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Joe Guzzardi: It’s time for leaders to take on overpopulation

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Posted: Saturday, September 21, 2013 12:00 am

Last week, the New York Times published an op-ed titled “Overpopulation is Not the Problem,” written by University of Maryland associate geography and environmental systems Erle C. Ellis.

In his column, Ellis rejects as “nonsense” concerns that too many people are undermining the life systems that support us. Ellis argues that there “is no such thing as human carrying capacity” and that “social sciences” will enable us to feed another 3 billion more people over the coming decades.

This, Ellis laughably claims, can happen without further damaging the already distressed soil and water that the Earth’s residents depend upon for our well being and long-term survival is.

Ellis’ unrealistic, unsubstantiated theories set off an Internet firestorm among environmentalists who are convinced that overpopulation represents a grave danger and is among the most serious but politically incorrect subjects the nation must confront.

Without burdening readers down with heavy statistics about exponential growth and fossil fuel consumption, I’ll boil population surges negatives down to one easily understandable basic that I extracted from the recently released United Nations’ “World Happiness Report 2013.” Then, I’ll relate it to the San Joaquin Valley and Lodi.

The U.N. report found that people who live in countries with low population growth are the happiest: Denmark, Norway and Switzerland have annual population growth rates of 0.24, 0.33 and 0.2 percent respectively.

By comparison, the U.N. ranked the United States, the world’s third most populated nation behind China and India, as the 17th happiest (or least happy) place to live.

Interestingly, the U.S. Bureau of the Census statistics show that between 2010 and 2012, the San Joaquin Valley’s population increased by an estimated 2.5 percent, while Lodi’s grew by 1.9 percent. Measured by population growth alone, the Valley and Lodi specifically would rank even with Syria, which is near the bottom of the U.N.’s happiness scale.

I’m in no way suggesting that Lodians are unhappy, much less as discontent as Syrians. During the 25 years I lived in Lodi, all the evidence pointed in the opposite direction.

And there are several variables not related to population that determine happiness: a steady job, health, and family harmony are among the most important.

What I am saying, however, is that the statistics and the message are interesting.

Growth creates problems which in turn produces unhappiness. Traffic, sprawl, pollution, over-crowding, and loss of open space add frustration to residents’ daily routines. When I compare the Lodi I moved to in 1986 to the Lodi I left in 2008, I preferred the “before” version. I’d rather have the vineyards and orchards than the box stores and housing developments.

The U.N. encouraged governments when making policy decisions to consider citizens’ happiness, because trouble-free people live longer, are more productive and earn more.

Unfortunately, the U.S. is committed to growth. Capitol Hill is controlled by the lobbies that promote more, more and more. The business, real estate and construction lobbies spend millions each year influencing Congress support growth.

On the other hand, even in states like California, where population growth should be an obvious concern, it’s rarely mentioned by politicians on the municipal, state or federal level.

When influential people dare not mention population, solutions won’t be forthcoming.

Joe Guzzardi is a California native. During the decade he was born, the state’s population was 7 million. Today, it’s nearly 39 million. Contact Joe at guzzjoe@yahoo.com.

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  • Ted Lauchland posted at 12:23 pm on Sat, Sep 28, 2013.

    Ted Lauchland Posts: 261

    Personally , I will simply stand aside when the lemmings throw themselves off the cliff. No matter what my faith tells me it is either people want to survive or they don't. Overpopulation is supposedly part of our freedoms in this country and is why agriculture has been so important over the years.

    Owls prosper and multiply in a gopher infested vineyard until the food source finds it's balance with it's consumer. Our economy does the same thing. Making a law against it only gets in the way.

    "Go forth and multiply" verses "Be smart and raise your standard of living". - Good luck with that. Just look at Japan or China or who ever it is that tries to restrain that reproductive organ. Abortion?

    The Pacific Ocean would fill Death Valley given the chance. It wouldn't make it better - just change it. So let the population flow back out of California. Mr. Guzzardi moved away and didn't know what he had until he did. Let LA balance itself. Let California balance itself. Let Lodi balance itself. You can't grow food just anywhere. People seem to survive even on the moon at least for a short time by just figuring it out. - When the dust cloud clears politicians won't have a say any longer. True leaders will appear.

    "Raining for forty days and forty nights" would cure the common cold along with the world's "overpopulation". Are you sure you would want to do that Mr. Guzzardi ?

  • Walter Chang posted at 5:47 pm on Mon, Sep 23, 2013.

    Walt Posts: 1184

    "Happiness Scale?"

    I just checked...

    Jerry's at negative two!


  • Walter Chang posted at 5:42 pm on Mon, Sep 23, 2013.

    Walt Posts: 1184

    "we've.. we've.. our.. our.. ourselves.. us.. We've.. our.. we've.. our.. We're.."

    Joe offered up "mumbo jumbo" and Jerry assigns blame.

    Folks, when Jerry says "we" he's not including himself.

    He really means "you people".

    He's talking about everybody else.

    You people: Liberals. Heathens (Catholics, Mormons and other non-Christians). Gays, lesbians, bisexuals and the transgendered. Welfare recipients (SSI ok). Immigrants (lacking documentation). Sinners.

    You people are bringing down his America with your free thought, smart phones and unconventional ways.

    You people!!!


  • Jerome Kinderman posted at 11:53 am on Mon, Sep 23, 2013.

    Jerome R Kinderman Posts: 2370

    "Happiness Scale?" Are you kidding me? Like you Mr. Guzzardi, I arrived in Lodi in 1990 when there was hardly anything of note on Kettleman Lane (Highway 12) until reaching Ham Lane. And throughout town there were far fewer traffic lights that now have us enjoying much more stop-and-go than ever before. And box stores? Sure, we've got them, but do they, along with the change in traffic flow truly add or detract from our overall happiness level? If so, then we've become a very worthless society.

    Pollution, sprawl, overcrowding in Lodi? Where? I thought we wanted people to come and enjoy our Central Valley community; and we wanted some of them to actually stick around to raise their families and permanently add to the influx of taxes. After all, isn't money the real source of happiness?

    No, I disagree with all of this mumbo jumbo. My belief is that our happiness (or unhappiness) is derived through actual quality of life - or what I like to refer to as the "decency" scale. So could our general malaise have generated over the last four decades or so by the eradication of individual faith in something greater than ourselves; that without having true purpose for living, many of us are simply wallowing in this sea of discontent surrounded by all the toys and gadgets that advertisers insist will make us happy, but clearly do not?

    What is it that previous generations depended upon to keep their happiness level high? You seem to have left out "divorce" in your list of contributing factors causing so much sadness. Families disintegrating simply because it's so easy to do now; no one fighting for happiness and contentment.

    We've become a throw-away society - yes, I do wonder where are these computerized devices wind up after their short lives are over. But it's become our ability at least in this country that in addition to throwing away any cohesiveness in our family units, since 1973 we've also tossed away over 55 million unborn human beings (so much for your concern regarding overpopulation).

    No Mr. Guzzardi, the real reason for all these long faces is our lack of faith in God and in ourselves. We're just walking through life with nothing to live for - or to die for.

    Nice try though.


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