The Population Bomb and
those lighting the fuse

“This would be a great world to dance in if we didn't have to pay the fiddler.”
      - Will Rogers

by Robert T. Nanninga

alifornia is rapidly approaching a precipice. The question before us is: will we rush headlong to our destruction, or avoid the fate of the lemmings we try so hard to mimic? Personally, I see a trajectory that will sweep most of us into a maelstrom of systematic collapse, leaving future generations with a significantly diminished quality of life. By diminished quality of life I mean water shortages, sewage related epidemics, and mind numbing poverty. Kind of like Iraq, but with a view of the Pacific.

    It seems the only folks not concerned about unchecked population growth in California are those trying to profit from it. With a population of more than 35 million people, and an annual growth rate of 1.3 percent, our projected population will reach 54 million by 2025. That's an additional 18 million people scrambling for jobs and clean water. To truly understand the scope of such an increase, imagine adding enough people to repopulate the city of Los Angeles 4 times over. Which poses yet another question: Where in the Hell are we going to put them? Or are we just going to become hell in trying? The latter seems more likely.

    The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) has been pushing to accommodate another million people by the year 2020, which is par for the course, considering SANDAG is infamous for overestimating its collective intelligence, and underestimating the impact its shortsighted policies will have on our already overburdened region. To think municipalities and other government agencies can postpone ecologically responsible planning for another two decades is delusional. But that is exactly what the brain trust at SANDAG is hoping to do?

    SANDAG has never been one for the honest assessment of the biological limitations of the San Diego region. The ugly truth is that the people hired to plan for the continued growth “jihad” here in San Diego County depend on uncontrolled population increase to make their mortgage payments and pay off their consumer debt. Planners for the San Diego Association of Governments will continue to create work for themselves as long as that organization is allowed to force their growth-booster agenda on the rest of us. Considering the mess we are in, it is safe to say SANDAG is nothing more than a development accommodation agency with plans that don't include ecological restraint.

    Luckily, some of the villagers have recognized the monster for what it is, and have begun to do battle with it. One such group is Friends of San Diego. Under the brilliant leadership of Tom Mullaney, these concerned citizens believe “cities and regions can take control of their destiny, and should examine what is the optimal rate and amount of growth.” Completely contrary to the status quo currently laying waste to our environment, Friends of San Diego is urging a selective approach to high densities, with the focus being on adequate public facilities, rural preservation, environmental protection - with the main driver maintaining the quality of life enjoyed by residents.

    Ask anyone sitting in traffic for during their morning commute, students in overcrowded classrooms, or surfers stacked four deep waiting for their turn to drop in, if they think the region is overpopulated and they will answer with a resounding yes. In fact, the only people who don't think we are growing beyond the point of sustainability are those making money from it - while the rest of us take the brunt of the impacts. What we need is an honest and open dialogue about reducing population and then we need elected officials with enough intellectual integrity to engage in such a conversation.

    As open space becomes rarer and rarer, those seeking to bring millions more to the region will give lip service to saving things, but the pressure to pave only continues to rise. These folks never talk about limits: water shortages, disappearing agricultural land, and the extinction of native species. We are burying the California dream under a mountain of humanity. Sadly, we are approaching the point where we will be powerless to do any thing about it.

    Robert Nanninga is a free-lance writer, producer and environmental journalist. A native of Vista living in Leucadia, he Chairs San Diego ZPG, as well as representing coastal North County on the Green County Council.