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Rejecting Growth: A Viable Policy Option

Dave Ewoldt

June, 2007

   There are a number of excellent ideas within the Report and Recommendations of the recent Tucson Regional Town Hall, which, if implemented, will contribute to make Tucson a more livable city and improve the overall quality of life for all its citizens. However, there is a gaping hole in the analysis that is going to make "Realizing the Possibilities" difficult if not impossible.

   At the June 6th special meeting for applicants and participants held at the Fox Theatre, a summary of 4 of the 13 areas discussed at the Town Hall were presented. Audience members were invited to make comments or ask questions after each section, and if possible to state the one thing they would be willing to commit to. My number one recommendation is that it is time to start being honest with ourselves about what's going on, and the circumstances we find ourselves in. How can the citizens of Tucson be reasonably expected to develop a regional vision that doesn't account for some major factors that will be directly impacting their lives and livelihoods?

   It appears from the Report and Recommendations that the entire Tucson Regional Town Hall took place in either ignorance or deliberate denial of global warming and the declining availability and increasing cost of the fossil fuels necessary to maintain economic growth--which is a necessary factor not only in population growth but mobility.

   This was especially obvious in the section on water. The water issue was said to be complex, but is actually quite simple; it only appears complex because it is intentionally presented in that manner to facilitate obfuscation.

   The simple fact of the matter is that there is only so much water available. Globally, fresh water supplies are declining due to misuse, abuse, and overuse. Tucson is far from unique in this regard. The water table in the Tucson area has dropped from 20 feet to over 300 feet and continues to drop 3-4 feet per year. CAP provides roughly one-third of the water used annually in this region. Who really benefits from growing cotton in the desert, or alfalfa for California cattle?

   There is a truism in sustainability that an area cannot become sustainable by making another area less sustainable. The Colorado River that CAP depends on no longer reaches the sea; it is oversubscribed and its flow has been steadily decreasing every year. Mexico is no longer receiving its treaty allotment, and due to global warming, these trends will likely both continue and worsen.

   One of the recommendations in regard to water was to "Form a regional collaborative to secure additional water supplies." This is an open admission that we are beyond our sustainable limits--we are already overgrown. Yet we continue to allow more growth to be approved--indeed, we actively seek more growth.

   The overall concern of the Tucson Regional Town Hall was how to protect and accommodate growth, instead of how to manage our regional resources sustainably in order to improve quality of life and ensure a livable area for our descendents.

   Why does it continue to appear as if the main things growing are greed and stupidity, and we consider this to be progress? These may be some inconvenient truths, but truths to not cease to exist because they are ignored.

   The rejection of growth is not just a viable policy option, it is a survival strategy. The question is not how much it will cost to create an ecological economy, but what is the price we will have to pay as a society for not doing so? Our current path is doing little more than ensuring a greater level of hardship for a larger number of people in the coming years.


"Reality is what refuses to go away when I stop believing in it."
Philip K. Dick


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