Date: Sun, 10 Sep 2000 11 pm
SUSPS Proposed Sprawl-Population Resolution
for the Sierra Club Board of Directors
Although a Sierra Club Board resolution can cover topics in some detail, and has none of the restrictions of a ballot resolution, it still may be open to interpretation. Therefore, we provide the following information, which includes background and expansion of the points raised in our resolution, and supporting arguments.
1. The Sierra Club's three sprawl reports (1998-2000) present no quantitative analyses of population growth as a factor in creating sprawl. These analyses are needed in Club sprawl materials. The sprawl studies to date are incomplete and misleading because of this omission.
2. Proven methodologies exist to quantify a region's sprawl as some combination of the relative changes in the region's population density (or per capita land consumption) and its population.
3. In California, recent analyses show population growth to be a significant factor in sprawl - in 19 of 28 urbanized areas studied the population growth share of sprawl was 100%; for example, Los Angeles, Modesto, Riverside-San Bernardino, Sacramento, San Diego, and San Jose.
4. In areas where local or regional population growth is a major contributing factor in sprawl, the degree of that contribution and the need to control that growth should be fully incorporated into the Club's campaign message.
5. As regional population increases contribute to regional sprawl, so does ever-increasing total U.S. population contribute to sprawl in the majority of urban areas. Therefore, national population growth should also be quantitatively discussed in sprawl program materials, using current US Census Bureau mid-range projections, which are considered to be the most likely outcome.
6. To achieve synergy between the Sprawl and Population campaigns, and to be consistent with past Sierra Club policy, the scope of GPSPC (Global Planet Population Stabilization Program Committee) should be expanded to cover domestic population stabilization in a meaningful manner.
7. To insure that all Sierra Club members are well informed of the proposed change of direction in the Club's sprawl and population campaigns, the Board should recommend to each chapter and group newsletter editor that the resolution (below) be publicized in their respective newsletter.
In the next to last paragraph in the current Sierra Club sprawl report there appears this statement:
"Though cutting subsidies and using smart-growth techniques can do much to help reign in sprawling development, the impact of a rapidly growing population should not be ignored. No matter how smart the growth, a rapid increase in population can overwhelm our best efforts. That's why it is essential to work for population stabilization along with smart growth."
If this statement had appeared near the beginning of the report rather than at the end, and was used as a lead in to meaningful quantitative analyses of the impact of population growth on centers of sprawl in the U.S., then concerns of Sierra Club members on the population-sprawl question would have been alleviated and there would have been no need for a petition. Prior to the SUSPS petition drive a dozen Sierra Club chapters passed population-sprawl resolutions urging the Club to include the effects of population growth on sprawl and the need for population stabilization, regionally and nationally. This grassroots effort met with no apparent response from the Sprawl Campaign to change direction and to include population in its analyses. The only recourse left was the petition route lead by SUSPS. We welcome now an effort by the Club to change direction, to implement the essence of the ballot initiative, and to come to a mutually satisfactory agreement.
Robbie Cox has presented us with a draft resolution for the Board. We reviewed the resolution and discussed it with Robbie. After careful consideration, we are presenting a counter resolution (below) for your consideration. It is similar to Robbie's in form but with additions that cover points that are essential for us to achieve our common goals: achieving the spirit and practical incorporation of population/growth into the sprawl program. The following is some background and expansion of these points.
Review of Sierra Club's Sprawl Program
The Club's 1998 sprawl report analyzed sprawl in 30 U.S. cities. Potential solutions to sprawl are presented, which include: purchase land, establish urban growth boundaries, agricultural zoning, clustering, transit-oriented development, etc. "Case histories" are presented for each city. For example, there appears the following statements in descriptions for two of the cities studied:
"Between 1990 and 1996, the population of the region [Las Vegas] increased by almost 190 percent. The population is expected to double by 2020. In the first six years of the 1990s, the size of the Las Vegas urbanized area increased by 238 percent, according to the U.S. Highway Administration. "
"The Phoenix area has consistently endured among the highest population growth rates in the country since the 1970s. The land area comprising Phoenix and its counties has also dramatically increased, almost doubling in 20 years from 1970 to 1990. "
Obviously, from the above descriptions, population growth is playing a major role in the sprawl experienced in these two areas. But there is no mention of population stabilization as one of the potential "solutions", or, most likely, for these two areas, as the only viable "solution" to curbing sprawl.
The 1999 report, "Solving sprawl", is about promoting smart-growth solutions. It rates each of the 50 states in their ability to manage growth by measuring progress in four categories: open space protection, land use planning, transportation planning and community revitalization. There is no mention of population growth as a source of sprawl and what needs to be done to achieve population stabilization in the U.S..
The 2000 report,"Sprawl costs us all", identifies the most common subsidies that create sprawl and provides examples from across the United States. For each type of subsidy it provides analysis and solutions, and, where appropriate, provides figures for the cost of these subsidies and calculates the cost of sprawl. Again, there is no mention of population growth as a factor in creating sprawl except in the next to last paragraph of the report (see our introduction section). However, population and sprawl do appear confused in the following statement in the Schools section of the report:
"A top-notch education is crucial for our children's future. But too many communities are distracted from the goal of providing a quality education by the need to build new schools to keep up with sprawling growth."
Do not people build more schools because there are more kids to educate? The U.S. department of Education predicts that by 2100 there will be nearly double the number of school-age children, ages 5 to 17, the nation has now. In total, there are more kids around because of population growth, not sprawl.
In conclusion, the three sprawl reports (1998-2000) present no quantitative, substantiative analyses of population growth as a factor in creating sprawl. These analyses need to be incorporated. The sprawl studies to date are incomplete and misleading because of this omission. In places where analyses show that sprawl is due to population growth, the discussion in future sprawl reports should focus on this population growth and how to stop it. In other areas where the major culprit is diminishing density of people, the report should focus on more classical sprawl remedies. In particular, in previous Club sprawl reports suggested smart-growth "solutions" have been enumerated in detail. In future sprawl reports, for urban areas where sprawl is generated primarily by population growth, similarly detailed "solutions" to halting population growth should be included in Sierra Club sprawl materials.
Modeling the Population Contribution to Sprawl
A sprawling region is one where urban land use or urban land consumption is increasing. A region's urban land consumption can be modeled as the product of the region's per capita land consumption (or its inverse, population density) and its population. A relative increase in a region's urban land consumption can therefore be associated with some combination of a relative change in per capita land consumption and a relative change in population. Environmental planner Leon Kolankiewicz and environmental journalist Roy Beck, authors of a new report entitled "Sprawl in California"
(see www.SprawlCity.org), have used this model of urban land consumption combined with U.S. census data to quantify the sprawl contributions of population changes and per capita changes in various centers of sprawl in California. Copies of this report have been included with this proposal.
The authors note that their methodology is not new but, rather, is one commonly applied to analyzing total consumption of various resources. In particular, its best-known application has been in understanding how U.S. energy use has risen in recent decades, answering questions about whether per capita energy conservation efforts were failing or if the increase in number of energy consumers (population) was driving the increase in total consumption. The mathematical formula employed allowed apportioning shares of the total increase to the two factors involved, per capita change and population change. Application of this methodology to the sprawl problem was straightforward (details in report).
We request that the Sierra Club incorporate and publish quantitative results such as these in forthcoming sprawl reports. This quantification is needed, and called out in our proposed resolution, for making the case to Club members and the public of the importance of terminating population growth to control sprawl.
Importance of the Population Factor in Sprawl
Results in the "Sprawl in California" report show very dramatically the effects of population growth on sprawl: population growth accounted for 100% of the share of sprawl in 19 of 28 urbanized areas studied; for example, Los Angeles, Modesto, Riverside-San Bernardino, Sacramento, San Diego, and San Jose. In other words, population growth is, for all practical purposes, a sufficient condition for sprawl (it is not a necessary condition).
The same authors have in preparation a report for the entire U.S., analyzing 100 metro areas. A draft copy shows that in 90 out of the 100 areas, there was both sprawl and population growth. These results are too dramatic too dismiss. We cannot say that population growth correlates with (or even "causes") sprawl everywhere, but it appears that it is "almost" everywhere. These analyses show that in some areas even though smart growth processes are active, resulting in increased population density, nevertheless, these areas are overwhelmed by population growth, resulting in more sprawl. We recommend that these quantitative conclusions for the U.S., which are very significant, be either incorporated into or independently verified by the Club's own analyses, and then be well publicized in the Club's sprawl publications and materials.
If the sprawl committee's limited resources preclude undertaking the analysis to substantiate the overwhelming influence of population growth on sprawl, in California and throughout the U.S., we recommend the committee adopt the work of Kolankiewicz and Beck at least on an interim basis.
Domestic Population Program
Investigation of the population factor in sprawl provides a natural opportunity for the Club's sprawl and population campaigns to work together. However, GPSPC (Global Planet Population Stabilization Program Committee), as currently defined, has no viable U.S. population component.(It did, in the past: in 1993, when I was on the Club's population committee, it had international and domestic components, and I was a member of the domestic group.) The absence of a viable domestic population program in the Club is illustrated in the following example:
A Draft Fact Sheet on Population and Sprawl was circulated recently on e-mail. It had previously been reviewed by the Club's media team, the Challenge to Sprawl Campaign staff, and the Population Campaign staff. However, there appears these inconsistent messages:
"And there are solutions to rapid population growth that are proven to work. We know that if girls are educated and women have a chance to earn a living that they will demand information about their reproductive health and rights. When women have education and access to family planning services, they tend to delay marriage, plan their families and space their children. We know what works when it comes to voluntary population stabilization, we only need to educate the policy makers to give these solutions a chance."
These "solutions" are repeated later on in the same draft:
"We must press towards stabilizing population growth by providing girls and women with full educational opportunities, empowering women economically and providing comprehensive family planning education and resources."
These describe population stabilization efforts in developing nations, not the U.S.. The Sprawl Campaign is a U.S. campaign, yet from the preceding paragraphs, the Campaign is evidently interested in curtailing sprawl overseas!
Thus, to carry out the needed sprawl work and to fully implement our sprawl ballot initiative essentially requires that the GPSPC be expanded to cover domestic population stabilization with the proper expertise. This would allow both the sprawl and domestic population campaigns to have opportunities for mutually reinforcing messages and campaign materials and efforts.
Explicitly called out in our resolution is an excerpt from a 1970 Club population policy statement which includes the phrase, "stabilization of the population first of the United States and then of the world". To many Club members the Club has at times appeared to have drifted away from this policy position. At this time it seems very appropriate for the Board to reaffirm this position through a restatement of it.
Draft Board Resolution on Sprawl and Population Campaigns
The Sierra Club Board of Directors is often reminded of the truth of Sierra Club founder John Muir's words that "when we try to pick up anything in the universe we find it is hitched to everything else." Thus the actions we take on behalf of one campaign have the potential to affect our other campaigns. Ideally this synergy will result in our campaigns reinforcing and supporting each other.
The potential for this synergy is present in our Sprawl and Population campaigns. However, to achieve this synergy, and to be consistent with past Sierra Club policy, the scope of GPSPC (Global Planet Population Stabilization Program Committee) will be expanded to cover domestic population stabilization. We reaffirm Sierra Club policy, adopted in 1970, which stated:
"That we must find, encourage, and implement at the earliest possible time the necessary policies, attitudes, social standards, and actions that will, by voluntary and humane means consistent with human rights and individual conscience, bring about the stabilization of the population first of the United States and then of the world"
Clearly, there are many locations where sprawl and over-development are driven mostly by population growth, and even the most effective "smart-growth" efforts to curb sprawl can be overwhelmed by this growth. Phoenix and Las Vegas are good examples of this phenomenon. But there are also locations where population growth is not a contributing factor to sprawl. Some places like Detroit have sprawl problems, are consuming land at record rates and yet have stable or declining populations. However, in California, recent analyses show population growth to be a significant factor in sprawl - in 19 of 28 urbanized areas studied the population growth share of sprawl was 100%; for example, Los Angeles, Modesto, Riverside-San Bernardino, Sacramento, San Diego, and San Jose.
The relationship between sprawl and population growth is complex. That relationship should be fully and meaningfully reflected, by incorporating quantitative evaluations, in all substantial national materials developed by the sprawl campaign. Proven methodologies can quantify a region's sprawl as some combination of the relative changes in the region's population density (or per capita land consumption) and its population.
In local or regional materials where population growth is a major contributing factor in sprawl, the degree of that contribution and the need to control that growth should be fully incorporated into the campaign message. In particular, in previous (1998-2000) Club sprawl reports suggested smart-growth "solutions" have been enumerated in detail. In future sprawl reports, for urban areas where sprawl is generated primarily by population growth, similarly detailed "solutions" to halt population growth should be included in Sierra Club sprawl materials.
As regional population increases contribute to regional sprawl, so does ever-increasing total U.S. population contribute to sprawl in the majority of urban areas. Therefore, national population growth should also be quantitatively discussed in sprawl program materials, using current U.S. Census Bureau mid-range projections, which are considered to be the most likely outcome.
The Board recognizes that, if and when, the U.S. population surpasses the one billion mark, projected by the Census Bureau to possibly occur before the end of the present century, that mammoth sprawl is inevitable even if smart-growth measures are implemented.
The Board also urges and expects both campaigns to be alert to and implement opportunities for mutually reinforcing messages, campaign materials and efforts.
To insure that all Sierra Club members are well informed of this change of direction in the Club's sprawl and population campaigns, the Board recommends to each chapter and group newsletter editor that this resolution be publicized in their respective newsletter.
SUSPS Sprawl Ballot Coordinator
September 10, 2000