Monday, December 20, 2004
Brookings Institution Study
The report outlines that in the next 30 years most metropolitan planning organizations (MPO's) and state governments expect, and are planning for a tremendous surge in America's population, especially in the continuously booming sun-belt region. Perhaps what is more impressive is that according to these findings, half of the buildings and the infrastructure improvements that are needed to house all the people and their social, business, and recreational needs, do not currently exist . A reality that must have real estate speculators and developers chomping at the bit.
Yet, with America's current method of absorbing growth by building ever outward, the prediction of such rapid population growth and development is chilling, as our society is not ready for it. By this, I mean that that we do not have the energy or the natural resources to adequately sustain such growth. Nor do we have the social, political, and economic mechanisms in place to grow and maintain the high quality of life that most Americans currently expect, if not demand. How can the southwest continue to develop lush golf course "communities" without cheap gasoline and a plethora of water? They can't.
Thus, as the Brookings Institution notes, these growth projections should be viewed as yet another round of ammofor the battle against sprawl, as well as the impetus for America to start reconfiguring its own manifest destiny to something that actually purports real sustainable progress through development. But let's face it, most high level decision makers and the people who put them into office are not currently prioritizing how we must grow in order for this suppossed boom to actually occur.
If America is to grow in population and remain an economically stable place to inhabit, those who salivate at the opportunity to produce more auto-centric far-flung edge city boomburgs must change their approaches, and quickly. If they do not, then America will have to endure long term population growth that is not coupled with economic growth. A disastrous dichotomy that is sure to alter the social and political structures within our country. If you do not believe this prediction, simply use history as a guide and you will see that most great societies of the past were the cause of their own decline.
Fortunately, in effort to stave off this gloomy future, more and more people are getting involved with changing our patterns of growth and development. Moreover, the nascent sustainable development movements of new urbanism, smart growth, and LEED certification, along with other well established environmental movements, are gaining traction in America, as society at large is realizing that sustainability isn't just for the hippies anymore. Yet, with the inherent challenges of our nation's predicted growth, our efforts need to be ramped up even further, and now!
As Winston Churchill said, (Not an exact quote) "Americans will do what's right, only after exhausting all of other options." Well, after a century long experiment with a reckless and profligate socio-economic system, we now have an impending energy crisis, an ever weakening dollar, an over-extended military, state and national budgets that are deep in hole, and a federal government that is led by a president who has quietly waged a war on our country's most precious natural resources. If these conditions do not precede a tipping point, I'm not sure what will. Thus, I echo the Brookings Institution's report and say that we must mitigate against several of the problems that threaten our nation in the future by working tirelessly now to rebuild America with a more intelligent approach.