Somewhere along the line somebody who believed the world was not overpopulated pointed out that the entire population of the world could be comfortably placed within the confines of the state of Texas. Countless online debates have occurred centering on whether or not this is a sensible comparison, with environmentalists often pointing to this claim as an example of the sort of absurdities that their opponents are willing to entertain.
Now, however, the Sierra Club has gotten into the act by implicitly endorsing urbanization levels that make the whole-world-in-Texas argument look positively spacious. They’ve temporarily taken down the page, but in June the Sierra Club put a page up at http://www.sierraclub.org/sprawl/community/enviroimpacts.asp which contained a calculator applet to measure the impact of various population densities. The page was constructed to promote the Sierra Club’s anti-sprawl initiative. But it contained some very curious results.
The applet compared the environmental impacts of what it called “efficient urban density” versus “sprawl density,” with the sprawl density, of course, coming out the loser. But the Sierra Club’s definition of efficient urban density might surprise some people. Initially, when the page went live, the Sierra Club defined efficient urban density as 500 households per acre. Given the average number of people per household in the United Stats, that works out to more than 750,000 people per square mile.
Folks ridiculed people for suggesting that the entire world population could fit in Texas, but at the density level the Sierra Club was advocating, all 6 billion people in the world today would be able to fit in an area just 2 percent as large as Texas. The state could hold upwards of 300 billion people at that level of density.
Responding to criticism, the Sierra Club quickly took the page down and retooled it, defining efficient urban density as only 100 households per acre. But that’s still a population density of 153,600 people per square mile, or a density high enough to put every single man, woman and child in Texas almost 7 times. Forget Texas, the entire world population could fit in Virginia!
It is almost beyond belief to see a mainstream environmental organization actually advocating population densities that exceed those proposed by the Texas thought experiment. At least the critics of overpopulation claims never actually advocated such an absurdity.
Sierra club exposes “smart growth” madness. Randal O’Toole, Heartland Institute, September 2001.
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