Magical thinking is the willingness to accept as true things for which there is no valid evidence, and continuing to do so even in the face of conflicting or contradictory realities.
Mankind has engaged in magical thinking since the dawn of human consciousness to conveniently explain life’s mysteries and provide comfort and conjure protection against harsh existential realities.
Magical thinking allows unlimited possibilities for fantasy and self-delusion — as is evident in the politics of climate change and population.
California, along with most of the Southwest, is being ravaged by climate change — notably, persistent droughts and massive wildfires. Climate change has made drought more the norm than the exception.
Carolee Krieger, executive director of California Water Impact Network, concludes that “for all practical purposes, our drought is permanent.”
Before this past December’s spate of rains, the NASA predicted that California had only enough water to last one more year. Since then, there has been virtually no rain here until the end of March.
The rainy season wasn’t — again.
Reservoirs are chronically and critically low. Aquifers, without rain and snow recharging them, are being pumped dry. Ray Stokes, executive director of the Central Coast Water Authority, calls it a “perilous situation.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom has declared yet another statewide drought emergency, and has asked Californians to voluntarily reduce their water usage — again — or he will impose an enforced mandatory 20% statewide reduction.
But, as climate change continues to push precipitation away from the state, conservation, enforced or voluntary, won’t be enough.
Even if agriculture is dehydrated to quench residential thirst — depleting produce shelves across the nation — Californians may be forced to ration water anyway, because the same officials who are pleading for, or mandating, water usage reductions are simultaneously pursuing polices that invite even more demand for water.
Without regard to the reality of climate change’s chronic droughts and wildfires, Newsom along with his fellow illusionists in Sacramento are essentially forcing local communities to increase their populations.
Pursuing a form of perverse populism in which would-be residents have more standing than established residents, these magical morons have passed a bludgeoning battery of bills overriding local control of zoning and development, the effect of which is compulsory crowding without regard to existing water shortages, community ambience, and environmental and infrastructure impacts.
Only with magical thinking can finite resources never be depleted by ever increasing demand for them. These Sacramento sorcerers can’t conjure up enough reliable water supplies for the 40 million people already here, let alone for the many more they want to accommodate.
Most of California’s wildfires are ignited by human activity concomitant with the state’s burgeoning population pushing into drought-ravaged, combustible wilderness areas.
Nevertheless, the same government that watches the state burn down, asks residents to reduce water usage and bemoans housing shortages has made California a sanctuary state for illegal immigrants, the single greatest cause of California’s population growth over the past several decades.
Only by magical thinking can you solve the problems of excessive population by inviting in more population.
The critical difference between humans and other critters is that humans have been skilled enough to defer Nature’s reckoning by extending the point of unsustainability. But, exploiting a finite environment to support increasing population can’t continue indefinitely.
Global climate change is a consequence of the economic activity of a mushrooming human population.
There are few problems and threats confronting humans, and all life on this planet, that would not be significantly mitigated or even absent if human population had never exceeded 2 billion — where it was just 100 years ago. Today, the world’s human population is nearly 8 billion — and rising.
With current populations racing to embrace industrialization — particularly India’s and China’s billions — efforts to combat climate change, let alone reverse it, will be pathetically futile. Continuing to add billions of more people will certainly not improve odds of avoiding catastrophe.
It’s not human activity per se that is the problem, it’s the amount of that activity.
Nearly any human activity affects the biosphere. So, while solar and wind power, electric vehicles, etc. are admirable efforts, the natural resources and the processes required to produce and maintain “green” technology result in significant environmental consequences of their own.
California, and the world for that matter, needs an economic model and official policies that respect and are informed by reality and science, not magical thinking. That requires us to manage our numbers, respect our common environment and live with Nature not against it.
If all politics are local, then that effort starts here. Not everyone can or should live in Santa Barbara — or most anywhere in California. The place is already populated well beyond safe carrying capacity. Attempting to make housing more affordable here by building more of it hasn’t worked to do anything but add to the overpopulation problem.
Considering land and construction costs here, even to break even, the price of new housing is too high to be affordable for most folks. The only purchasers will continue to be the very wealthy or corporate investment interests.
There never will be enough housing, “affordable” or not, for everyone who wants to live here.
The solution is pretty simple: Live somewhere else. There is plenty of affordable housing in other areas of the country. Having your own home in Michigan beats sharing a one-bedroom apartment with three of four other renters, or living in your car or in a tent in California.
California already struggles to accommodate its current population of nearly 40 million, yet the state’s magical thinkers keep behaving as if it can accommodate even more. Attempting to provide housing here for all who desire it is just more magical thinking that only pushes the state closer to Nature’s reckoning point.
Rather than pushing policies that encourage population growth, wise responsible leadership would discourage it. Wise policy would not aid and abet illegal immigration or coerce communities to build more housing to cram in more people.
Let’s replace the magical thinking with common sense.
— Randy Alcorn is a Santa Barbara political observer. Contact him at email@example.com, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.