Monday, November 19, 2007

More Than One Solution is Required

Opinion Editorial Published in the Fort Collin's Coloradoan

More Than One Solution is Required
by Eric Levine

Glen Colton’s Nov. 5 column, in which he connects and blames everything from global warming and local growth to national immigration rates deserves comment.
Concerning global population, I can readily accept the proposition that given a small enough human population, our problems are solvable, while given rapid and never ending growth, few are.
However, the more Colton gets on his one problem one solution mantra, the greater his error. He ticks off problems such as drought, oil prices, wildfires and climate damage, implying they will all be solved only by lowering national immigration rates.
If the threat of climate disaster has taught us anything, it is that we are truly one planet, one species and one economy. Our resource management, pollution, consumption, economies, communicable diseases, climate change, and habitat loss do have one thing in common, but it is not what Colton suggests. Their true commonality is that they are all international problems.
Because his worldview stops at our borders, Colton confuses real population growth with population distribution; two very different animals. Surely China’s burgeoning economic tidal wave will soon greatly affect our climate, environmental quality, and resources more than anything he’s named. This is a real elephant we must address. So are issues of fair trade policies with the Third World, gross inequities caused by international corporatism, biosphere/habitat damage and extinction, to name several.
Some closed border advocates cynically proclaim that once third world economic refugees enter the United States, their consumption increases, thus exacerbating worldwide resource shortages. There are many mistakes in this flawed reasoning.
U.S./world trade policies largely by and for rich nations have caused many Third World disasters, and produced many of the impoverished refuges wishing to come here.
If immigrants to the United States increase consumption, what does that say about the problems our per capita consumption causes?
Instead of limiting migration here, couldn’t we solve over consumption just as well by “exporting” our citizens to Third World countries, say via a lottery?
If we use the argument that Third World people coming here damage our planet by adopting our consumption, doesn’t that mean we must also forever deny them our level of development and a decent lifestyle in their own countries?
Why wouldn’t accepting more residents in Colorado’s West Slope communities be preferable to the destruction of our planet’s rainforests via desperate slash and burn farming?
There are serious problems in the Front Range, but they are caused by growth concentrations exhausting our infrastructure and going well beyond optimum or even affordable economies of scale. It seems we never assess local growth’s true impacts by acknowledging new growth after a point can cost much more. Never addressing growth’s true rising costs means current residents end up paying more taxes to subsidize new residents, even as our community services and lifestyles decline.
Different problems with different solutions. Let’s stop simplistically lumping them together.

Eric Levine lives in Fort Collins and has been working for solutions to environmental problems for more than two decades.

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