By Tim Aaronson
March 4, 2013
Spring in California is a wonderful time to enjoy the beauty of our state and reflect upon its rich flora. Whether hiking in a park or visiting a native garden such as encountered on the San Francisco Bay Area “Bringing Back the Natives Garden Tour” www.bringingbackthenatives.net we can take great pride in our state’s natural endowment. It is also a time to consider what is happening to California. Turning to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife we read… http://www.dfg.ca.gov/habcon/plant/
California hosts approximately 6,500 species, subspecies, and varieties of plants that occur naturally in the state, and many of these are found nowhere else in the world. Some are adapted to unique habitats or harsh conditions, and some occur in such low numbers or have been so impacted by human influence that they are at risk of permanent extinction from the wild. California’s native plants should be conserved not only because of their beauty and intrinsic value, but also because they are essential components of ecosystems and natural processes, and provide us with valuable renewable materials and other benefits. CDFW administers programs to study, map, conserve and protect California’s native plants and natural communities.
California is the most populous state in the nation, and the human population continues to rise. An increasing population increases demands on California’s resources such as land and water, which are also needed by California's native plants and animals. Loss of habitat, including habitat fragmentation, is the most important factor that contributes to the decline of many native plant populations. Up to 26 species of plants have likely become extinct in the state, and others have been so severely reduced that they are at risk of extinction. Human activity has also introduced many exotic plant species into the state that can outcompete and choke out native plants, and climate change will impact native plants in the future in ways that are difficult to understand and predict.
Seemingly as numerous as native plant species are the conservation organizations working to protect the environment. A virtual trip north from San Diego will pass Project Wildlife, Nature Trust Of The Santa Monica Mountains, Save the Bay, Save Mount Diablo, Save The Redwoods League [add others]… so many fine organizations but all facing an uphill battle against the consequences of population growth.
An Uncomfortable Truth
Our population, already nearing 40 million people, adds a thousand new residents a day, which means we have to continually provide new houses, new schools, more jobs and additional services. This has grave consequences to the environment we cherish. But how is it that even as many Californians are leaving the state California continues to grow? How is it that while most people have but two children the population continues to swell? Why is California growing like this? The uncomfortable truth is that almost 100% of California growth is from immigrants and their offspring.
It is “uncomfortable” because discussions of population growth spur accusations of racism and xenophobia. This is why the work of Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS) is so important. Rather than trying to mitigate the consequences of population growth CAPS works forthrightly to forestall a California of 50 million or 60 million or 100 million. Won’t all the environmental and conservation organizations we champion be more successful if CAPS succeed? I encourage visitors to join CAPS so the next generation will be able to enjoy the California which remains.
– Tim Aaronson, M.A., CAPS Board Member