At New York's Lake George, a 32-mile-long lake located in the Adirondack Mountains, more than 60 researchers are now turning to sensors and connected systems to better understand environmental threats—including road salt, agricultural contaminants, invasive species and the growth of algae—so that they can better protect the lake and its water.[read more]
Population is the cause of lake problems
Unfortunately, neither Elizabeth Courtney nor James Ehlers addresses the true cause of the water pollution, which is the tremendous growth of the human population in the Lake Champlain basin in recent decades. In just Chittenden County the population has grown from 75,000 in 1960 to 160,000 in 2013 or 111 percent.
Elizabeth does say that, “Much of the sediment and pollutant-loaded runoff delivered to Vermont’s waterways comes from our roadways and parking lots and other impervious surfaces.” But what is the cause of that? It is, of course, population growth. Even the other 40 percent of the pollution, agriculture, which nowadays is largely industrial agriculture, is the result of needing to feed an ever-growing population. Referring to the governor, James Ehlers says he want the governor’s plan to succeed, “but sadly it won’t,” which may well be true if the population of the basin keeps on growing.
The Chesapeake Bay is facing the same problems as Lake Champlain, only worse, with just one example being the plummeting oyster population. Fortunately, a large group of people in that area realize that it is population growth and resultant development that is the underlying cause of the problem.
I recently spoke at the Growth and Chesapeake Bay conference at Hood College in Frederick, Md. It was attended by approximately 200 people. I did a PowerPoint talk on the world precedent-setting report “What is an Optimal/Sustainable Population for Vermont?” and urged the attendees to have Maryland do a similar report.
Among the several speakers, two others were also from Vermont, and they were Bill Ryerson from the international Population Media Center based in South Burlington and Tom Butler from the Foundation for Deep Ecology who lives in Huntington.
All of the speakers at the conference, except one, acknowledged that growth cannot go on forever and still clean up the Chesapeake Bay. However, sadly, some of the attendees felt that it was unlikely that growth could be stopped and as a result the Chesapeake Bay will not be cleaned up.
We have entered a cultural era where most of our political and environmental leaders and organizations, except for the Vermont chapter of the Sierra Club, think that we can grow forever and still maintain a healthy environment. However we can’t have infinite growth on a finite planet, and we have already greatly exceeded those limits.
Likewise we cannot have infinite growth in a finite watershed. What most of our political and environmental leaders do these days, instead of trying to prevent the problems in the first place, is wait until they get really bad and then portray themselves as heroes and say that they will clean up the mess if we will just give them millions of dollars. This has proven not to work, whether it is reducing the pollution of Lake Champlain, stopping the decline of critical forest cover, or reducing greenhouse gas emissions, again, all caused by population growth.
When the environmental movement began in the ’60s and ’70s due to worsening environmental problems, population growth was at the top of the agenda, as shown in the 1973 Population Policy Report published by the Vermont Natural Resources Council. You won’t find this amazing report on their website, but you will find it on the Vermonters for Sustainable Population website at www.vspop.org, along with other important environmental reports.
The report back then said we had to address population growth and made many recommendations on how to do so. Unfortunately, a few years after that most of our environmental leaders, being more concerned about raising funds than speaking the truth, stopped talking about population growth, never mind trying to actually do anything about it, and the predictions in that report are coming true.
Are today’s leaders really environmentalists? As even TV news commentator Bill Maher says, you aren’t an environmentalist unless you care about overpopulation.
George Plumb is ehe executive director of Vermonters for a Sustainable Population.