I have been reading various articles, letters and editorials in both Salt Lake newspapers, which I call "not-to-worry about increasing population." The Deseret News', Sept. 10, editorial titled "Population isn't the problem," is typical. By replying to it, I will be replying to all of them. They remind me of a wise bit of poetry from the philosopher-poet Alexander Pope. "A little learning is a dangerous thing. Drink deep or taste not the Pierian spring; There shallow drafts intoxicate the brain, and drinking largely sobers us again." I invite the person who wrote that editorial and others who feel that increasing population is not a problem to drink a little deeper and "sober up."
In that editorial, the question is asked, "How does the world tell when a society is overpopulated?" The world doesn't "tell." Individuals tell, by their behavior. One of the first principles of population ecology is that when numbers of a population reach carrying capacity and get so high so that some of the individuals cannot meet their basic needs, then that population tends to disperse to an area where it is not so crowded where they can meet their basic needs better.When I first started working in Yellowstone Park as a ranger-naturalist in the summer of 1946, overcrowding was not a problem, and the rangers had very little law enforcement to do. Their work was mostly explanation and interpretation. Now we have more than a million visitors a year, and the ranger's job is mostly law enforcement, as the so-called "problems of cities" have spilled over into the parks. You name them, we've got them: burglaries, drugs, alcohol, wild parties, vandalism, speeding, auto accidents, etc., and even air and water pollution.
Other national parks, and state parks, and the canyons along the Wasatch Front, and the national forests, are all trying to cope with the same law enforcement problems causes by overcrowding. Can this problem be solved by better plans to "accommodate future growth?" The present problems of crowding were caused by a trend that continues day after day and year after year. I ask the editorial writer and everybody else to look at the obituary section of the Deseret News or Salt Lake Tribune for a week and notice how day after day, the birth notices outnumber the death notices by four or five and sometimes even 10 to one, and consider that in 20 years or so, there will be a need for five or 10 times as much housing, water and electricity, and two or three cars for each new family coming along.
In addition, there are hundreds of new residents, some of them illegal aliens coming every month to crowd into Utah. This is a finite world with limited room and resources. Such population growth cannot be sustained with quality of life. The "vast open lands" referred to in the editorial are that way because of limiting factors such as lack of water. Utah is the second-driest state in the nation. The million more people expected to be living in Utah in less than 20 years will be crowding into the already crowded Wasatch Front.
Having more and more people crowding into Utah makes inevitable more urban and rural sprawl; more "bedroom communities"; more air and water pollution; more water shortages; more transportation problems such as gridlock; road accidents and road rage killings; more gang problems; more vandalism; more violence; more overcrowded schools; jails, prisons and youth correctional facilities; more addiction to alcohol, tobacco and drugs; and of course, more patients for mental health practitioners.
All these "more" problems can only get worse until we have more voluntary birth control to slow population growth to a sustainable level in harmony with natural and human resources. We are already practicing birth control. Man's biotic potential is about 20 children per mother if she had children as often as possible during her childbearing years. Very few couples reach their biotic potential. This is not a problem to be solved by government edict. It is time to apply some common sense. If we really love our children and want them to fulfill their potential and lead a happy life, we will encourage each other and our children not to have so many.
Man "does not live by bread alone." We have spirits to be nourished. We need open spaces and national and state and city parks, and recreational facilities. These areas are now so overcrowded that the quality of what people come to see is being destroyed by numbers. I remember many times in Yellowstone Park seeing grandparents waiting in long lines, complaining about the crowds now, and showing each other the pictures of grandchildren and kind of bragging about the number of them. Can the 15 or 20 or more grandchildren have a quality experience in the parks if the population continues to increase? Yes, "Population is the problem." Accommodating future growth cannot be sustained in a finite world with limited room and resources.