Friday, May 28, 2010
Advocates for a Sustainable Albemarle Population (ASAP) met Thursday night with local residents to discuss recent findings in a study called the Ecological Footprint Analysis of Albemarle County and Charlottesville. The analysis evaluates the environmental sustainability of the community and its optimal population size.
Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20100527-ASAP
The study found that the footprint (demand) of Albemarle and Charlottesville exceeds the biocapacity (supply) of the area causing an ecological deficit, which is an unsustainable situation that occurs when an ecosystem is exploited more rapidly than it can renew itself..
ASAP researchers calculated this deficit by measuring the ecological footprint of Albemarle and Charlottesville, which is the amount of land and water required to satisfy the demands and waste of people in the area, and the biocapacity for the same area, which measures how much land is available for consumption and waste.
The city and county have an ecological deficit of 3.7 land areas, meaning that there is not enough biocapacity from Albemarle and Charlottesville’s 736 square miles of land alone to accommodate for the demands of 135,000 residents.
In August 2009, ASAP published research indicating that the community could be home to a population of up to 300,000 people if it was willing to sacrifice some environmental conditions in the development areas. With this additional research, however, ASAP has calculated that Albemarle and Charlottesville can sustainably only support a population of about 37,000 people.
“If our community were to source all its current consumption and waste disposal right here on our available land, we would need 3.7 Charlottesville/Albemarle land areas to support our consumption,” said Marshall. “We need a lot more land than we’ve got.”
ASAP argues in the study that if we continue to ignore the ecological deficit, then we will see destruction of natural habitats, reduction of water quantity and quality, and erosion of ecosystem services in environments of other places. It may not happen in this community in the near term, but it will maintain pressure on global ecosystems according to the study.
“The way we live with our ecological deficit erodes the health of living systems at a global level," said Marshall. “It causes deforestation, water shortages, declining biodiversity, and we screw up the air, the water, and the soil. Locally, we do the same thing.”
ASAP was formed in 2002 to study the effects of population growth on natural resources, and their goal is to provide data for local city and county decision-makers to help identify an “optimal sustainable population size”. The Ecological Footprint Analysis is one of five scientific studies being conducted by ASAP.
“The information from the ASAP studies should be used by local government for planning,” said John Cruickshank, chairman of the Piedmont Group of the Sierra Club. “For land use planning, for transportation planning, and for the planning for the protection of natural resources.”
Cruickshank believes the community should focus on protecting the environment by creating more nature preserves and parks, pursuing green building practices, and encouraging density.
“When development does occur , we should cluster the residences so there’s not as big of an impact on the environment,” said Cruickshank. “We need to think smaller. We need to drive smaller cars, we need to have smaller houses, we need to use less and less and less.”
The Board of Supervisors agreed to spend $25,000 for the scientific aspects of the study, and the City of Charlottesville paid $11,000. Additional funding came from ASAP members as well as a $50,000 grant from the Colcom Foundation of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
According to Marshall, no other community in the nation has conducted a similar study, and the national planning community is watching ASAP's work to see if the study might be used as a harbinger of things to come.
Although Marshall agrees that less resident consumption is important, he argues that that alone will not dramatically improve the ecological deficit.
“One of the results of this research I hope will be to bring greater attention to the fact that there are two components in achieving sustainability,” said Marshall.“Reducing consumption is not enough,” said Marshall. “Simultaneously we have to deal with the number of consumers, the population.”
“I believe that government should not be in the business of recruiting new residents.” said Cruickshank. “There has been a lot of recruiting to get new people from other parts of the United States to move to the Charlottesville Area.”
“We don’t need to go out and spend taxpayer money bringing growth to this community which is already growing about 1,000 people per year,” agreed Rooker.
The Board of Supervisors will be holding a work session at 2pm on Wednesday, June 2, at the County Office Building, Lane Auditorium, to discuss Albemarle County’s new economic development action plan.
TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:
00:45 – Jack Marshall introduces filmmaker Dave Gardner
01:13 – Gardner talks about his upcoming film, “Hooked on Growth”
03:16 – Marshall introduces ASAP
04:24 – Dennis Rooker talks about community participation
11:28 – Marshall outlines meeting agenda
13:16 – Marshall summarizes ASAP’s mission
17:31 – Marshall summarizes Ecological Footprint (EF) analysis
24:34 – Tom Olivier talks about biocapacity calculations
31:17 – Marshall talks about measuring the Footprint component
32:37 – Marshall discusses EF analysis
41:58 – Olivier comments on unsustainable living
50:12 – Mike Mellon talks about human footprint issues
54:39 – Brian Richter talks about EF water related issues
1:03:04 – John Cruickshank talks about Sierra Club policy and EF analysis
1:12:08 – Randy Salzman questions how to distribute EF information to public
1:12:55 – Elizabeth Burdash comments on youth involvement
1:15:32 – Dennis Rooker comments on conservation easement
1:17:27 – Richard Lloyd questions community exports
1:28:42 – Conclusion