Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Fingers and Toes

California population 2010..........37,253,956
California population 2000..........33,871,648
California population 1990..........29,760,021

That's about 4 million more people every decade. So we're looking at a minimum of around 41 million people in 2020, more if you follow the "official" population projections from Sacramento. For which we don't even have the resources now, notably water. Not to mention the impact of climate change, which produces more extremes of heat and shifts in water patterns because of the climate change we're experiencing. So how is it possible to plan ahead for the world we're going to be living in over the next century?

These issues are raised on a map site for California provided by a joint effort by California Universities, the California Energy Commission and Google. It's an interactive tool at the website, which allows people to use climate prediction tools for themselves and use this for planning issues. The site encourages community involvement and local solutions from people.

An example and summary of making local use of the site is posted at Mother Jones.

Following the example of this exercise, I checked my local Southern California area and was distressed to find that that it's all just hotter and more vulnerable to wildfires and thus pollution. Add to this the very likely water shortages and one begins to wonder how any population increase is feasible at all, particularly given the challenges in our urban areas at the moment.

It's not just the physical and resource limitations. We're facing infrastructure degradation due to lack of maintenance, particularly the watershed and open spaces that provide what little relief we have now from the eroded urban landscape that has sprawled across the Southern California basin. The strategies discussed by public officials and planners, which involve greater densities and lower consumption of all resources, appears to be a dodge to the real issue of, can this continue? How do we repair the ecological damage and provide for the regeneration of natural processes? Where does the money come from now if we couldn't afford to maintain what we had even during the good times?

Clearly a major shift in priorities is called for, and one that will require a different kind of economic approach to business, lifestyles, quality of life issues and community. This shift will necessarily arise from a new frugality and economy of means that this situation is going to force upon us. If the natural environment can't support the scale of human encroachment that is occurring, we have a serious set of choices ahead of us, hopefully ones that won't be made by lurching from climate crisis to food crisis to energy crisis to water crisis. It will most likely mean coming to grips with population impacts and not trying to dodge the bullet with more "transit oriented development". More effective human habitation and less resource demand can only be managed by controlling the numbers, which means that a "market economy" will have to dramatically reconfigure to succeed in a shrinking market scenario.

These answers will arise, no doubt, from a younger generation that will respond to this bleak future with a new value system and new answers that potentially reject all the assumptions that the current leadership is operating from. Is Green Revolutionary?

It's certainly political.