Choosing “Better” Progress

January 14, 2019 1 Comment

I have noticed some negative headlines in news reports lately. It seems “progress” and growth might be slowing down in some parts of world.

The U.S. birthrate hits an all-time low, again!

Chinese auto sales suffer a historic collapse.

Single family housing starts are the lowest since 1990.

Fertility rates are declining around the world!

The U.S. housing boom is coming to an end.

Economic breakdown because of less children being born in southeast Asia!

Toll Brothers’ home orders plunge

Are all of these “bad”?

The trends are certainly bad for very poorly designed social support systems that rely almost exclusively on population growth to remain solvent (like Social Security and most pensions), but what about the rest of world.

Do we like what we see around us? The world is certainly a comfortable place for human beings. What if the population keeps expanding? Think about how that might look.

Can you imagine the city of Wausau growing to the size of Marathon county? Just think about how great it will be when Camp Phillips Road is 4 or 6 lanes with multiple stop lights all the way from Kronenwetter to highway 52. Won’t it be nice when you can hear the roar of traffic and sirens while eating a nice meal at Iozzo’s. I am sure it will be super when highway K from Wausau to Merrill is solid sprawl. Maybe a few more strip malls, car dealerships, and sub-divisions will really “spruce the drive up”.

Who needs farms, fields, and forests anyway?

I am sure folks in Stevens Point, Wisconsin Rapids, and Marshfield can’t wait until there are more gas stations and businesses along highway 10 and 13. More warehouses and box stores could easily fill both sides of highway 54 between Stevens Point and Wisconsin Rapids. If the highway was expanded to 6 or 8 lanes maybe more people could be encouraged to drive more and clog the roadways. Why should big city drivers be the only ones experiencing the “joy” of being stuck in traffic?

With all of the of the new pavement, roads, and parking lots, just think of how salty our streams will be. They are already becoming more salty due to road treatments. Maybe instead of fresh water we can have water just like the ocean.

According to the WHO, 90% of the world’s children already breathe polluted air. If the population doubles or triples, maybe we could hit 100%.

If the population of the U.S. increases by a few hundred million, just think, the Twin Cities of Minnesota might expand to effectively include Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls. There could be hundreds of sub-divisions, vast parking lots, and power lines all over the landscape from west-central Wisconsin into southeastern Minnesota. Do you dream of that every night?

Seriously now. How do you view the future? Is an exploding population, expanding cities and highways, and less natural beauty what everyone wants? I doubt it. At some point we have to re-evaluate what we call “progress”. Think about all of the articles linked above. If people are being responsible, having less kids, focusing on quality and not quantity, then why would the “housing boom” continue? At some point cities could contract, become cleaner, well-designed, and more efficient. Why is it the end of the world if the world is less crowded?

I could go on, but instead I will just link to a few other good blog posts on the same topic.

A stable or slowing declining population solves a lot of problems.

No more GDP

Roads are expensive

Artificially created environmental problems

Modern economics ruining the environment

Better models of growth

Housing starts are negative

Wasted Growth

Meteorologist Justin Loew


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  1. Erik M Netz says:

    Wow powerful view. I agree.
    Also why I only want my one son Benjamin! To spoil him! Haha be able to afford all the resources he needs to thrive as he develops and eventually get himself a career.

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