New West Fantasy Lands – A Reflection

In my last post, I wrote of the growth issues facing Greater Yellowstone and, specifically, Bozeman and the Gallatin Valley.

These can always be topics fraught with a sense of self-interest, and mixed with elements of envy and resentment.

Seeing a future that looks to be a good less desirable than what has passed does not give me the right to tell someone else they have no right to move to Bozeman – or Gig Harbor for that matter; as is true of many places, Gig Harbor and the wider Puget Sound area face the same issues of rapid growth and its costs, as well as the increasing impacts of climate change.

One of the realities one faces with the passing decades of one’s life is seeing how much has changed – often, not for the better.

I’m not speaking of the older person who says, “back in the day” or “when I was your age” in attempt to contrast personal behavior, social mores, movies or televisions, music, or some other fondly remembered past. (And I’ll note, that it was better decades ago in many things – call me a hypocrite).

Nope. I’m talking about the big things.

Start with world population.

About the time I was born, there were 2.6 billion people on Earth; last year, there were 7.9 billion people. And at current rates, world population will grow to 9.8 billion by 2050. What happens when that population (much of it in the global south) become climate refugees? The crisis at the US southern border is but one emerging example.

Now, think about fresh water needed for all life.

Currently, there appears to be enough freshwater worldwide for the current world population – though there are significant distribution problems in the distribution of that freshwater (see here). Estimates are that about 500 million people experience water scarcity at present.

By 2050, that number could grow to 50% of the world’s population – or almost 5 billion people. How livable is life anywhere when fresh water becomes more precious and valuable than gold?

Consider the Syrian Civil War was caused in part by one of the worst droughts recorded in Syrian history (2006-2011), with a resulting mass migration of Syrian farmers to urban areas; wars have been fought for lesser reasons – so, what happens when people are dying from thirst?

This same exercise could be run through for food, shelter, or heat illnesses from rising temperatures.

While people flee cities “back East” or from wherever, and move to Bozeman or Gig Harbor in an attempt to flee congestion, crime, dead-end jobs, school system problems, traffic, or other experienced ills, what happens is that the problems come with them.

Here in Gig Harbor, population increase has resulted in school overcrowding, surging home prices, downtown traffic problems, and increasing property crimes. Much of the formerly open spaces around Bozeman are now seeing construction of new houses; those mean new roads and traffic; school overcrowding; and all the other urban ills.

How long before the new location begins to feel just like the old one – no matter the views?

The truth is fantasy-lands in 2021 are just that. There are no more places to flee that no one knows about.

Wherever one lives, be it Gig Harbor, Bozeman, or Toledo, it’s time to step back and think about the individual choices we make on a daily basis. We are headed to a time when it won’t matter if we can see Puget Sound or the Gallatin Range out our windows.

Dreams of moving or visiting somewhere desirable are fine; they can give hope and provide a life goal. But they should never be thought of as a way of escaping our shared responsibilities to each other and the world we share.

Author: Tom

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