Peak & Prairie
June / July 1999
Don't Forget the P in Sprawl
by Fred Elbel, Population Committee Chair
Sprawl is a current Sierra Club focus. It’s about time. Cities of all sizes are expanding nonstop, as is particularly evident on the Front Range and Western Slope.
Growth is promoted as “good” by many, even as traffic and air pollution increase, open space and habitat vanish and quality of life erodes. The Sierra Club, traditionally concerned with public lands issues, issued a national report last year entitled “The Dark Side of The American Dream: The Costs and Consequences of Suburban Sprawl.” As the nature of our cities change, people are becoming increasingly concerned with sprawl. Addressing this issue is one way the Sierra Club is able to reach out to the mainstream public on a common issue.
The U.S. population is growing at the rate of 3,000,000 per year, 58,000 per week and over 8,000 per day. It has grown from 152 million in 1950 to 270 million today, a 78 percent increase, and is expected to approach half a billion people in 50 years. Unless we start stacking people in high-rises, this means an increased demand for living space, with the inevitable result of more sprawl. Of course, this is not restricted to our country alone. World population will reach 6 billion people this year, and the impacts of continued population growth are already felt by the majority of nations.As we deal with sprawl, it is equally important to consider the role exponential population growth plays as a driving force and root cause. There’s good reason not to forget the “P” in sprawl - it stands for “population”!
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