Monday, July 30, 2007

Essay on California (could be about NYC)

Thanks to George the Atheist for submitting this:

EDITORIAL OBSERVER; Trying Times Ahead: The Prospect of 60 Million Californians
By VERLYN KLINKENBORG
Published: July 18, 2007, NY Times

Recently, the California Department of Finance projected that there will be some 60 million people living in the state by 2050. At present there are 36 million. The numbers in themselves are frightening enough, but what I find terrifying is the bland assumption that a two-thirds increase in population is inevitable and that the main problem will be creating the infrastructure necessary to house, feed, educate, transport and govern all those people. To me, the main problem is how to keep them from showing up in the first place.

Somehow the numbers in themselves don't really suggest the sobering weight of this projection. To say that for every three Californians now there will be five in 2050 doesn't capture the scale of change. If you said that for every three houses now there will be five in 2050, or for every three cars, ditto, you might be getting a little closer to the visceral feel of the thing. But when it comes to houses and cars, California is a land of loaves and fishes, always multiplying in the most unexpected ways. To live in the state is to live with unrelenting change, whether you like it or not, and it has been that way for decades.

But this population increase will mean more than filling up San Bernardino, Riverside and Kern Counties and paving the entire midsection of the state and creating impromptu day-schools and conference centers in stopped traffic. We tend to talk about humans as if they were interchangeable -- as if the Californian of 1957 were somehow equivalent to the Californian of 2007. But today's Californian consumes far more, if you consider consumption in its broadest sense. Draw pictures of those two Californians to the scale of their consumption, and the present-day resident would dwarf his ancestor.

There's a chance that a mid-21st-century Californian will look back in horror at the enormous consumption footprint of someone living in the state right now. That sense of horror would be good news -- a sign that the coming generations had taken to heart that the way we live now, even in its current dimensions, is unsustainable. The trouble, of course, is that a population projection like this one more or less takes it for granted that not much will have changed by 2050. Otherwise, there wouldn't be 60 million people in the state.

The point of thinking about the future is to help us think about the present. This population forecast is a vivid reminder of the assumptions that make meaningful change so hard. We can't help believing in growth. We can't help believing that the way to create change is simply to buy different stuff, so growth doesn't stop. And we refuse to think seriously about the number of human beings on this planet, a kind of growth that somehow seems ''natural'' to us. It makes no difference how little each of those 60 million Californians will consume in 2050. The number cannot be negative. It's nearly impossible to imagine how they could meet their water needs alone.

And then there is the impact of all those people on the other species with which they might have shared the Golden State. In 2007, we remain blindly impervious to the life-claims of almost all other forms of life -- to the moral stipulation that their right to life is equivalent to ours. How it will be then I do not know, but if there are indeed 60 million people living in California in 2050, there will be nothing meaningful to be said on the matter, except as a subject of nostalgia.

We like to take it for granted that we're moving ahead in environmental consciousness. We like to hope that the curve of our environmental awareness will catch up to the curve of our economic growth and things will somehow come into balance. But faith in our progressive enlightenment seems a little misplaced to me, especially when I remember a speech that James Madison gave to his local agricultural society nearly 190 years ago.

Madison said, simply, that we have no reason to suppose that all of Earth's resources, which support so much living diversity, can rightfully be commandeered to support mankind alone. It seems incredible to me, in 2007, that a former president could articulate such an environmentally sound principle of conscience. But it's a principle that should move to the very center of our thinking. It should cause us to re-examine not just how we shop and what we drive and who we elect but also how our species reproduces. It should cause us to re-imagine that once and future California, which lies only 43 years away, and make sure that it isn't barren of all but us humans.

"Klinkenborg MUST have been reading Queens Crap where I previously mentioned:

THIN THE HERD!!!"

- George

11 comments:

49er said...

The Golden Gate state has already severely abused its land.

Mudslides are a direct result of deforestation !

Everybody wants to live atop a mountain with a view....so the trees got cut down to make possible the rash of over development !

Oh.....we forgot to mention brushfires !

Good luck paying your insurance premiums !

Nature is reclaiming its own !

Taxpayer said...

Immigration Counters

Anonymous said...

I would like to hear from those yos yos that say that population growth is GOOD and its massive development is a NATURAL thing to inflict on people.

Newspapers? politicians? two-bit quick buck developers? now is your chance for a rebuttal....

Anonymous said...

How do you thin the herd? You can downzone, but people will still come here and live in illegal apts.

People are flocking to NYC b/c it is a great place to live. Do we intentionally make it crappier to discourage people from coming here?

I know many people think NYC living conditions are next to hell, but the continuing desire of people to come here proves that is not what many other people believe.

Anonymous said...

How to "Thin the Herd"?...ENFORCE THE IMMIGRATION LAWS for one thing...People are "flocking" here because son-of-a-bitch contractors are paying them "off the books"!...and idiot politicians like CM Eric Gioia have Food Stamp Press Conferences on Roosevelt Avenue and totally DISREGARD the illegal immigrant "shape-ups" a few blocks away infront of Gleason's Paint Store.

Anonymous said...

"People are flocking to NYC b/c it is a great place to live."

Are you kidding?

They are flocking here because you can WORK OFF THE BOOKS.

Cardinal said...

"They are flocking here because you can WORK OFF THE BOOKS."

This is different from the rest of the USA in what way???? Are you trying to say every employer puts their employees on the books in Boise, Idaho or International Falls, Minnesota??

People are coming here because they don't want to live in the middle of no where.

And saying let's enforce the immigration laws is just dandy -- how do you deport millions of people embedded in our society? When these undocumented immigrants leave, will you be willing to pay more for that meal at the restaurant or for that car wash??

If you're serious about undocumented immigrants, why don't you boycott restaurants, bars, contractors and others who hire them?

Anonymous said...

"This is different from the rest of the USA in what way???? Are you trying to say every employer puts their employees on the books in Boise, Idaho or International Falls, Minnesota??"

No, but immigration policies are probably enforced in those cities, while NYC is a "sanctuary city". i suppose it is also easier to bus tables for yuppies in Manhattan than it is to be a day laborer on a farm. I'd rather pay more for things because immigration laws are being enforced than pay $8/day to drive into Manhattan. I'd actually be getting something for my money that way - safety.

Julie said...

At some point, the city has to be considered FULL. You can't invite 8 million more people into a city but have no plan for where to send kids to school, and continue to close hospitals and firehouses and hire less police officers. You also can't expect 1 million more people to take the subway, so naturally, there will be more cars and congestion. We're headed for complete disaster.

The Camel said...

Just keep piling the straws on.

Anonymous said...

Latest flash from an insider
working at one of those prestigious real estate firms dealing in ultra high end Manhattan properties:

It's not just the sub prime mortgage market
that's collapsing .

Things aren't doing so well in the deluxe market either but it's being kept under wraps
while the professional publications keep on cranking out a rosy picture.

Some of the more recent trends indicate that many real estate investors seem to be switching
their options and looking at other cities in the USA because they feel that the NYC market
has topped off and it's getting too overcrowded for existing services and infrastructure !

It's starting to crack and everyone's afraid that the house of cards is about ready to tumble.