Part 9: What Constitutes Overpopulation in America?

Published on November 26th, 2010

Gridlocked traffic in our cities, 35,000 roadway deaths annually, 6,000 pedestrian deaths, tens of thousands of pedestrian injuries Last month, in China, car drivers experienced, according to NBC anchor Brian Williams, a 60-mile-long traffic jam.  It took over a week to unsnarl thousands and thousands of cars that ran out of gas so they couldn’t move.  Consequently, other vehicles couldn’t escape.  People suffered from lack of food, water and restrooms.  The sanitation nightmare alone caused serious problems. Citizens around the world found it ‘amusing.’ But anyone that lives in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver, Chicago, Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, New Orleans, Miami, New York City, Boston or any other over-bloated, obese metropolitan city, knows the emotional, mental, physical and dangerous toll that ‘gridlocked traffic’ takes on millions of American drivers every day of the week. By the way, as China continues its rush toward “a car in every garage and a chicken in every pot,” which anyone over 50 will remember from the 1950s in America–China faces monumental consequences. Brian Williams reported last week that China manufactured and added 6 million cars to its roads in 2009.  That equals 16,438 cars a day!  No wonder they suffered a 60 mile traffic jam!  No doubt, with 1.3 billion people and adding 8 million net gain annually, they may find themselves with 100-mile gridlocked highways.  They ride a wild horse toward an unfortunate future filled with environmental and sociological consequences just beginning to manifest. James Howard Kunstler, The Long Emergency, researched the fact that China, by 2030, expects to burn 98 million barrels of oil per day.  If you understand that the world only burns 84 million barrels of oil daily, you see that 98 million  exceeds the entire world of 2010.  Will China be able to access that much oil?  Not a chance!  They face an enormous reality check that could collapse their civilization. The average American driver spends 443 hours per year behind the wheel. As a math/science teacher in Denver, Colorado since the early 1970s, I supported my enormous teaching salary, $5,400 a year, with a summer truck driving job with United Van Lines.  I worked 70 official and another 30 unofficial to total100 hours a week, and for 25 summers, drove those white lines through 48 states and Canada.  I moved Americans from coast to coast. As America’s population exploded from 195 million, steadily to 300 million, I enjoyed a ‘high trucker’s seat’ in a cab over twin screw above the highway as I jammed those 13 gears and rolled those 18 wheels across this amazing continent.  But on the way, I watched city horizons turn to dirty brown clouds.  I watched pristine highways turn to trashed garbage pits with thousands of miles of cans, bottles and plastic containers—tossed by Americans.  I watched plastic bags billowing from fence posts, barbed wire and trees.  I watch millions of road-kill of every animal conceivable being squashed as it tried to cross our highways. As the years passed, the big cities and then, the middle-sized cities jammed-up in a new phenomenon called “gridlocked traffic.”  Or, so many cars that the highways couldn’t handle the volume, so it backed up into 10 and 20 mile traffic jams.  Sometimes in New York City, to cross over the Washington Bridge, it took me three hours of stop and go traffic.  I watched thousands of accidents occur in my travels through 48 states. In my own city of Denver, with 2.25 million people, our drivers suffer no less than 24 to 30 accidents per day, five days a week, and half that many on weekends.  In cities like Houston, Dallas, Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta and New York, I’m willing to bet the accident rates must exceed 50 to 100 per day. Depending on the year, between 35,000 and 40,000 drivers suffer death on our highways annually.  If you take all the accidents from overpopulation in our mega-cities, you’re looking at mind-boggling consequences for the hundreds of thousands of car accidents in the USA each year.  Between 1986 and 1995, approximately 6,000 pedestrians were killed each year in the U.S. by automobiles. For every pedestrian killed by a car, another 15 were injured. Over-dependence on highways hurts communities by:

  • Polluting our air and water
  • Increasing congestion and gridlock
  • Wasting gas and energy
  • Eating up open space, farmland and habitat
  • Increasing commute times and distances
  • Lowering the local tax base
  • Shifting businesses from downtown
  • Limiting commuter choices
  • Leaving behind those who can’t or don’t drive (students, seniors, people without cars)
  • Reducing options and safety of pedestrians and bikers

“Sprawl and lack of transportation choices force people to own and drive cars in order to reach most destinations. The average American driver spends 443 hours per year—the equivalent of 55 eight-hour work days—behind the wheel.” Source: 1997 USDOT Report, “Our Nation’s Travel” “Infrastructure needs arising from sprawling development cost American households an average of $630 per year. Transportation is the second biggest household cost for American families, more than food, education or healthcare.”  Source: http://www.transact.org/report.asp?id=36 “Residents of sprawling communities drive three to four times more than those living in efficient, well-planned areas and can waste up to three to four times more energy from driving than people who live in better-planned, efficient cities that offer more transportation choices.” Source: www.environmentaldefense.org “While roadways for autos continue to be expanded, there has not been a corresponding increase in safe and convenient pedestrian walkways, making it more difficult and dangerous for people to walk. Between 1986 and 1995, approximately 6,000 pedestrians were killed each year in the U.S. by automobiles. For every pedestrian killed by a car, another 15 were injured. Wide roads have been built without sidewalks or frequent crosswalks, and high-speed traffic makes these roadways particularly deadly. In many areas, intersections with crosswalks may be as much as a half-mile apart, leaving pedestrians with no safe way to cross the street.” Source: “Mean Streets 2000,” Surface Transportation Policy Project, www.transact.org Did you notice?  I did! Not one mention of overpopulation causing the problem.  In other words, experts ‘dance’ around the root cause. In the end, they won’t dance and can’t dance with another 100 million people added to this country within 25 years.  Is that what any of us want for our kids? We’ll see!  We can change course by our actions and choices today.

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