[an error occurred while processing this directive] [an error occurred while processing this directive]

Eat, Drink, and Be Wary

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
North County Times
October 4, 1999


Planners and politicians here in Southern California act as if our time on the planet was an "All you can eat" buffet. Names and faces may change but the behavior remains the same, as the greedy boys and girls continue to load up their plates to the point of gluttony. Saving some for later never crosses their minds, because in their opinion, there will always more.

What is the carrying capacity of San Diego County? This is a question that every resident should be asking themselves, and their elected officials. The technical definition of carrying capacity is - The maximum population of a species that a specific ecosystem can support over long periods of time. The fact that we are currently driving indigenous species to extinction tells me that we have far outreached the regions ability to handle the ever-growing numbers of humans.

The last time I saw a California mule deer in coastal North County, it was laying dead on Rancho Sante Fe Road, having been struck by a car. If that isn't the perfect analogy to our relationship to our environment, I'm not sure what is. The true tragedy is that we aren't hunting these animals for food, which is at least understandable. Instead we are literally pushing them out of existence to make room for more people. Like waves hitting the beach, we are slowly eroding away at coastal sage scrub, and the species that inhabit it, replacing them with a mass of humanity not prepared to live in a semi-arid biome.

Proponents of the development paradigm believe everyone has the right to live in Southern California, prompting SANDAG to conjure up another million people. County and city officials continue to approve new development, while somehow distancing themselves from the fact that San Diego County receives 70% of it's water from the Colorado River. Without this water, the region could not support it's current population. Yet golf courses continue to be built, as do homes with thirsty residents.

Early next year, the seven states drawing from the Colorado River will be using all water allocated to them by the Colorado River Pact of 1922. As populations continue to rise in cities such as Denver,Phoenix, and Las Vegas, San Diego's reliable water resources decrease. Why then do we keep building as if water availability was a non-issue. People may have the "right" to live here, but like it or not, overriding this claim is the grim reality of a shrinking water supply.

Due to planning decisions that favor sprawl, these residents also require cars, and cars require roads. And roads, as we all now, require more and more coastal sage scrub habitat. It's unimaginable that the species most capable of surviving in this dry desert environment are the ones being removed. To continue distancing themselves from our semi-arid environment, thirsty residents require thirsty landscaping more in keeping with their sense of aesthetics. A lack of common sense has propelled us way beyond the region's carrying capacity.

Not only do we import the majority of our water supply we are also importing the majority of our food supply. What little agricultural land remains is slowing being converted into suburban neighborhoods and shopping centers. The semi-arid desert biome commonly known as San Diego County could not produce enough to feed a quarter of it's current population, even if all of it's arable land was returned to crop production. More people and less resources does equate to a bright future. The Malthusian Age is upon us, and it's all downhill from here.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]