My Turn: The difference between good growth and bad growth
Often at governmental meetings, a few people stand up and claim to represent the community position on growth. Their public comments are wrapped in the rhetoric of rural quality, traffic or an arbitrary cap on the number of people allowed into Nevada County, but their true agenda is an elitist attempt to stop growth. They may believe in their cause but they are very shortsighted because population will increase. To deny growth is to invite disaster. Our goal should be to distinguish between good growth and bad growth. In order to have a healthy economy, well-paying jobs, safe neighborhoods, walkable streets, a vibrant arts scene, good schools, affordable housing for policemen/firemen/teachers, security for our aging population and a stable tax base to fund infrastructure and protection services, we need to be smarter about development. What is good growth? Can growth improve our human and natural environments? The answer is not to pull up a draw bridge at the Bear River, but rather to be realistic about inevitable and pending growth. The first question is Are we growing? The answer is yes. As a nation, we were 200 million people in 1967. Thirty-nine years later, in 2006, we passed the 300 million mark. In 2043, we will be a nation of 400 million people. As a state, California will continue growing at the rate of five to six million people per decade. In 2000 California had a population of 34 million people. By 2012 it will have a population of 40 million people, by 2032 a population of 50 million people and by 2050 a population of approximately 60 million people. Hence between the years 2000 and 2050, the state will have added 25 million residents. To address this growth, we must use land more efficiently to create parks and open space, to optimize our existing infrastructure (roads, schools, water lines) and to build more walkable, mixed use communities with civic places. The good news is that many cities and counties across America are already doing this and we can learn from their successes. The second part of the How are we growing? question is that immigration is no longer the cause of growth. California is growing at more than 5 million people per decade because births exceed deaths. This is different from the past. The governor could build a 12-foot tall wall around the entire state, guard it with soldiers and let not a single person through the gate for the next 10 years. What would happen? There would be another five to six million new Californians simply because there were more births than deaths.Also the Sierra Nevada region will grow and was forecast to more than double by 2020. This makes sense because 94 percent of the persons in Nevada County today, more than 26 years of age, were not born in Nevada County. They moved here. You probably did, too.Future growth in the foothills will follow a similar pattern. The 76 million Baby Boomers will start retiring in 2011. Their generation is the largest, richest, most consumptive and environmentally impactful generation in the history of the Earth. Presently Americans are turning age 65 at the rate of 500,000 people per year. But in 2011 the first Baby Boomers will begin turning 65 at the rate of 1,500,000 people per year (three times the current rate) and that will continue for the next 20 years. Studies indicate that many of them will be arriving soon in the Sierra foothills.They are looking forward to their golden years and they have the same right to live here as we do. So while the NIMBYS (Not In My Back Yard), the CAVE people (Citizens Against Virtually Everything) and the BANANAS (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anybody) bury their heads in the sand, the more rational and environmentally balanced citizens must provide the leadership needed to create the future of Nevada County. We have two choices. Either we succeed because we adopt the vision and policies to create better, more connected and dense, more socially and culturally expressive towns to reduce auto dependence, air pollution and rural sprawl, or we will fail – because we listened to those who refused to prepare for the future. The choice is ours and the responsibility is ours. Do we have the intelligence and will to be successful? Our fate rests in our own hands.Phil Carville is president of Carville Sierra Inc. in Grass Valley.