Sierra Club 2001 Population-Sprawl Election Ballot Question

Supporting Statement (short version)


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The ballot question:

"WHEREAS the Sierra Club has made reducing sprawl a national priority campaign; and
WHEREAS population growth is an important driving force of sprawl development in most areas; and
WHEREAS stabilizing the U.S. population has been Sierra Club policy since 1969;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED: The Sierra Club shall emphasize both regional and national population stabilization as essential components in all Sierra Club sprawl materials and programs."
Woops - the Club deliberately dropped over half of the above petitioners' ballot question from the printed ballots. Is this Democracy in the Sierra Club?

Shortly before his death last November, Sierra Club pioneer David Brower said, "The [U.S.] population explosion is our worst problem...We have to address [it]."1 Several months earlier, frustrated by the Club's inaction on U.S. overpopulation, Brower had resigned from the Board.
A "YES" vote requests the Club's sprawl campaign to target both population growth and better land use in fighting sprawl's destructive impacts on our lives and on nature.
Recent studies2 reveal that most sprawl is tightly linked to population growth, and The Nature Conservancy's comprehensive book "Precious Heritage" shows high correlation between U.S. endangered species and areas with population-driven sprawl, including California, the Southwest, and Florida.
Since 1950, our population has exploded from 150 to 275 million. With current trends, the Census Bureau projects U.S. population doubling within the lifetimes of today's children.
Yet in five sprawl reports totaling 150 pages, the Club acknowledges that population needs to be stabilized in only two short paragraphs, and through omission implies that as long as development is "smart", destruction of open-spaces, wildlife habitat, and farmland isn't sprawl! Common sense tells us that hundreds of millions more Americans will overwhelm "smartgrowth" and produce massive sprawl.
In regions like Los Angeles, Seattle, Dallas, San Francisco Bay, Miami, Phoenix, Portland, and Denver, sprawl is overwhelmingly due to population increase, not poor planning2. In regions with little population growth (e.g., Detroit), there's much less sprawl2.
This initiative's purpose is not to micromanage the sprawl campaign nor to wastefully reprint existing materials-its sole intent is to reintroduce population into Club discussions. In November 2000 we petitioners accepted compromise wording proposed by Board member Anne Ehrlich that substituted "educational components in Club sprawl campaigns" for the stronger "essential components in all Club sprawl materials and programs". The Board rejected the compromise. (See the full story).
John Muir must be turning in his grave: the Club he founded to protect nature combats sprawl ineffectually for fear of confronting overpopulation.
Seventeen Club chapters nationwide* (including Loma Prieta, Los Padres, Maryland, Ohio, Oregon, Rocky Mountain, San Francisco, San Diego, Tennessee, Ventana, Vermont) have passed resolutions asking the Club to incorporate U.S. population stabilization as a component of the Sprawl Campaign. Please join them and endorsers:
Lester Brown, President, Worldwatch Institute3
Jean-Michel Cousteau, President, Ocean Futures Society3
Dave Foreman, former Club Director
Martin Litton, former Club Director, John Muir Award
Gaylord Nelson, founder EarthDay, Senator 1963-1981
Galen Rowell, nature photojournalist
Stewart Udall, U.S. Interior Secretary, 1961-1969
Paul Watson, founder Sea Shepherds3
E.O. Wilson, conservation biologist, Harvard
       3for identification

1In August 2000, at a population/environment conference held at the University of Southern California and organized by Californians for Population Stabilization, Sierra Club pioneer David Brower said, "The [U.S.] population explosion is our worst problem...We have to address [it]."
2For more information and research on the population-sprawl connection, see



Information on Sprawl

The Sprawl Ballot Question

The Overlooked Factor in Sprawl

The Sprawl Ballot Question - Looking for the Root Cause

Facing the Future and Sprawl

StarWhat you can do to help

Sprawl and Population

Supporting ballot statement (short)

Census Adjusted Upward

Supporting statement (long)

Sprawl: It's Too Many People

Sprawl resolutions passed by Club Chapters shows
population-sprawl relationship

Frequently Asked Questions

Democracy in the Sierra Club?


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