What Is Vermont’s Optimal/Sustainable Population Size?

October 16, 2013 • Daily Email Recap

Vermont‘s Optimal/Sustainable Population is 500,000

See: http://www.vspop.org/htm/optimum_sustainable_population_vermont_2013_small.pdf

Although Vermont‘s current population size is approximately 626,000, a truly optimal/sustainable population size ranges from between 150,000 to 700,000 according to a report just released by Vermonters for Sustainable Population. Vermont has become the first state in the nation, and probably the first political entity in the world, to have a reasonably valid projection for an optimal/sustainable population size.

The report, What Is Vermont‘s Optimal/Sustainable Population Size?, uses a “whole systems thinking” approach of fifteen different indicators to determine what that size is. The indicators are biodiversity, democracy, ecological footprint, environmental health, greenhouse gas emissions, food self-sufficiency, forest cover, happiness, quality of life, renewable energy, rural living/working landscape, scenic beauty, spiritual connectedness, steady state economy, and water quality.

“In terms of the future of the health of Vermont‘s environment and its overall quality of life this is probably the most important report ever released” according to Lisa Sammet, President of Vermonters for Sustainable Population. “The sixteen experts who wrote the indicators are among the most knowledgeable people in Vermont for their field and their writing is important for everyone who cares about the future of Vermont.”

The report is also gaining national and international attention. Robert Walker, the president of the Population Institute based in Washington D.C. states that, “Discussions about what constitutes an optimal, sustainable population will always elicit varying opinions, but it’s a discussion that is well worth having. People everywhere, including Vermont, need to have a better understanding of how population pressures are affecting natural resources, living conditions, biodiversity, and the bio-systems that sustain human well-being. This is an informative and eye-opening report.” Reviews from local, state, national, and international experts can be read in the report at www.vspop.org


—–The seventy page report includes for each indicator a definition, a statement on the importance to Vermonters, what the current trends are, what will happen if the population keeps on growing, and concludes with a projection of the best population size for that indicator, as well as including many graphics and photos.

The report concludes with recommendations on how Vermont can reach an optimal/sustainable population. Some of these recommendations are taken from the 1973 Population Policy Report
published by the Vt. Natural Resources Council, some from the book The No-Growth Imperative: Creating Sustainable Communities under Ecological Limits to Growth, and some are new recommendations developed by Board of Vermonters for Sustainable Population. The recommendations include steps that can be take at the individual, community, state, and national levels.

The report was edited, assembled and designed by consultant Heather V. Davis. Heather says that, “As a mother of two children I am very concerned about the future living conditions for them if the population of Vermont, the United States, and the world continues to grow exponentially, as it is projected to do. Before working on this report I was rather naïve about population growth, but now I am more than convinced that it is the number one problem facing this and future generations.”

The report was developed because in 1973, the Vermont Natural Resources Council, in what may be the first environmental report ever published in Vermont — the Vermont Popula¬tion Policy Report — stated that, “We must determine Vermont‘s carrying capacity, then we must estimate the number of people that can live here so that every Vermonter has access to a life of quality that he can afford.” Carrying capacity was the term in use back then, and now we more often use the term “sustainable” which is a more accurate and comprehensive term. The report uses its own very strong definition of “sustainable” rather than the commonly accepted definition of, “can continue forever.”

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