A Shippensburg University study has found that the ecological carrying capacity of the county will have a hard time with continued growth, Brandon Shulleeta writes in today’s Progress. Commissioned by Advocates for a Sustainable Albemarle Population—and funded in part by the city and the county—the study (4.9MB PDF) is limited to environmental matters, and considers how well our water, air, and other natural resources on which we depend will fare under an ever-increasing population density. It turns out that the trouble starts when the population climbs from our existing 140,000 to 217,000, when we’d wind up with air pollution problems, nitrogenous waste in water, and storm water filling our lakes and streams. The forecast was done in part with the CITYgreen program, a sort of a grownup SimCity.
The good news is that the requisite 55% population growth is a long way off, but the bad news is that it’s well within my likely lifetime. These results are sort of obvious—more people are bad for the environment, duh—but the ability to quantify the county’s ecological carrying capacity is important as one of a great many factors to use to determine if we want to grow, how much we want to grow, and how fast that we want to do it.
Disclaimer: I’m on the board of ASAP, I’ve helped oversee this study in that (limited) capacity, and I helped write the press release announcing this study. Really, I’m about as biased as I could be on this, save that I’ve got no financial interest in the matter.