Talk of the Town: An inconvenient ecological truth

Arizona’s population is mushrooming and the damage it inflicts on natural resources such as freshwater, open space, wildlife and spectacular views must be reversed if we are to avert an environmental catastrophe. Stupidly, we kick the can down the road.

Complicit are the investors, developers, agencies, officials and editorials that want you to believe in “smart growth.” This catchy term, like jumbo shrimp and military intelligence, is a cleverly deceptive oxymoron. All “growth” requires huge amounts of virgin resources to be extracted and converted for building materials and infrastructure development. There is simply no such thing as smart growth.

Americans consume more natural resources per capita than any nation. Scientists estimate that three planet earths would be needed if the world’s people elevated their consumption to America’s standard of living. This “I got mine” mentality is erasing our country‘s resources and our future.

In this parched region multiple “smart growth” subdivisions are being executed right now. The Deep Well Project, West Meadow development, Arizona Eco Development’s Peavine Trail and Granite Dells development, and the current sprawl in Granville will bring tens of thousands more people. Arizona is already in its 22nd year of a long-term drought contrary to the phony assurances of elected officials. “But government looks out for me!”

The ornery problem with U.S. population is that the narrative is always framed as an economic one: we need more people, more homes, more jobs, more wealth, more stuff.

By contrast, an ecologic narrative is a ‘sciencey’ word that analyzes impacts on the interrelated parts of a place: water, native plants and trees, minerals, and the wildlife that live there. An uncluttered landscape naturally is a healthier place for adults and young alike. Hikers, bikers, hunters, equestrians, photographers, bird watchers, native wildlife all benefit from unspoiled places.

We are adding roughly 30 million more consumers to the U.S. population every decade. 100,000 new mouths every year move to Arizona! In Maricopa County, 222 people a day are moving in!

Arizona’s building boom and water crisis is avoidable, yet virtually no leadership possesses the courage and resolve to bring the topic to the table for action.

If you care about Arizona, make your voice heard. Don’t buy into the recent editorial, “Growth is going to happen … growth is coming, it is both unrealistic and wrong to think current residents can tell others they can’t move here.” We are witnessing massive sprawl that erases wildlife, water, scenery and quiet while bringing congestion, crime, air pollution, noise and stress to our neighborhoods.

What to do? The days of unlimited immigration must end soon. Of the U.S.’s 3 million annual net increase, 2.5 million are legal and illegal immigrants. It is political suicide to even mention The Wall, stiffer immigration policies or women’s health care that helps women manage their pregnancies.

However, a greatly reduced population is the only real, long-term, intelligent solution for sustainable use of the earth’s limited natural resources upon which we all depend.

Paul Schnell is a resident of Chino Valley.