2027, a dissenting view

Robert Speer bases his description of Chico in 2027 on assumptions that are unexamined and probably false ["25 years from now,” cover story, Aug. 15]. Speer accepts as a given that populations will grow and that development is inevitable. He states without question that Chico’s local ecosystem can support a near doubling of population to 170,000 by the year 2027. Projections from studies by growth-committed developers and state agencies are cited without dissenting comment. Citizens are disempowered by such uncritical thinking, since no one is encouraged to ask whether population growth and expansion are necessary, inevitable, or even possible.

The resources do not exist to sustain for the next 25 years the same growth as the last 25 years. Oil is one resource that will be depleted in 25 years. Without gasoline—or with gasoline at $10 per gallon or more—people will not be able to drive to all those schools and malls and housing developments Speer mentions. Farming in California and in America is fuel intensive and so is distribution. How will food get to the Safeway stores when there is not enough gas to go around? How will farmers fuel their tractors to plow their fields when the SUVs burned up all the gasoline 25 years earlier?

Water is another resource that will not be available in 25 years as it has been. Global warming is changing the patterns of precipitation in California.

What will our water supply be like when most of the precipitation that falls comes down as rain and less and less as snow? With a state population of 50 million, more and more people will be competing for a fixed amount of water. Where will the water come to sustain life and farming? Earth Policy Institute recently reported that 2002 world grain crops will fall below world consumption by 83 million tons due to droughts and falling water tables. How will all those hordes of humans feed themselves in 2027? How will they support themselves? What will the quality of life will be like in California when there are 50 million people here.

Scientists recently calculated that sustaining our present population would require 1.2 Earths. That is, we are 20 percent over the carrying capacity of our planet at a population of 6 billion. Computer models show that Earth’s human population may reach about 13 billion around 2025 and will then crash in a mass die-off to around 3 billion.

We live on a spherical Petri dish called Earth. Our nutrients are limited, and we are consuming them at a rate that cannot be sustained. Like bacteria, we do not understand geometric growth, and we think the next 25 years will be like the last 25. We will be surprised at the suddenness with which our nutrients evaporate and our population crashes in the mass die-off we are headed toward. Unfortunately, when it comes to regulating our population, we humans are not much better than bacteria.

Developers, whose fortunes have been built on speculation and deception, will find comfort in the vision of Chico at 175,000 and California at 50 million. They mistakenly believe that they will be able amass sufficient fortunes to buy gas when there is no gas or to buy food when there is none. Like everyone else, they too will one day learn that money cannot be eaten.