Thursday, January 21, 2010

Dear Sustainability Movement,

Please cease and desist all claims of saving the planet in promotional, educational and propaganda materials. I’ve done a simple calculation that indicates to me that the movement is not sustaining the planet, but is delaying the destruction of the planet. My main concern with claims of providing sustainability is the complete lack of attention the movement puts on population growth.

For instance I’ve taken a look at the energy consumption for the State of California between 1970 and 2000. The population figures for the state of California are below from the US Census.

1970 California Population: 19,953,134

2000 California Population: 33,871,648

Below is the Energy Consumption for the state of California and per person:

1970: 41,844,077 Energy Units : 2.09 Energy Units/person

2000: 61,337,853 Energy Units : 1.81 Energy Units/person

As indicated in the above numbers California became approximately 14% more energy efficient, or more sustainable, between 1970 and 2000. Unfortunately due to population increases California utilized 146% more energy in the year 2000 compared to 1970. I’m not quite sure how this energy use could be considered sustainable.

The same pattern is detectable in other areas focused in on by the sustainability movement such as land use, water use and daylighting. Without a focus on population growth the sustainability movement is destined to fail. There is no feasible way the concepts and ideas can be considered sustainable without controlling population growth. The UN calculates the World’s population went from 3,685,777,000 to 6,115,367,000 from 1970 to 2000. Additionally projections of the World’s population is to increase by an additional 1.2 billion people by 2030. Without a major shift to population growth sustainability will never be achieved.

Here are some ideas to include sustainability in the movement to become realistically sustainable:

  • A requirement for residential buildings have Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions to limit the number of children people can have. China’s current children policy of "One is best, two at most, but never a third" appears to be affecting change there in population growth.
  • Much in the same way as the LEED process encourages the use of electrical vehicles the same could be done with limiting children. Businesses occupying LEED rated buildings could require policies that discourage employees having children. Such as not providing benefits for the third child and more.
  • Encourage businesses to focus on dividends instead of growth.
  • Remove tax credits children and replace it with an increased tax rate for families with three or more children.

While I can understand why the movement is not going in this direction, for fear of upsetting people, I fully expect without changes like this the movement is destined to fail and never reach the goal of sustainability.


Christopher Fugitt, PE, LEED AP

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