"O" is for over-population

It's the biggest threat to our survival, not to mention our quality of life.

by Robert Nanninga
f I seem a tad bit despondent, it is because I have just returned from voting, and Interstate 5 is providing ambient noise for the writing of this month's column. The constant drone of traffic has provided me with a major revelation: elections and freeways both represent a multitude of people going nowhere fast.
I write this hoping that my efforts to protect mountain lions and their habitat has not been in vain. The fact that Senator Tim Leslie even managed to get Proposition 197 on the ballot disturbs me in a number of ways. Once upon a time, California mule deer ranged all over north county, as did bobcats; they are gone now for the most part. Local governments are being forced to mitigate for small birds (read: gnatcatcher and least tern) because we are not leaving enough room for them, let alone room for ourselves.
Ladies and gentlemen, felis concordis, otherwise known as the mountain lion, cougar or puma, is now the officially designated "canary in the coal mine," - and methane gas is not the culprit. Human overpopulation has that dubious honor.
Now before anyone accuses me of being on an animal rights tirade, I would like to acknowledge that the soapbox I am currently standing on is rooted firmly in human survival.
On the March ballot, bond issues were proposed to produce funding to alleviate the overcrowding of schools. Would someone please explain to me how throwing money at elementary schools will reduce the number of children seeking an education? Here in Encinitas, school board and city council members were complaining about class size and inadequate facilities, yet neither of these elected boards will speak out against over-development.
Try this equation on for size: More homes built means more families moving into the area. More families means more children. That, my friends, equals too many kids and not enough crayons. It's elementary.
If I had a time machine, the first thing I would do is find the person who initially thought you could develop your way out of a problem and slap him very hard. You know, like they did in the movies when someone had fainted or was having a panic attack. Bette Davis could slap anybody back to reality. I'm sorry people, but we cannot outgrow our current problems. Like Eric and Lyle Menendez, the solution only increases the predicament.
The Catholic church sees poverty increasing around the world, mirroring populations, yet it still encourages people to make more people. Hello, Pope John Paul, you deserve a big Bette Davis slap.
Pete Wilson and Pat Buchanan, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dumber, have decided we need to build a wall to keep able-bodied workers out of America. But if you listen closely to the rhetoric, boys and girls, you will discover they have yet to come up with a way to put Americans back to work, other than putting guns in their hands and pointing them at Mexico. Slap!
Right-to-lifers want to outlaw abortion and abolish the welfare system with one stroke of self righteousness. Can you say "Third World America?" I wonder if the Christian Coalition realizes how annoying it is to have to step over starving children on your way to see Anita Bryant in concert. Ralph Reed, slap, slap, slap!
I know somewhere in the Bible there is a request to "be fruitful and multiply." Come on gang, enough is enough. Let us not forget, that simple plea was written at a time when one did not have to stand in line for three and a half hours just to go on the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland.
The perfect case in point is the Interstate 5 and 805 merge. Morning and evening traffic nearly stops due to industrial lemmings heading to and from work. Caltrans, the patron saint of cluelessness, decided it would be a great idea to alleviate freeway congestion by dropping State Route 56 into the fray. This is what I would call a billion dollar band-aid. The proper solution to freeway gridlock is mass transit; here in San Diego it is called the Coaster. That's the thing that whizzes by you while you're sitting on I-5 wondering how you're going to make your car payments.
Every time we expand the infrastructure we invite more people into the area, at which point we discover the need to expand the infrastructure even more, and so on, and so on. How many people do we need to stack on top of each other until we change San Diego's name to Mexico City North?
Developers, those greedy demons, dangle the short-term building dollars in front of local officials, proclaiming it to be the cure for what ails them. These developers are just modern day carpetbaggers: they move in to an area, destroy habitat in the process of building homes no one can afford, and then move on without providing enough of an economic base to afford the infrastructure required to service the new growth. It is interesting to note that many developers are from Orange County. Could this be a clue, Dr. Watson?
Those of us who remain are forced to deal with overflowing landfills, an unending torrent of sewage polluting the ocean and and a water shortage no one wants to talk about. If development is so good, why doesn't it pay for these things? We are left with over-crowded schools, growing unemployment, and shrinking habitat. Here is another equation: too many people without sufficient resources adds up to disaster. Is short-sightedness a prerequisite for elected office?
As part of the twelve-step program for development junkies, I have created the following mantras. These should be repeated anytime a person feels the urge to build a Walmart.

1) Bigger is not always Better.
2) Cost and Price are entirely different.
3) Greed kills.
4) More is actually less.
5) Manifest Destiny was a lousy idea.
6) Pavement is bad, open space is good.

Note: These mantras should be said while climbing a mountain, rock or tree.
Now that I have vented, let me say that all our actions on behalf of our beleaguered planet do make a difference. Once again we have kept hunters at bay by voting down Prop.197. Open primaries will change the face of California politics, and we are beginning to slow the pace of development. Not bad for a bunch of tree-huggers.
If we are to save ourselves from the slippery slope of extinction, we must control our numbers. If too many cooks spoil the stew, we have outgrown the kitchen and those that do remain are stirring an empty pot.
As environmentalists, we must be content with being aunts and uncles. We must be the ones to educate future generations to the peril they face. Kids are only cute when they are happy and healthy, not starving by the side of some ill-conceived freeway project. It is time to get political.
April is the biggest month for environmental action. I encourage everyone to register and vote green. Write letters to all your elected representatives and let them know that the rules are changing and they will be held accountable. Circulate a Resource Protection Ordinance Petition. Be responsible for gathering twenty signatures, and the San Diego Earth Times will make sure the Board of Supervisors sees them. And last but not least, you can volunteer with the environmental organization of your choice, from the Green Party to America's Finest County. Direct action is the way to turn the tide in favor of the ecosystems that support our very exsistance.
Developers, corporations and other industrial fat cats who feed off of overpopulation and run-away consumption will not set a place at the table of power for us. It is time we invited ourselves to the party, pulled up a chair and got to work.
Oh - and to the guy that responded to my complaint about diminishing open space with comment, "the ocean is all the open space you need." For you a resounding SLAP!
Robert Nanninga is an independent video producer, actor, vegan, San Diego Earth Day board member and active member of the Green and environmental community.

Robert Nanninga is an independent video producer, actor, vegan, San Diego Earth Day board member and active member of the Green and environmental community.