Mark Krikorian, Executive Director, Center for Immigration Studies
Panelists: Roy Beck, Director, Numbers USA Education and Research Foundation
Steven Camarota, Director of Research, Center for Immigration Studies
Ben Zuckerman, Professor of Astronomy, UCLA
MARK KRIKORIAN: Good morning. My name is Mark Krikorian. I’m executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a think tank here in Washington that examines and critiques the impact of immigration on the United States. I can’t resist making sure that everybody knows that our website is at cis.org. All of our publications, including the report we’re releasing today, are online in their entirety at no charge at our website.
When I first was presented with the connection between the federal immigration program and urban sprawl, I frankly was a little wary, like most people. In fact, my first thought was maybe a little jaundiced that, you know, what, we’ve run out of problems to attribute to mass immigration, so now we have to turn to sprawl? But when you actually look at the numbers, there’s just no way around it. It’s not even debatable. Each year we’re adding some two million people to our population, either directly through immigration or to children born to immigrants, representing almost all of our population growth, and these people have to live somewhere. Since we’re not stacking people to live in rabbit hutches, like the Japanese, that means we’re going to keep paving over open land and putting up parking lots, all our changes in zoning laws and land-use rules notwithstanding.
The report we’re releasing today is the first ever done that looks specifically and exclusively at the role of population growth in sprawl. Presenting the results are two of the authors, people eminently qualified to examine this issue.
First, the lead author is Roy Beck, the director of the Numbers USA Education and Research Foundation. And, by the way, an earlier report that he did for the Center was “Forsaking Fundamentals,” tracing the history of the environmental movements’ retreat from a commitment to population stabilization. Roy is a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism. He was one of the first reporters to cover the environment as a beat, which resulted in honors from the EPA and the Isaac Walton League. He’s published widely, including the Atlantic Monthly and other publications and is author of four books on public policy.
Our second presenter will be Steven Camarota, the Director of Research at the Center for Immigration Studies. He’s a Ph.D. from the University of Virginia in policy analysis, and in his five years – I think five years now –
STEVEN CAMAROTA: It’s seven.
MR. KRIKORIAN: -- seven years at the center, he has become one of the nation’s premier students of the impact of immigration on the United States.
Discussing the results will be Ben Zuckerman, who’s a professor of astronomy at the University of California Los Angeles, and is a member of the UCLA Institute of the Environment. He is also board member – a member of the board of directors of the Sierra Club and the Sea Shepherd Society, though – and I’ll let him make the disclaimer – he’s not speaking on behalf of either organization; instead he will be presenting his own views and reactions to the report.
So Roy will start, then Steve will offer some further results. Roy will make some more comments then, and then we’ll go to Ben and we’ll take your questions after that.
ROY BECK: Thanks. Back in 2000, the 2000 presidential campaign, Vice President Gore tired briefly to make sprawl a presidential issue. He was derided a bit for trying to make a federal case out of what most people felt was really a problem of local governance. But this study finds that sprawl indeed is both a local and a federal issue. We find that local sprawl cannot be solved unless there are actions from city councils and from Congress. And over the next several minutes, Steve and I will explain why.
All of you, I believe, have copies of the study and I'm going to make some references to page numbers. You might want to just jot some page numbers down so when you go back to study or write on this you will be able to find things quickly. The table of contents is on page three, but I’m going to give you a few extra things.
Particularly I’d like to draw your attention to the background section, which is not the news section – “Findings, Policy Implications” are where the news is. But the background really is a result of a really major literature search that we did to find out what governments and others are doing about sprawl around the country and also how it’s being reported in the media.
One of the things we found – and really was rather surprising – was that of this gigantic effort around the country over the last five, six years, having to do with sprawl, there are almost no actions and was no writing about the role of population growth in that. And that was part of the reason why we decided to do the rest of the study.
How do we define sprawl? This is a very important point because sprawl is not a precise term. It’s been used by everybody to describe various things. They’re all in the same ballpark but it’s very important to know before you start what anybody – what any study, what any organization – means by sprawl. In our study, sprawl is rather straightforward, it’s objective, it’s measurable in terms of acres. That is, if an acre of land was a wooded lot five years ago and today it’s a parking lot or a school or a housing development or, you know, it’s been scraped or paved or built on, then that is sprawl; that is an acre of sprawl. It wasn’t there five years ago.
And we allowed the U.S. Department of Agriculture to define sprawl for us and to measure it for us. Every five years the Department of Agriculture does a National Resources Inventory, beginning in 1982, and that you can actually find on page 55. When you go to look later you can see much more of that description on page 55 of how the National Resources Inventory is conducted. We’re not the first to use it. In fact, the 2001 Brookings Institution study of sprawl used this same data, and like any data it’s not perfect, but it seems to be about the best out there for measuring the progress of sprawl over the countryside.
Another thing that’s nice about the NRI is it not only measures how urban areas are moving into the direct countryside, but it also measures if people in urban areas are feeling needs, for whatever reason, to build second homes. So it picks up anything that’s a quarter acre or larger, any scraped, paved, or build-on area that’s a quarter acre or larger anywhere, and it also includes the space covered by roads and railroad beds.
We provide tables of states with the worst sprawl, and even though this NRI data has been available for some time, we believe that this may be the first time that the list of states by worst sprawling has been made available. And those tables are on page 12 and 13, and that’s a good way for you to see how the states you may be most concerned about rank with others.
The first table on page 12 lists the states based on who’s done the worst sprawling in terms of just actual acreage that’s been removed. The second one is based on percentage and how fast the states are sprawling. The NRI uses a term in their definition of sprawl, which is development, which is that this is land that has been permanently removed – land that has been permanently removed from the rural land base. Our concern in terms of sprawl is the natural habitat, the grazing land and the cropland, and other natural open spaces that exist today and that may not exist tomorrow because of the expansion of development.
I think an important issue at this point, when there have been so many studies of sprawl, is what makes this study so different? And it is very different. Nearly every other major study of sprawl has either ignored population growth or it has minimized its importance. Our finding is that population growth may be as important as all other factors combined in sprawl. Now, that finding appears to be a huge contradiction with every other major study of sprawl that we’re aware of, which, as you all as observers deserve to ask a certain question, and that is, how can it be so different? It appears that it’s a great contradiction, but in closer examination we find that the real difference is that nearly all other sprawl studies measure for something different than what we are measuring for. You can find this discussed in much more detail in the introduction.
Our sprawl study, as I say, looks at the issue of rural land, natural habitat, farmland, open space – natural open spaces as being developed. We measure that land. All other sprawl studies have measured something else. Whereas our sprawl study is in the conservation land area of sprawl study, there are two other major types of studies, and one of them are density studies and the other one are urban planning studies. Both of these fall within the smart growth movement.
The density studies primarily measure to see how much more densely or less densely Americans are living. The chief goal, based on what is being measured, is for Americans to live more densely. And while this has some impact on how much rural land is destroyed – permanently lost, it does not deal directly to that question; it only deals with density. The urban planning branch is often concerned with density; sometimes not, but it’s primarily concerned about the quality of urban planning; that is, is the development pedestrian-friendly, does it encourage mass transit, is it aesthetically pleasing?
All of these branches of the concern about sprawl are legitimate, and as long as you know what is being measured, most of these studies are also legitimate studies. But only if you are addressing specifically the question of total land being permanently removed from the rural land base are you dealing with this land conservation part of sprawl.
The density in urban branch studies has created confusion about population growth because of that – I think mainly because the readers and maybe sometimes even the authors are a little confused about what’s being measured. Some of the problems of the density branch studies can be found; USA Today, in 2001, did a huge study, and they did a sprawl index of cities, how they were doing. They defined sprawl as “straggling, disorderly, haphazard growth.” Now, like many studies, if development was moving at a rate that was less fast than the rate of population growth, that land that was destroyed was not considered sprawl.
So, consequently, Los Angeles was considered pretty good – Los Angeles was pretty good on sprawl because its density was increasing. Now, Los Angeles, from 1970 to 1990 permanently removed 394 square miles from the rural land base around itself but it was considered to be very good on sprawl because the measure of sprawl was density. Its sprawl was happening at a dense rate.
The urban planning branch, the main concern is, as we say, more aesthetic. Eben Fodor, he’s an author and community planning consultant, he noted that, “In the worst-case scenario, smart growth is merely the planned, orderly destruction of our remaining natural environment.” This branch is dominated by developers, builders, real estate people who want to do good development but they do also want to do development; that is, actually permanently removing land from the rural land base is part of their goal, and a heavy part of the smart growth movement is composed of this branch.
An example of how their studies work is that Smart Growth America, which is the biggest coalition in the smart growth movement – Smart Growth America did a study in 2002 and they ranked cities, how they were doing. Their criteria – the head of the study says, “This study does not look at the rate of land consumption,” the conversion of rural land to suburban subdivision. They were very upfront: this is not about seeing what cities are doing in terms of saving rural land; it’s about residential density, strength of activity of downtown areas, mix of home and jobs, that kind of thing.
Many of the studies basically define away population growth. As I say, if the new development is happening at a density that is greater than the density of previous development, then all land that is lost is not considered sprawl. In this study, though, it doesn’t matter. We don’t care whether it’s densely or non-densely populated. The question is, has it been scraped, built on, paved over, permanently removed from the land base, as the National Resources Inventory looks at it?
Quickly wrapping up here, just to set the stage for Steve to talk about the findings of the study, one of the most important factors in this study is something called per capita land consumption. That phrase has not been used a lot in studies, but it really is just another way of expressing density. But we think it’s helpful to remind ourselves to look into each city and just go, how much land does it take per person to provide that person, that resident, with housing, transportation, school and cultural needs, shopping, a place to work, waste disposal? What is that per capita amount? In 1982, the National Resources Inventory found that that was about just over four-tenths of an acre per person. By 1997 that had come in just under a half acre. I would point out that on page 95 – you might note page 95 you can find the per capita land consumption figures for every state. The 16 percent growth in per capita land consumption is the focus of concern of most smart growth efforts, and it’s a legitimate concern, as Steve will explain a little bit later.
I would also turn your attention to page 39. There is a box that shows the 20 major factors that cause per capita land consumption to increase. We call that per capita sprawl. And that includes transportation issues like roads, mass transit, zoning and enforcement of zoning, the price of gasoline, parking lots, all those things that influence commuting, subsidies for developers, desires of consumers, preferences of developers, the quality of the core city, schools, crime, recreation. All of these things you will see in that box are the things that drive per capita land consumption growth, or per capita sprawl.
The smart growth efforts, and nearly all anti-sprawl efforts in this country, have been aimed at those problems. Nearly all media coverage of sprawl has talked about those problems, and almost nothing has been said about population growth. And the big question is, is the common wisdom within the media and within the governmental and advocacy groups correct that population growth is not a factor that needs to be addressed in order to attack sprawl?
MR. KRIKORIAN: Steve? Now Steve will present some of the results of the report.
MR. CAMAROTA: Thank you, Roy.
Now, the question we try to explore here, though, is, given the lack of attention to population growth, is it true that population really just doesn’t matter very much in how much land gets developed?
As Roy indicated, we used the National Resource Conservation Service, which is part of the Department of Agriculture. We use their every-five-year inventory. As Roy also indicated, the Department of Agriculture defines developed land as “any built-up tract of land of more than a quarter of an acre.” That includes roads and parking facilities, railroads and that sort of thing as well. And we focus on this data, though I should point out we also do a separate analysis in the nation’s 100 largest urban areas between 1970 and 1990. The Census Bureau defines urbanized land in a similar but not the same way as “contiguous populated areas with a population density of more than 100,000.” So, again, that’s the Census Bureau; we concentrate more on the Department of Agriculture data.
Now, at its most basic level there can really be only three reasons for sprawl. Either there is a rise in per capita land use, a rise in the number of people or in population, or some combination of the two. Now, table 5 on page 58 of the report shows that, nationally, the amount of developed land in the United States increased 34 percent between 1982 and 1997. That’s a 34 percent expansion. Now, what’s interesting is per capita land consumption over that time period increased only 16 percent. So you have a 34 percent increase in developed land but only a 16 percent increase in per capita land use.
This fact alone indicates that increases in per capita land use cannot account for all of that 34 percent increase in developed land. After all, each person is only taking up 16 percent more land, yet developed land increased 34 percent. So something else has to account for the rest of sprawl. That something else, of course, is the roughly 16 percent- increase in the nation’s overall population in that time period. It seems clear that the smart growth approach, which is so focused on per capita land consumption – that is, density – is leaving a large part of the problem unaddressed.
Now, another reason to think the smart growth approach is not focused on the whole story is to look at two states in particular: Arizona and Nevada. These two states would seem to be success stories from a smart growth point of view. In both states there was a significant decrease in land use per person. Arizona’s per capita land consumption declined 13 percent, and Nevada’s declined 26 percent over the time period of ’82 to ’97. That is, settlement actually became much denser in both those states – now, again, this is the central goal of the smart growth movement – but developed land still increased 40 percent in Arizona; and in Nevada, developed land increased 37 percent. Thus, these two states can hardly be described as success stories if the goal is to preserve open space and protect undeveloped land. This happened because both states had such high population growth that it completely negated the gains from reduction in per capita land consumption. Arizona’s population grew 58 percent over the time period and Nevada’s grew 90 percent. As a result, an enormous amount of land was paved over.
The clear lesson of Arizona and Nevada is that if there continues to be dramatic increases in population, controlling the density of new settlements, by itself, will not prevent very high rates of sprawl.
Now, turning to the state data overall, we see the importance of population growth by looking at population growth in states that sprawled the most versus states that sprawled the least. Let me just give you a few statistics here, but there are a lot more in the report.
In the 10 states that have the largest percentage increase in developed land between ’82 and ’97, population grew by 19 percent, on average. In contrast, in those 10 states that sprawled the least, there was only 4 percent population growth. Put simply, states that sprawled the most grew dramatically more in population than those that sprawled the least.
Now, if we consider this question in the opposite direction, we again find a strong relationship between sprawl and population growth. Figure A, up here to my right – and it’s also on page 6 – shows the relationship between population growth and sprawl by separating states based on the rate of population increase. The figures show a strong positive correlation between population and sprawl. In the states that declined in population between ’82 and ’97, developed land increased 20 percent on average. And as the chart also shows, of states that grew in population by zero to 10 percent, developed land increased 26 percent on average, and so on. In states that grew by less than 20 percent, there was a 38 percent expansion in developed land, and in states with population growths of more than 20 percent, developed land increased 30 percent. And finally, there was a 40 percent expansion in – I’m sorry – in states with population growth of more than 20 percent and less than 30 percent, there was a 41 percent expansion in developed land on average, and most dramatically, the states that grew by more than 30 percent sprawled 46 percent on average.
Figure A shows that population growth and sprawl seem to go hand in hand. Right up the line, the more population growth, the more land was developed or lost, if you will, to development. Of course – and this is important to note that these figures also show that even where there is population decline there is still sprawl, indicating that increases in population is certainly not the only reason for sprawl. In those states, per capita land consumption accounts for all of the increase in sprawl. But overall, what this tells us is population is a critically important part of the equation.
Figure B on page 8 looks at the nation’s 100 largest urban areas between 1970 and 1990 and again shows the same pattern: where there is more population growth there is more sprawl. For example, urbanized areas with no population growth sprawled an average of 2 percent. But let me just give you a comparison figure that that figure shows. While those states with more than 50 percent population growth sprawled 112 percent on average, again, it is important to note that these figures also show that even where there is no population increase there is still some sprawl, indicating that increases in population, again, is not the only factor, but it obviously is a big part of the story.
Now, there are more systematic ways of calculating the relative contributions of population growth versus increase in per capita land use over time. Harvard physicist John Holdren has developed a simple formula – which we explain in detail in Appendix E – for allocating the respective roles of population growth and increases in per capita use of any resource, whether it be oil or natural gas. In this case, the resource in question of course is land.
Now, table 8 on page 72 – it’s the erratum page that you have – reports the results of the Holdren method using the Department of Agriculture state data, whose weighted averages or national total in page 8 show that per capita sprawl accounted for – or per capita increases in land consumption – for 48 percent of sprawl, but population growth accounted for 52 percent of sprawl. This is crucially important because it must be remembered that if population growth is half the story, then that would suggest that maybe half our efforts might want to focus there. But again, the smart growth and all the anti-sprawl efforts are focused on half the problem. It’s really . . . our approach so far has been the 50-percent solution.
Now, in case you were wondering about the Holdren formula, the logic behind it is actually pretty simple. As we discussed, there was a 16-percent increase in land use per person and a 16-percent increase in population growth over the time period of the study. If you add them together you get 32 percent, which is very similar, actually, to the 34 percent increase in total developed land. Just doing a simple comparison shows right there that about half of sprawl is due to population growth. What the Holdren formula does is quantify this relationship a little more precisely using logarithms, but you can see just by eyeballing the situation how it basically works.
We get very similar results if we look at the nation’s 100 largest urbanized areas between ’70 and ’90. The Holdren formula again shows that population growth accounted for slightly more than half of the expansion of urban land in the nation’s 100 largest cities.
Now, while the Holdren formula is very useful for apportioning the total amount of sprawl attributable to changes in per capita land use versus population growth, it doesn’t provide an estimate of how much land is lost to development when holding other factors constant. Regression analysis is probably the most commonly used statistical tool for examining the relationship between two or more variables, and table 9 on page 74 the result of the regression are reported.
The results, again, buttress what we’ve been talking about. What the table shows is that each 100,000-person increase in state population resulted in 1,600 acres of previously undeveloped land being developed. This is the case even after controlling for other factors, such as the initial size of the state’s population, the total land area in 1982, which is the start of the study, or even changes in per capita land consumption.
Now, it’s important to also note here again, the regression also shows that per capita land consumption also matters. For each 1,000-acre increase in the amount of developed land used by 10,000 people, 256 acres of undeveloped land were developed within the state, on average. Overall, the regression results, though, lend strong support to the findings we’ve been discussing, indicating that population growth is an important underlying reason for sprawl, but they also show that per capita land consumption is important.
Now, we have a lot of other statistics in here, but I’m going to sum it up here and just say that all of the statistics that we have compiled show that the smart growth approach, with its focus on increasing per capita land consumption, or density, fails to address a huge part of the reason for sprawl. Population growth is at least as important a factor as changes in land use. Put simply, the smart growth approach is not misguided but it is inadequate.
With that, I would like to turn it back over to Roy.
MR. BECK: Just to finish up, to talk about policy implications, once you know that population – you cannot – local communities, almost no local community can stop sprawl unless it works both with attacking the per capita sprawl and stabilizing its population. Once you know that, then the policy implications say, how do you stop the population growth? Well, on page 79 we discuss some of the ways that local governments can stop promoting population growth, through subsidizing developers, for example.
I mean, there are several things there, but in the end, that’s very short term. It’s very difficult for a local entity to stop or slow population growth considerably as long as the federal government is forcing about two and a half million additional people into local communities every year through immigration policies. The immigration policies add about two and half million people a year through legal immigrants, illegal aliens, and births to immigrants. In fact, between 2000 and 2002, the Census data – the government federal data shows that 87 percent of U.S. population growth – 87 percent – was related to new immigrants and births to immigrants.
So there’s just no way to slow down population growth and thus no way to stop sprawl in local areas unless Congress reduces the level of immigration. It’s just a statistical logical thread of thought there.
Native fertility, by the way, remains well below replacement level. It’s not been a source of long-term growth since 1971. It appears on the surface that immigration – federal immigration policy is the single-largest factor in sprawl in the communities across America. Therefore, Congress is basically the single-greatest cause of sprawl. It also can be the single-greatest solution to sprawl. It’s not possible to precisely divide the 20 major factors that cause per capita sprawl, but we discuss on page 79 the likelihood that immigration is the single-greatest factor.
Now, once that’s said, there still is an experience level that most people have, and it’s a little bit related to Mark’s initial reaction when he heard people talking about the connection of sprawl and immigration, and that is there is – what we think we know about immigration is this, and that is immigrants are poor; they dwell in high-density levels in the nation’s urban cores. The question is how can a people who crowd into inner cities be held responsible for sprawl on the outskirts?
Some version of that kind of question is a logical question to ask. What we’ve looked at – we have not done – we’re careful to say this is not in the findings; this is in policy implications. We have not done an actual study, which still can be done to track the sprawl patterns of immigrants precisely, but we do find a lot of government data that indicates to us that actually adding 1,000 immigrants to a community has about roughly the same effect on sprawl, eventually, as adding 1,000 natives to a community.
And it happens in four ways: number one, direct settlement of immigrants. Contrary to popular assumptions, immigrants do not settle in the core cities. Even among new immigrants, the census data reveals the majority, 56 percent, live in the suburbs. They don’t – excuse me, 56 percent live outside the central city where sprawl occurs.
Number two, the high fertility of immigrants versus the low replacement level fertility of natives means that the growth from immigrants creates a much larger second-generation than growth from natives does, and that much larger second generation requires all of the per capita needs that everybody else has – 40 percent higher fertility – at least 40 percent higher fertility among immigrants than there are among natives.
Now, there’s another impact, and that is the children of immigrants are just as likely as the children of natives to desert and shun the core urban areas of America. And this is actually – in many ways, it’s a welcome sign of assimilation. That is, the children of immigrants basically are assimilated to the American lifestyle. They don’t want to live in cities; they want to live in suburbs, they want to have lawns, they want to have detached homes. As I say, that’s a sign of assimilation, but it also suggests that the children of immigrants have the same effect one by one as the children of natives do on sprawl. In fact, of the children of immigrants who settle down and purchase a home or condo or townhouse, only 24 percent of them live in the nation’s central cities, which is almost exactly the same as the ratio for the children of natives.
Number three, new immigrants facilitate the movement of natives to outer edges, just like new natives do. That is, if you put new people – if you add population into a town, those are people who now are available to buy the homes in the central urban areas or the older suburban areas that allow the people who are already there to move to the outer edges. Only the wealthiest of people can afford to just abandon their entire investment in a home in the established city and build on the outskirts. If you didn’t have such high population growth, there simply would not be nearly as many people being able financially to be able to purchase homes, build homes out on the edge.
But number four, just the final one, is that this is the push factor, and that is a large concentration of immigrants tends to result in native flight. This has been documented both journalistically and academically from Dade County, Florida, to the Los Angeles Basin, and that is natives, whether they’re white, black, Hispanic or Asian, will tend to have a net movement away from areas that are high immigrant concentrations. The demographer, William Fry, has done a lot of work on this and he just says, quote, “Immigration exerts a pronounced impact on both the magnitude and selectivity of out-migration from high-immigration metro areas.”
As I say, there’s every indication to suggest that adding a thousand immigrants to a town will have roughly the same effect on sprawl as adding 1,000 natives. Since nearly all population growth nationwide is from adding immigrants and children of immigrants, it clearly, to us, the authors of the study, suggests that there is no solution to sprawl nationally and long term in the communities across the nation without Congress greatly reducing immigration levels, which happen to be about four times higher – the legal level is about four times higher now than it traditionally was before 1965.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Thanks, Roy. Ben Zuckerman?
BEN ZUCKERMAN: Well, Roy and Steve, I want to thank you very much for researching and putting together this important and really unique report. And, Mark, thanks for inviting me to participate in the panel.
I thought before I read the report I knew a fair amount about sprawl, but I’ve learned a lot from this study. Perhaps the most important thing to me that I learned was that smart growth means different things to different folks. And it’s been mentioned already this morning, there are three branches of this anti-sprawl idea that are outlined in this report, and that’s the conservation branch, the density branch, and the urban planning branch. And personally, I put myself firmly in the conservation branch, but it’s a very useful and helpful construct to realize that people are thinking about this in very different ways. Also, the list of 20 causes or suggested causes for declining population density I thought was very interesting to read, and these 20 things give the smart growth movement plenty of targets to shoot at.
Because I’m mathematically inclined I checked some of the calculations myself, using numbers in the report, and I found that, summed over the nation, the percentage of sprawl that could be attributed to population growth was about 52 percent, and this is in good agreement with what Roy and Steve and Leon have calculated.
I found the results to be really clearly and convincingly presented, in particular showing the important role of population, so what I intend to do is to bring the report to the attention of the anti-sprawl effort in the Sierra Club, which, as Mark mentioned, I’m on the board of directors, and I’m going to hope that the Sierra Club’s anti-sprawl effort will take the recommendations in this report into account.
By the way, this is a good time to put in the disclaimer that although I’m on the board of directors of a number of environmental organizations, the views I express today are my own and not representing those organizations.
Well, from my point of view as a scientist and a conservationist, I’d like to say a few words about smart growth and about population growth. I’d like to mention a few difficulties that I see with pursuing this smart growth path, and why conventional smart growth strategies are very likely to fail if population growth is not also addressed.
Specifically, just a few words about constructing smart communities and also about what people actually want in their lives. Part of the smart growth movement is clearly to have your places of work and your schools and whatnot, your shopping close to where you live, but I see real practical difficulties in implementing this kind of a policy. For example, a typical American moves, I think, on average about once every half dozen years or so, and then many families these days have two jobs, both the husband and wife work, and it’s hard enough to get two jobs in the same city, much less two jobs close by to where one lives. And then of course the children, sometimes multiple children in families, and so they need to go to different schools, and your kids age and schools change and so on.
And then this whole idea of high density. High density, to me, often means high prices, and people just can’t afford, in a high-density situation, to necessarily live close to where they work. For example, in my own situation at UCLA where I teach, the high-density community, the prices around UCLA are phenomenally high, real estate prices, so the staff and the faculty and the students and people who come to UCLA often have to live very far away from the school even though they’d like to live closer, just because high density has forced such high prices.
Then turning to people’s preferences. Well, Americans love automobiles, as you all know, and because of this it’s really hard to get them out of their cars, even if, for example, there are terrific bus lines nearby. And let me give you a personal example. I owned a condominium in Santa Monica some years ago, which I lived in and commuted by bus on the excellent Santa Monica bus lines to UCLA. Santa Monica buses are among the best buses in the entire country, yet when I moved out of my condo and started to rent it out, the very first tenants I rented to were a couple. Both of them worked at UCLA and they each individually drove their cars to UCLA. So whereas I was taking the bus on this wonderful bus system, these two people were driving two cars to UCLA.
And even with encouragement it’s tough to get people out of their cars. The UCLA now has a new program called Bruin Go – just been instituted in the last few years. And Bruin, by the way, is UCLA Bruins; that’s where that comes from. And the Bruin Go basically gives people free bus rides for nine months of the year during the academic – except in the summer – during the academic quarters. You can just go on the bus, it’s free, and yet so far the program’s only had marginal success. And as I was coming here on the airplane yesterday I was reading something from The Christian Science Monitor, just published a few days ago, about very similar problems taking place in Houston, Texas, for example, so I’ve just described to you how hard it is to get people out of their cars.
Well, people like their cars, they love their cars, but many Americans don’t like high densities, and I think Mark mentioned about how the Japanese are famous for high densities, and I couldn’t help but bring something which you can’t see from back there but you’re welcome to come up and look at it afterward. Anyway, it’s a picture of Tokyo Water Park. Tokyo is the epitome of high-density living. It’s the success of smart growth, I guess. And all these little dots which maybe you can or can’t see are people in the Tokyo Water Park. Doesn’t this look like fun? “Welcome to breathtaking Tokyo Water Park where you can wash away the pressure and stress of the overcrowded city and relax with your friends in the soothing enjoyment of sun, fun and splashing.” You come and take a look at this and you’ll see whether you agree with that or not.
But anyway, because of these various reasons, I think implementing smart growth is likely to be slow and ultimately limited. And this is especially true in the face of exploding populations and huge state budget deficits in places such as my home state of California.
The do-gooders and planners can often get deflected from real solutions by focusing on symptoms rather than underlying causes. And one of my pet peeves is recycling, for example. I’m all for recycling, but it’s such a miniscule fraction of our impact on the environment. There are a lot of people, I'm sure, in America who feel if they throw a few plastics or aluminum cans in the bin, that they’ve become environmentalists and they go about eating lots of beef and driving – and running their air conditioners full blast all the time. Smart growth is another way, in many senses, of looking at symptoms rather than really underlying causes.
As was mentioned earlier this morning, about half an acre per urban land can be attributed to each and every one of us on the average, but our ecological footprint, the amount of land we actually impact, is much, much larger than half an acre. Estimates run from 20 times or more the half an acre. In other words, this is really only a few percent of our total ecological input. Our national footprint is the number of people in the country times the impact per person, and the urban development described in this report is really only a small fraction, a modest percentage of our total ecological impact.
Some of the impact takes place not in our home but in our places of work. We have office space; we have our computers. I'm going to mention energy in a few minutes in a number of ways. Energy uses can really be used as a proxy for environmental impact. Many people do that. And computers is probably where we use plenty of energy and they also, because we turn them over so fast, create lots of waste.
Thinking back almost two years ago to September 11th, 2001, of course very sadly 3,000 people or so died on that – innocent people died on that date, but I can’t help but wondering how many computers went down when the World Trade Center collapsed. They’re just such an important part of our lives. About one third of total U.S. energy consumption these days goes into our residential and commercial buildings, but our tentacles extend much, much further than the places where we work and live. The industrial sector, for example, uses about a third of total consumption, total power used in the U.S., and of this third, about 70 percent goes to manufacturing the resources we use.
And for gathering in these resources, our resource consumption means our tentacles extend far, far beyond our places of residence. They extend all the way, for example, to China, where so much of our materials come from now. And with globalization, we have very little control over where our resources come from. For example, this hat was mailed to me recently from one of my favorite conservation organizations. If you look inside it says, 100 percent cotton, made in China. So here’s a hat whose production cost the use of land in China and then it was shipped 8,000 miles from China to California, taking energy to do that. And these are the kind of things that just don’t go into a smart growth calculation.
There’s the food we eat. There are about 1.3 billion cows on the Earth today and they create a lot of flatulence. This bovine flatulence, which is basically methane gas, a very important greenhouse gas, is leading to climate change.
Anybody here like to venture a guess what the most important environmental impact of an academic like myself is, on average? Does anyone know? I was very surprised when I –
MR. KRIKORIAN: Methane gas? (Laughter.)
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Not methane gas, no, but another kind of gas indirectly, and that is – it’s my airplane flights, like coming here to be part of this panel. And even before my wife and I put solar photovoltaics on our roof, which has totally zeroed-out our electrical energy usage, I calculated that I used about six times more energy on my airplane flights than I use at home. And again, remember, smart growth focuses on what you do at home. Now, my flights have very little to do with creating more urbanized land, but they have a lot to do with fuel consumption and climate change because they add not methane but carbon dioxide to our atmosphere. Now, other people travel a lot, too: journalists – maybe some journalists in the room, here – many businessmen and women travel, often by air; and I can help you calculate your impact if you’re interested.
Another issue that has been raised in the media recently is how the oceans are fished out. And it’s basically the fishermen said you wanted to eat them, so we caught them. And this is a huge global impact, the dying of our oceans, and it’s basically due to too many people, and it’s not going to go away as a result of smart growth.
In World War II, the Nazis understood that urban areas are far from sustainable, and we get massive inputs from outside of the areas where we live. For example, the Nazi armies encircled Leningrad, and hundreds of thousands of people starved in Leningrad because the tentacles of Leningrad, to sustain itself, were extending far out beyond Leningrad. And so, the urban area we create is only a small part of the whole picture.
And let me sort of finish up here just by showing you, as an astronomer, my friend, the Moon, here. And the Moon illustrates, I think very well, the difference between overpopulation and overcrowding. You know, we could transport, say, a few thousands or tens of thousands of people on the Moon. It doesn’t matter whether they are all bunched together at high density or spread out; there’s no overcrowding. But still, the Moon would be overpopulated because there is no sustainability; there are no resources there. It shows the way your tentacles have spread out and you need a lot more to live on than just the urban area which you forced to be converted.
So these impacts I have described will remain even if we have smart growth, and it will all get worse if we have continued population growth in the United States. By the way, though it’s not mentioned in the report as far as I could tell, in the 1990s, every single one of the 50 states in the United States increased its population, first time in history that every state in the union has increased in population over the period of a decade. So addressing population growth to me seems to be a win-win situation: you eliminate or address about half the problem of sprawl and you help to constrain all these other environmental impacts I have touched upon today.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Thank you, Ben. We will take questions for a little while. We have got some time to do that, so if you could identify yourself and your affiliation when you ask your question. Yes?
Q: I’m Maureen Holland. I’m an urban planner from the University of Maryland and part of the Smart Growth Center at the University of Maryland. And I have actually thought this was an interesting topic for a long time, so I’m glad that you have addressed it.
I can tell you first off that I am an urban planner, so my perspective is somewhat different. And the way it seems to me is that you have a very simple agenda punch, which is to preserve open space. So when I think about that, I wonder, you know, maybe just cut the population in half, then we have – (unintelligible) – even should have more open space.
I mean, it’s not clear to me where you draw the line on how much open space, and the way I see it is that the issue is – for public policy, it’s much more complicated. We want a high quality of life for all of us, and one of the reasons we have brought so many immigrants in is because of low population growth and what are we going to do about Social Security, what are we going to do about our retirement, who is going to be working in jobs when we all retire? So there are other issues about jobs, quality of life in terms of access to schools, access to health care, a reduction in poverty, all kinds of other things that we should be taking into account just than have lots of open space out there, which I know – (inaudible).
So maybe the issue is more: what land we should preserve? I mean, there is certain land that has some, you know, rare species; that, you know, has some kind of high quality farming, high-food farmland. So there is certain land that clearly we should preserve, and maybe that’s what we should be focusing on, not just preserving all land and cutting population growth so that -- you know, we won’t do that anyway. So that’s what strikes me about your study, is –
MR. BECK: Yeah. Well, certainly, by focusing on the permanent removal of rural land is not to suggest that there are no other problems in the country. And as I said earlier, we definitely agree that the urban planning mode of anti-sprawl has a lot of issues that are legitimate issues, things about quality planning and how development occurs. But our point is is that the urban planning mode does not have a whole lot to do with saving rural land. That’s our point. It’s not to put up in opposition, but it’s to say that urban planning studies – the urban planning anti-sprawl type studies – do not really address that issue. What we do know –
Q: (Off mike) – that’s really fair because a lot of it is, and when you look at Maryland, is preservation of rural land. That’s purchasing up land, easements, new strategies, and it’s targeted to lands important to preserve; not all land, but land we thought it’s important –
MR. BECK: That’s right, but it does not address the overall issue, which – you’re just – I mean, you’re expressing – I mean, I think – I’m not saying you speak for all urban planners, but I think you speak probably pretty well for most urban planners, and that is it’s not a great concern about overall land, it’s a concern about specific, specialized land. And this is – one of the things we point out in this study is that there are many people who are pro-sprawl. There are many organizations that are pro-sprawl. I think there already is a website that has kind of attacked this report because it’s a pro-sprawl organization.
You know, we have – certainly, lots of development organizations are pro-sprawl -- that is, pro-developing land – but there is – it is clear, though, that across the country, there is a growing concern among the American people in the kind of an issues they take in the local areas about the overall loss of open spaces on the edges. I mean, for instance, it is – it’s not – the people in the Washington, D.C. area are not just concerned about saving the most prime farmland or the most – where the endangered species live, in the habitat, it also is something about is it possible to drive anywhere in Loudoun County and still have an open vista? Do you have to go all the way – you know, at the rate we’re going, you have to go all the way to Front Royal before you can see a vista, so –
Q: Or do I spend two hours on the Beltway getting to my job?
MR. BECK: Exactly, all of these things. So it’s just so say – it is to say that we believe that the evidence is that the actual amount of space that’s being used, especially when you’re in a place like California or the Eastern Seaboard, the actual amount is very important because it’s not like we’re living in South Dakota, where there’s extreme amounts of open spaces.
In terms of the question about, well, do we have other reasons why we need to have high immigration, for other purposes, well, that’s a legitimate question. Our study addresses the issue of -- if you’re trying to deal with removing rural space, and with that kind of sprawl, immigration is very harmful to that. Now, is that a tradeoff the American people want to make; that is, is there something about high immigration that is so valuable to the American people that they are willing to give up the open spaces? That’s another issue. We do address a couple –
Q: Or you could say differently, it’s not to give up the open spaces, but those of us who are here living in higher densities.
MR. BECK: But what we have found is is that’s not happening; that is, there’s nowhere in America that you can find – I mean, if you go to a place like Boulder or Portland or the state of Oregon, you go to places that have – where the people have allowed the most restrictive zoning and rearrangement of personal choices, and even in those areas sprawl is occurring at major rates because the population is growing. There’s no sign that, anywhere in America, that people are willing to live at the density that you can pile people in – more population in – without sprawling.
Then, even if – and even to the extent that you might be able to do that for a short period of time, it’s like, can you do that forever? The United States is one of the most rapidly growing countries in the world. It’s not a sustainable future at this population growth. Yeah, I’m sorry –
MR. ZUCKERMAN: Could I add something from California that I think is relevant to your question?
Q: (Cross talk, off mike, inaudible.)
MR. ZUCKERMAN: By the way, we have some things in common, then, because I taught at the University of Maryland before I went to UCLA. (Chuckles.) Small world.
But to try and head a little bit to Roy’s remarks about Oregon, in California – well, firstly, let me say something about Los Angeles which many people may not realize, just to show how quickly things can really change. Do you know what the – after World War II, the number one agricultural county in the entire United States of America was in terms of dollar value of agricultural production? It was Los Angeles County. Not Orange County, it was Los Angeles County. In the 1950s, ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s, over a period of 40 years or so, L.A. went from the number one agricultural county to the most densely populated urban area in the entire United States according to the way the Census Bureau defines urban areas.
And the same thing now is happening in the Central Valley of California. The Central Valley produces 25 – our Central Valley produces 25 percent of all the food Americans eat, and I think more than 50 percent of the fresh fruits and vegetables and nuts and whatnot like that. But studies have shown that with current population changes there – growth, basically, of population in the Central Valley – it’s all going to be gone well before the end of this century; Central Valley won’t even be able to feed itself, much less a quarter of the entire United States.
And the reason why I think this is relevant to the point you just raised is that population growth is so rapid in California, it’s literally out of control. There is no political will to stop this, and you all must know about the political mess we have in California now. We are in a hopeless situation and our rapid population growth is only one of many reasons for this hopeless situation. But when your government is literally out of control, there is no way it’s going to control growth in something like the Central Valley. So the Central Valley, in spite of all the nice things we might say in principle, in theory about protecting it, is going to go under because the practical political realities in California are just hopeless in the face of all of our problems.
MR. CAMAROTA: Yeah, let me address one other part of your question, on sort of the other benefits of immigration, and there are always other benefits and costs of immigration in general, as I have devoted most of my professional career to looking at the economics of immigration.
I kind of come down where the National Academy of Science came down when it did its study in ’97, is that the effect – the benefits of immigration economically, they said, may create net benefits economically to natives of one to 10 billion a year, but that mainly comes by driving down the wages of the working poor, the bottom 10 percent. They also said that the fiscal costs, if you look at all the taxes immigrants pay versus all the service they use, ate up all the benefits; maybe $20 billion net effect, negative, from immigration. The nation’s leading immigration economist, George Borjas at Harvard, in his recent book “Heaven’s Door,” comes to basically the same conclusion.
You can’t argue for current immigration because it creates economic benefits, but you could argue for it because it creates other benefits, maybe the increase in diversity. And another good argument for immigration is that it gives some -- although a tiny fraction of the world’s population, nonetheless, it gives people the chance to share in the abundance of American life, so it could be kind of an altruism argument. But at least -- if we are going to make those arguments, we at least have to understand that there are some very real costs, and one of those costs is that if you grow the U.S. population like this, you are going to pave over an awful lot of land. And we may decide that’s a fair trade, but we at least have to understand that that is one of the implications of immigration.
Q: You know, the one relationship that I think you’re missing in this is that the way you word it -- and I haven’t read the report – is that it sounds like these immigrants come and they take up extra land. Probably the most likely scenario is that immigrants come, the income level is rising, and people like you and me, because our income level is rising, we consume more land than we would otherwise. So it’s not immigrants that are moving out there. So you have –
MR. BECK: But they are. (Chuckles.)
Q: -- (cross talk, inaudible) -- moving to the suburbs – you know, if you look at Washington, D.C., the immigrants are going towards – (background noise, inaudible) – Park, Tacoma Park –
MR. BECK: Manassas. There’s -- many of the apartment buildings that are being built on the very edge of the city in Manassas are going up for Mexican immigrants. You have lots of – and of course, 25 percent of immigrants are college degree people, and they’re well represented in the outer areas.
Q: The point I’m making is the suburbs are not the suburbs. I mean, not – you say the suburbs and it makes it sound like it’s sprawl, but there’s a lot of suburbs that are like inner cities.
MR. KRIKORIAN: There’s a question back here.
Q: Yeah, Don Chen, Smart Growth America. I’m glad to hear that we all share a very strong concern about how sprawl is destroying our economy and quality of life. I do want to clarify two misleading comments that you all made.
One is that you keep talking about this distinction between the urban planning and density and conservationist camps within smart growth. And our coalition, which consists of about 100 of the nation’s leading national, state, and regional smart growth organizations include also the nation’s leading conservation groups, like Trust for Public Land and Conservation Fund, and, you know, lots and lots of groups like that, National Wildlife Federation and Sierra Club. And, you know, I can say for sure that these conservation groups do not share the same viewpoints that you all are talking about. Mainly, they are focused on the purchase of land, on preservation of open space through direct means, and if you look at the 35 or so state and regional growth management groups that are a part of our coalition, that’s also their position and they’re very much focused on legislation to affect land use decisions.
I think part of the reason why they haven’t come to embrace your position on immigration is because they, like the broader set of groups in our coalition, have not been convinced that the immigration is a significant contributor to sprawl. We have done our own analysis using the same data set -- the NRI data -- looking at metropolitan areas, and have found that population – total population, not even identifying immigration as a component of that – only accounts – only explains 31 percent of land developments, and that’s total in development. And I think we, again, make a further distinction between total land development and what is sprawl, and I think that’s another distinction that you’re also making. But if you consider that immigration accounts for anywhere from a third to a half of population growth –
MR. BECK: Eighty-seven percent. Eighty-seven percent. It’s accounting for 87 percent now.
Q: I know that you’re also counting the children of –
MR. BECK: Sure.
Q: -- immigrants as well, and that’s another distinction. I would call these children Americans if they’re born in the U.S.
MR. CAMAROTA: So would I, but their presence here is because we let their parents in, so that’s an impact on population growth. But we both agree that they are 100 percent Americans and are U.S. citizens.
Q: Right. So basically it’s a minority, and you have all sorts of examples of metropolitan areas that have lost population over the last decade and a half that also sprawled. You have a lot of metropolitan areas –
MR. CAMAROTA: Why don’t you cut him off and let Roy answer?
MR. KRIKORIAN: Yeah. Let’s let Roy answer. I think we get the point.
MR. BECK: Yeah. Well, I mean, I think you’re basically – I mean, basically, you are making the point which was not a -- oppositional comments in our study, but a statement of fact; that is, you’re – they’re stating how different the smart growth look at sprawl is from this land conservation look. That’s not to say there is not conservation in the smart growth effort because you are exactly right, and that’s one of the things we point out in the study. One of the interesting things to us was that most environmental groups are not looking at sprawl primarily from saving land, but from a standpoint of urban planning, some energy conservation having to do with mass transit, and with saving – sort of saving the best, the jewels, along the way.
And I think we would argue that the American people have a choice here. The American people can have a choice on whether to allow population growth, to allow Washington to overtake Frederick, to overtake Front Royal, but to save a few jewels along the way; or, we have the choice, as the American people, to not do that. And that – I think, you know, the fact is is that the cause of this massive sprawl is about half related to population growth, which is nearly entirely related to immigration because, as I say, it can’t be related, long-term, to native fertility because native fertility has been below replacement level since 1971. What we would argue is that until this study has been done, there had been no good study to quantify this, and how it has been quantified. The study that you referred to that refers to the 31 percent looks at – it looks at sprawl and defines it in a different way. However, I would say that –
Q: It doesn’t. It defines it the same way that you are. It’s – (unintelligible) – the NRI data.
MR. BECK: Are you talking about the Pendle study?
Q: No, this is actually an analysis done by the mineral and food industry –
MR. BECK: Yeah.
Q: -- but it’s a different one than the one –
MR. BECK: And I’m not going to go into great detail now in the difference between the studies, but the main thing I would say is this: whether it’s about half – whether population growth it causing about half the sprawl or this study, which says 31 percent, if you have a major societal problem that has a single factor that’s causing a third of the problem, I can’t imagine that people would say it’s an insignificant part of the problem. It’s a huge part of the problem.
I was talking to somebody in New Jersey yesterday. New Jersey, the population growth is only – our study and calculations – the population growth is only – accounts for about 25 percent of the sprawl in New Jersey, but that’s a huge factor. One factor that relates to a whole quarter of the problem, and it probably is the single greatest factor; that is, there’s no other factor that is that big.
Q: Well, let me clarify, I mean –
MR. KRIKORIAN: Let’s – no, let’s see if anybody else wants questions. I mean, this is –
Q: I actually –
MR. KRIKORIAN: If any – no, excuse me. If someone else has a question, I would really rather they had the chance, and then you can ask another one if no one’s interested in asking. Anyone else? Okay, well, go ahead. Now you get a chance. (Laughter.)
Q: I’m glad we preserved decorum. The 31 percent is total population and total land development, and then we narrowed this down. Immigration is a component, a subset of total population, and sprawl, I have argued, is a component of all land development. There is a distinction between all land development and what is smart growth and what is sprawl. Some land development is actually very efficient, you know, according to the urban planning approach. Very efficient, you know, located next to – adjacent to existing developments, as you know, services and all of those types of things that we talked about. And these are the things, even, you know, the most established conservation groups in America -- such as the group that we work with in American Farmland Trust, I forgot to mention – recognize that there is such a thing as smart development, and such development ought to be encouraged because so much of the development out there is, in fact, inefficient development.
MR. BECK: But you wouldn’t – yeah, I understand that, but you wouldn’t need that smart development if you didn’t have population growth. The only thing that’s driving that, that makes that necessary, is population growth. And as a society, that’s our question: do we want to force the development because even if it’s nicely done – and it’s nice that it’s nicely done – it’s still permanently removes natural habitat and farmland. And so, you know, that’s the question, is how much – I mean, even if we were to -- by the way, Census Bureau says even if we were to totally stop immigration now, no immigration after this, this country would still add another 50 to 70 million people over this century. So we have – even if we were to stop immigration, which we don’t happen to recommend, we need a lot of smart growth. There’s – the smart growth industry would not be driven out of business if we stopped having population growth. Well, we’re not going to stop having population growth for another 50, 70 years.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Anyone else? Yes, well –
Q: Well, the reason I think that what you did is of value is that you can then look at the tradeoffs. You know, given these benefits of immigration, this is one of the costs, you know, how do we follow up on immigration. I mean, I think it’s a contribution – (inaudible).
MR. BECK: That’s fair enough, and I appreciate your – both the complex comments and questions.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Well, thanks, folks. This report, for those of you who want to tell others about it – you have a hard copy yourselves, but it’s online in its entirety. I can’t speak for the panelists, but I guess I sort of will. They’re here for a while, so if you want to buttonhole them and bother them some, feel free to do so, politely. And thanks for coming and I hope we will see you at our next event. Thank you.