California’s overpopulation crisis: Environment and economy, feature by student contributor Kayla Solis

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Typical traffic demonstrates a major problem in Los Angeles, California. Photo courtesy of Californiawatch.org.

Typical traffic demonstrates a major problem in Los Angeles, California. Photo courtesy of Californiawatch.org.

California, the Golden State, is famous for its beautiful beaches and mountains, breath-taking national parks, the famous Golden Gate Bridge of San Francisco and the Hollywood movie industry in Los Angeles. However, all of these attractions are causing a major problem for this state: overpopulation.

“California’s population surged by nearly 50 percent from 1970 to 1990, adding four million more residents,” stated Leon Kolankiewicz in his Biodiversity article published by Californian for Population Stabilization (CAPS), a non-profit organization. Due to overpopulation in California, both humans and wildlife are suffering because there are limited resources to maintain 40 million people in one place. There are several negative outcomes due to the overcrowding. This includes the endangerment of plants and animals and subsequent economic problems for the state of California.

The flora of California has been more affected by overpopulation compared to animals. According to PR Newswire, an online New York newspaper company, “California has lost 99 percent of its native grasslands, 80 percent of its coastal wetlands, and 95 percent of its coastal redwoods.” Humans are creating more cities, homes, and freeways. The more they expand on urbanization, the less habitat there will be for plants.

“The state that guards its beaches and vistas still struggles to keep housing tracts and farmland from plowing under its unique wilderness,” said Virginia Morell, who received an MS in Environmental Studies from California State University.

As a result of constant urbanization, California has multiple biodiversity hotspots. Biodiversity is the variability of life in one condensed space. Sixty percent of California’s flora cannot be found anywhere else in the world, and that is why scientists have dubbed the state the Floristic Province.

Despite the state’s image of a beautiful landscape, “California has protected 20 percent of its land—a percentage second only to Alaska. The catch: Most reserves are set aside based on scenic values… and lowest economic impact, not on saving the most biodiversity.” Scenic features like Yosemite and Kings Canyon National Park are becoming more urbanized due to the the hundreds of people who visit the parks.

The lack of forests and plants has left animals without homes, or homes that are being polluted. Over 150 animals are listed as either endangered, threatened, or rare. These include the famous American Bald Eagle, the California coastal Chinook salmon, two Bighorn sheep species, the Blue Humpback Whale, the Green Sea Turtle, and the Southern Sea Otter. Many of these animals have died due to habitat loss. The ever expanding land development has pushed them into smaller territories which are often more vulnerable to pollution.

Leon Kolankiewicz of the environmental organization CAPS, described California’s decreasing bird population: “Several years ago, the California Department of Fish and Game’s State Wildlife Action Plan reported that one-third of all birds in the state (139 to 391) were at risk of vanishing in because of ‘stressors.’” These stressors include rampant growth and development, expansion of agriculture, water management conflicts, climate change, and overgrazing. Many people who come to California don’t realize that they are causing more harm to the state they will soon call home.

The largest city in California is Los Angeles, and its high population density causes problems for the people who live there. These include housing and school complications. The city has 10.1 million residents and the numbers are still on the rise.

In a video by CAPS, Dr. Ben Zuckerman and Steve Lamb, who work for the Center for Progressive Urban Politics, discussed the issue of overpopulation. They stated that according to the Trust for Public Land, for over thirty years, “more than 2.6 million people in the Los Angeles area have not live within a quarter of a mile of a park.” Housing prices are rising, and the schools are suddenly too over-enrolled to accommodate the growth.

“In the 1980’s, there was a 10 percent population density increase in the US. This led to a 20 percent decrease in housing affordability, which will continue to cause continual growth in urban communities such as Los Angeles,” says Vince Busman in his article, “Overpopulation: The World’s Problem.”

Overpopulation in the state of California is causing environmental and economic concerns which coincide with each other. Only the people of California can make a difference to put an end to this issue.

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