Thursday, March 22 , 2018, 9:35 am | Light Rain Fog/Mist 60º


Randy Alcorn: California’s Policies Conflict on the Environment

California is a proud leader in protecting the environment and combating global warming. The state’s polices encourage development of clean energy while its regulation of carbon emissions are among the strictest in the world.

It has established a cap-and-trade program and has defiantly pledged to maintain the Paris climate accord in spite of President Donald Trump reneging on it at the national level.

Yet, California, so proud of its environmental efforts, contradicts those efforts with its policies on population growth, particularly the state’s 1967 “housing elements” law, and the recently passed Accessory Dwelling Unit laws (Assembly Bill 2299 and Senate Bill 1069), as well as the proposed legislation (SB 54) to make California a “sanctuary” state — essentially a safe harbor for the millions of foreign nationals residing here illegally and an official invitation for more to come.

Virtually all environmental degradation derives from excessive human population. Left unchecked, population growth will overwhelm all the clever science and gee-whiz technology developed to combat its ruinous effects.

Unless the earth is growing its physical girth, human population cannot increase indefinitely. Eventually, there will not be enough space or life-sustaining resources to support life as we know it anywhere on the planet, including California.

Nevertheless, California’s housing elements law mandates that local communities accommodate their “fair share” — whatever that is — of increasing population by facilitating development of housing, including “affordable” housing — whatever that is.

Since it was passed 50 years ago, this law has been widely circumvented by communities wanting to limit their population growth in order to maintain their desirable ambiences.

Now, however, the Legislature — you know, the same state body that passed all those environmental laws — is considering SB 35 that would reinforce the housing elements law by forcing local communities to accelerate housing approvals and, among other things, bar them from requiring environmental reviews to do so.

Meanwhile, the state’s new ADU laws override local ordinances that forbid the construction of such dwellings on existing single-residential property. This state imposition on local communities has the potential to double population densities by allowing most homeowners to build up to a 1,200-square-foot rental unit on their property.

California doesn’t have a housing shortage crisis; it has a population overage crisis. And, if housing was unaffordable, it wouldn’t be selling like cold beers on a hot day.

Officially designating sanctuary cities or states is wrong for a number of reasons, but especially for environmental ones. Virtually all of California’s population growth over the past 30 years is attributable to foreign immigrants and their prolific procreation. That growth has been substantial.

In 1982, California was already crowded with 25 million residents. Today, the state’s population is nearly 40 million. Providing housing, water and food for this population begins to strain the very environment that official California is ostensibly protecting.

The consequent urban sprawl to support this more than 50 percent increase in population has already consumed 3,400 square miles of what was farmland and wildlife habitat. Scientists calculate that if current population trends continue, more farmland will be lost, and new technological miracles to increase food production for the burgeoning population are unlikely to keep up — but then these scientists are probably not considering Soylent Green.

While the increasing population could be concentrated into existing urban areas by building high-rise, high-density gerbil units powered by solar energy, hydrated with toilet-to-tap water, and nourished with some kind of Soylent Green, life in such congested conditions isn’t desirable for most mammals, including humans.

Since infinite population growth is impossible, why not work to bring population levels down to more pleasantly sustainable levels before living conditions become hellish?

Believing that population growth is inevitable is false, but it is an excuse to do nothing. And, believing that some mythical deity will intervene to save humanity is an abrogation of responsibility. Has the god of any major religion actually directed mankind to destroy the planet?

Why do California’s policies encourage population growth in spite of the terrible negative consequences of that growth? “Follow the money.” That old admonitory aphorism is no more appropriate than in the United States, where just about everything has become a profit center in an increasingly Darwinian economic jungle.

The forces of greed in both the private and public sectors like to peddle the preposterous assertion that economic vitality depends on ever-increasing population growth. But most economic activity is recurring and not dependent on increasing population size. People need new tires, new roofs, food daily, and other commodities and services over and over again.

California’s economy was robust when the state’s population was 15 million. It was a smaller economy, but it was not teetering at the edge of collapse.

The forces of greed want population growth just to sell more of whatever it is they are selling, and it is easier to do that when populations are rapidly increasing than it is to compete for customers in an existing stabilized or slow-growing population.

If California is serious about protecting its natural environment, if it is serious about being a world leader in environmental efforts and a model for how to do it, its policies cannot be inconsistent and contradictory. It cannot ignore population growth as the main threat to the environment.

— Randy Alcorn is a Santa Barbara political observer. Contact him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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