)
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