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‘HERETICAL THOUGHTS’–Why ‘conserving’ for our future is assuring our doom… Jim Stiles (from the 2007 archives)

I’ve always considered myself a conservationist, but I’m not sure my reasons for conserving have been as lofty or high-minded as the likes of many affluent mainstream environmentalists. I’ve conserved out of necessity more than any politically-driven agenda. I don’t conserve to be hip; I conserve because I can’t afford to do otherwise. I have determined to live modestly and conservatively so I can still screw off and be lazy, as is my preference.


I live in a small house because it’s easy to maintain. I can vacuum the cat hair in ten minutes. It’s economical to heat in the winter and easy to cool in the summer. I live alone and don’t use much water because I have better things to do than worry about my lawn. I go to the laundromat once a month, whether I need to or not. I flush every third time on average, because I forget to flush the other two times. And no, I don’t put the seat down, which has nothing to do with energy conservation but is an enlightening aside and a warning to any woman out there who wants to make toilet seat positioning an issue, political or otherwise.

Lately I’ve been having some thoughts on conservation, however, that most of you will find shocking, even heretical. Recently I scanned the headlines, searching for conservation stories and what I discovered was noteworthy. In almost every instance, proposed water and energy conservation measures were always linked to future population growth.

In Tucson, Arizona, for example, a report noted that, “the population to be served by Tucson Water is projected to increase from 638,936 in 2000 to about 1.2 million in 2030 and 1.3 million in 2050.” It determined that massive conservation efforts must be initiated soon, in order to deal with the population explosion that is already underway.

In Utah, the story is the same; our population is expected to double by 2020. The Utah Rivers Council notes that, “the State of Utah Division of Water Resources plans on meeting future water needs for Utah through a combination of water conservation and development of new water sources.” URC proposed “meeting future water needs by raising the water conservation goal to 30%, a 5% increase over the current goal, combined with other creative approaches such as water reuse and agricultural water transfers as a more cost-effective approach to meeting future water needs.”

So what is the broader, more long term purpose of conservation? Clearly, it’s not so we can somehow bring this consumptive madness to a halt and get back to our simpler roots. And it’s definitely not so we can have more time to goof off. No indeed. According to all these studies and warnings, our duty to conserve is based on the absurd notion that we have some obligation to maintain a future population almost double what it is now.

We’re conserving in 2007 so that we can help assure the very nightmarish future we fear the most—a nation and a planet so overpopulated as to eventually assure its destruction.


Consider these observations on population by former Senator Gaylord Nelson, the founder of Earth Day, in a landmark 1997 essay,

What Will Happen to Wildlife Habitat?

Population growth has already destroyed half the nation’s wetlands and the major portion of habitat for birds and other animals. There is something wrong with a society which remains complacent while this kind of irrational destruction erodes its life-sustaining resource base. With twice the current population, will there be left any wilderness areas, remote and quiet places, and habitat for songbirds, waterfowl and other wild creatures? Certainly not very much.

New Cities, Suburbs, Housing Developments:

At the rate of urbanization since 1977, the urbanized area of the United States will double by about 2050 from 155,000 square miles to about 312,000. This is an area larger than Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Michigan combined. If we permit that to happen, what will our country look like and be like?

National Parks, National Forests, Wildlife Refuges, BLM Lands and Wilderness Areas:

With twice the population, what will happen to the last of our great natural areas which are already experiencing serious degradation from population pressures? The short answer is, they will be gone–rare and special places like our national parks and national forests will evolve into modified theme parks and Disneylands–the process is already underway.

Despite water and energy conservation efforts, population growth will still cause urban, suburban and exurban sprawl. Turning down your sprinklers ultimately only assures more lawns. Cranking down the thermostat only guarantees more air conditioners. Does anyone out there in the environmental community advocate smaller homes? Or fewer gadgets? Of course not. How could they? Environmental groups are funded by some of the most consumptive billionaires on the planet.

Take a drive past the Moab hospital to see David Bonderman’s latest 15000 square foot mansion. Bonderman, one of the most successful corporate raiders in the world, also sits on numerous environmental boards and has been called “the greatest conservationist in America today,” by one of his donor recipients, the Grand Canyon Trust.


As sprawl consumes more habitat, what chance does wildlife have by the end of the century, if population growth is left unchecked?

As the demand for controlled adventure recreation grows, as a population so disconnected from its natural past, yearns for distractions, ‘theme park Disneylands” will continue to proliferate across the country.

And so..we’re supposed to CONSERVE, so all this can come to pass?

Are we insane?

If we truly want a better future for our grandchildren, is this the path to take? If I thought Bonderman’s greedy habits and those of his pals were intended to bring all this madness to a precipitous end, I could almost admire them. Maybe that’s why the Grand Canyon Trust gushes such praise. Somehow though, I doubt it.

Instead, even the allegedly most enlightened among us, the leaders of the environmental movement, continue to convince us that we can save the planet by using energy efficient shower heads and buying a Prius.


The Feb/March Issue will be posted on February 1:

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2 Responses

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  1. John Tymochko said

    Exactly right

Continuing the Discussion

  1. link linked to this post on February 14, 2015


    ‘HERETICAL THOUGHTS’-Why ‘conserving’ for our future is assuring our doom… Jim Stiles (from the 2007 archives) – The Zephyr

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