Thursday, January 21, 2010

Dear Sustainability Movement,

Please cease and desist all claims of saving the planet in promotional, educational and propaganda materials. I’ve done a simple calculation that indicates to me that the movement is not sustaining the planet, but is delaying the destruction of the planet. My main concern with claims of providing sustainability is the complete lack of attention the movement puts on population growth.

For instance I’ve taken a look at the energy consumption for the State of California between 1970 and 2000. The population figures for the state of California are below from the US Census.

1970 California Population: 19,953,134

2000 California Population: 33,871,648

Below is the Energy Consumption for the state of California and per person:

1970: 41,844,077 Energy Units : 2.09 Energy Units/person

2000: 61,337,853 Energy Units : 1.81 Energy Units/person

As indicated in the above numbers California became approximately 14% more energy efficient, or more sustainable, between 1970 and 2000. Unfortunately due to population increases California utilized 146% more energy in the year 2000 compared to 1970. I’m not quite sure how this energy use could be considered sustainable.

The same pattern is detectable in other areas focused in on by the sustainability movement such as land use, water use and daylighting. Without a focus on population growth the sustainability movement is destined to fail. There is no feasible way the concepts and ideas can be considered sustainable without controlling population growth. The UN calculates the World’s population went from 3,685,777,000 to 6,115,367,000 from 1970 to 2000. Additionally projections of the World’s population is to increase by an additional 1.2 billion people by 2030. Without a major shift to population growth sustainability will never be achieved.

Here are some ideas to include sustainability in the movement to become realistically sustainable:

  • A requirement for residential buildings have Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions to limit the number of children people can have. China’s current children policy of "One is best, two at most, but never a third" appears to be affecting change there in population growth.
  • Much in the same way as the LEED process encourages the use of electrical vehicles the same could be done with limiting children. Businesses occupying LEED rated buildings could require policies that discourage employees having children. Such as not providing benefits for the third child and more.
  • Encourage businesses to focus on dividends instead of growth.
  • Remove tax credits children and replace it with an increased tax rate for families with three or more children.

While I can understand why the movement is not going in this direction, for fear of upsetting people, I fully expect without changes like this the movement is destined to fail and never reach the goal of sustainability.


Christopher Fugitt, PE, LEED AP


D Manning said...

Interesting read. It's odd because I can completely agree with you but at the same time I find it difficult. It would upset me to think that I couldn't have our third child that we intend on having this year. The greatest thing to consider though is what is best? What's best for me may not even be best for my unborn child or the rest of the world. It's all very interesting to think how things will develop in the next 20-50 years. I imagine that we will all adapt, force the earth to adapt or perhaps their will be a virus that wipes out 1/3rd or the world's population. Who knows? Thanks again for posting!

Anonymous said...

I also kind of agree. This would be difficult if not impossible to accomplish with the current mindset of the US at large, let alone other countries. Like you said, China does this, but it is also not very popular and causes many problems and mistreatment of children and human rights abuses. Very tough sell.

Tounge in cheek, maybe we could institute cap'n trade for kids; I have (1) and someone else can have (3)!!!

SJ said...

In case you haven't recently checked, the population growth of the US is sitting at slightly less than 1% / year (which ranks us 137th in the world). I really don't think we need to lower this.

The birth rate per female is 2.05 births. Again, we do not need to lower this.

Lowering the energy usage per person is still quite useful, as is finding new ways to harness available energy.

You are heading down the slippery slope to eugenics. Please tell me this post is not actually written "Sincerely."

Christopher Fugitt said...

SJ, you haven't really explained why you want population growth. Lots of perceived problems get solved with a 0% or negative growth rate. Energy use, urban sprawl, water shortages, traffic congestion, etc. 1% sounds small, but I can't imagine anyone saying 3.05 million people is a small number.

D Manning said...

Not to start a debate but do you really think that what Christopher meant was to select whose having children? I thought it was more along the lines of discouraging excessive pregnancies because of population expansion. His opinion sounds more utilitarian than "selective breeding".

Anonymous said...

It is completely ridiculous that we play God. Currently he does a good job at that. If our population rises out of control we have natural disasters, disease and war to keep it in check. Oh and people that want to control everyone else because they are "always right". I don't claim to be right, but I've decided if you want to tell me how many Children I can have, then I get to tell you how many Children you can abort. Sound fair?


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