CHAPTER 3 OF 40: BOW OF THE TITANIC …

….cruising through the Bahamas. History tells us he made a grave

mistake.” S.D. Lynn

At one point, California boasted itself as the most beautiful state in the Union. In 1950, it housed a reasonable 10 million people. Known as the land of milk and honey–California’s mountains, coastline and weather beckoned. California Condors soared through limitless blue skies. Yosemite National Park, the Red Woods, whales and seals along its coastline, Hollywood and 77 Sunset Strip—created the California mystique!

Fifty-seven years later, 37.5 million people cram, jam, gridlock and fume in their fumes on ‘forever’ crowded freeways. Growing at 1,700 people daily, over 600,000 annually—California expects an added 21 million people within 35 years. (Source: www.capsweb.org)

Illustrating ‘environmental refugees’, 40 percent of Los Angeles residents were born outside the U.S. They arrived from Mexico, Korea, China, Central, South America and Asia.

Result? Massive subdivision housing sprawl! Roads, malls, schools, churches, firehouses and homes devour land like Kansas wheat combines. Developers demolish nature. They guzzle water. They vomit black smoke into the air. Cars whiz around like mad hornets. The more compacted the traffic, the more ‘road ragers’. Not one smiling face can be seen on California freeways! Drivers busy themselves trying to stay alive.

Joe Guzzardi, a writer and college professor in Lodi said, “If we continue our suicidal immigration path, whether the inevitable development takes the form of sprawl by building on a city’s periphery or landfill by building inside the city limits, the net result will be the same: an eroded quality of life and a vanished sense of place.”

California’s developers brag ‘smart growth’, however, whether that means ‘slow growth’, ‘managed growth’, ‘brilliant growth’, ‘dumb growth’, ‘fast growth’, or ‘snail’s pace growth’—it equals 42 million more people swarming all over California by 2050. (Source: Fogel/Martin, March 2006, “US Population Projections”)

Governor Schwarzenegger and state treasurer Phil Angelides stuff themselves into the pockets of developers. Angelides said, “We are a state of 26 million cars, SUVs and trucks that travel 314 billion miles a year and burn 15 billion gallons of gas. We are on a path over the next 20 years to become a state with 36 million cars that travel 446 billion miles and burn nearly 18 billion gallons. We must choose to grow smarter, to give Californians more transportation options, the choice to driver fewer miles and burn fewer gallons of fossil fuel.”

Some choice! How intelligent is that statement? To top it off, President Bush, in his State-of-the-Union speech said, “In the next 10 years by 2017, the United States will reduce oil consumption by 20 percent by using conservation, hybrid cars and ethanol.”

He forgot to report America adding 30 million people in that 10 year span. Therefore, our consumption can only rise by a factor of 30 million people using gas, coal, natural gas and wood for energy.

California journalist Joe Guzzardi said, “If people would contemplate the additional 100 million people coming our way in the not too distant future, and our current gluttonous land use, then they might become more alarmed. In a word, the problem is population. If it can be stabilized through sensible immigration policies, then we have a chance to level off growth. We’d have a chance to save our state and the United States.”

This journalist has bicycled the length and width of California four times in the past 25 years. I’ve seen it change from paradise to hell on earth. Too many people fill its parks with too much trash. Its ocean beaches suffer dying seals and seabirds from too much plastic, glass and aluminum pollution. As Katie Couric on CBS reported fish stocks dropped 90 percent in the past decade. California skies fill with toxic smoke too thick to breathe. Yosemite National Park suffers wall to wall crowding. Millions of cars create a kind of insanity of movement far removed from the natural world. Condors no longer soar in pristine skies because the last of them perch in cages built to save their species.

Constant tension fills places like Los Angeles and San Francisco. You can’t get away from the crowding, metal, concrete, glass, wires, buildings, roads and loss of sense of place.

One of my favorite writers, a Californian in 1874, John Muir said, “Tell me what you will of the benefactions of city civilization, of the sweet security of streets—all as part of the natural up-growth of man towards the high destiny we hear so much of. I know that our bodies were made to thrive only in pure air, and the scenes in which pure air is found. If the death exhalations that brood the broad towns in which we so fondly compact ourselves were made visible, we should flee as from a plague. All are more or less sick; there is not a perfectly sane man in all of San Francisco.”

If the United States can be compared to the Titanic, we are a country sailing in dangerous waters, much too fast and overloading our ‘boat’ with too many people to stay afloat. California might be the bow of our ship and, as it begins failing, its own ‘environmental refugees’ can’t help but abandon ship like rats in a hurricane.

Had the Titanic been able to stop the in-flooding of the North Atlantic, it would not have become the greatest seagoing catastrophe of the last century.

However, California is the bow of our own catastrophe, but no one wants to speak up or take action. I am confounded that no national leaders step into the center ring to call for a national population policy. None talk about stopping the in-flooding of humanity with the simple choice of reasoned action.

It didn’t make any difference on the Titanic if you were first class, third class or shoveling the coal in the boilers. When the ship sank, everyone became a victim in one form or another. As California fails in areas of water shortages, diminished farmland, toxic air pollution, horrific crowding and mind numbing expansion away from nature—environmental refugees will escape, but as the rest of the United States adds that next 100 million, and then another 100 million, and yet another 100 million—where will anyone make their escape?

“Camp out among the grass and gentians of glacier meadows, in craggy garden nooks full of Nature’s darlings. Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while problems will drop off like autumn leaves.” John Muir, 1838—1914

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