The California Department of Finance announced that the state’s population fell just 40,000 people short of a historic 40 million residents. Sacramento demographers, as well as population experts nationwide, agree that California will reach a nightmarish 50 million people by mid-century. The easiest way to understand the effect of 50 million residents on Californians’ quality of life is to imagine 25 percent more drivers on the roads, more students in the classrooms, more housing and more patients in hospital waiting rooms.
No one disputes this frightening inevitability. The already overcrowded and housing-short San Joaquin Valley, Riverside county and San Bernardino county experienced the largest population increases, and can ill-afford yet more growth. California’s relentless and unsustainable year-after-year growth has sent residents with financial and professional options fleeing from the state. For the first time since 2010, more people moved out of the state than moved in.
Unsustainable defined: In 1900, California was home to less than 2 million people; by 1950 the population had reached 10 million. California’s population nearly tripled in the last half of the 20th century, and its growth has been much higher than that of the rest of the United States. As the most populous state, California has 10 million more people than the second most populated state, Texas, with 29 million people.
Californians can run, but cannot hide, from the consequences of population growth. Between 2017 and 2018, 21,000 Californians moved to Idaho. The result: Boise home prices increased about 17 percent, and new subdivisions and schools were built – the same sprawl elements Californians hope to escape.
Once an eco-friendly paradise, and correctly nicknamed the Golden State, California’s population growth has created a demand for cars that require highway construction and more housing that make maintaining environmentally sound conditions impossible. In its October newsletter, the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR) acknowledged California’s population crisis and its vehicle dependence, and noted that the state’s car-based transportation system has stalled efforts to curb greenhouse gases. Roughly 40 percent of California’s emissions come from cars, trucks and buses.
But SPUR naively called for more investments in passenger rail service to stop sprawl and reduce emissions. More efficient, more frequent rail service SPUR contends would let people leave their cars at home, enable a low-carbon lifestyle and, at the same time, reduce the cost of living for strapped Californians.
In a perfect world, SPUR’s call for more rail transport service would be an ideal solution. But given the colossal failure of former Gov. Jerry Brown’s bullet train – years of delays, cost overruns, lawsuits and, on all levels, staggering ineptitude – rail service expansion is a pipe dream.
Never mentioned in the establishment media or in the think tank analysis of California’s population, sprawl and environmental struggles is the immigration variable. Immigration is not mandated. And while the federal government makes immigration policy, California as the union’s largest state could use its considerable power and influence to help enforce existing immigration laws and to work toward sensible immigration reform. Instead, Gov. Gavin Newsom and senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, as well as 90 percent of California’s U.S. representatives, are determined immigration advocates, and blind to the dramatic adverse consequences of immigration on population growth and the environment. Foreign-born California residents number more than 10.7 million, or 27 percent, of the state’s total population, and twice the national foreign-born percentage per state.
Even former Gov. Brown had a brief realization of limits to growth. In June 2015 while addressing the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California Board, Brown asked, “At some point, how many people can we accommodate?” Then, answering his own question, Brown added, “As we put more people with more impact on this constant natural environment, we run into certain limits.” Brown’s insightful comments fell on deaf ears.
California’s leaders can’t have it both ways. All vigorously assert themselves as pro-environment. But at the same time, their immigration advocacy stances doom the environment. Time is short. California’s leadership needs to put political correctness aside, or watch the state fall into further environmental degradation.