Manifest Destiny to Human Habitats

Manifest Destiny to Human Habitats February 6, 2015

The American Dream is often summarized as a House, a yard, a car, and 2.5 kids. This American Dream creates overpopulation and waste. This arises from Manifest Destiny, the early-America dream of colonizing the continent. Conquering the continent or the planet like a plague can’t be the best way. The overpopulation and waste we have now is an improvement on the genocide of Manifest Destiny, but we can do better. The Clean Air Act and rotation toward renewable energy have been good, but America is still a capitalist country dominated by for-profit corporations more interested in avoiding than exceeding environmental standards. And all that goes back to you and me, Americans who might grab the organic broccoli at the store and take it home in a plastic bag. Not the best option.

Business Insider recently published an article showing counties where half of the US population is concentrated. Below, I conducted an aggregation and analysis of these counties for easier review. The reason is population density provides a way to reduce harm to the planet. People often look at a rural community as more ‘green’ and an urban area as polluted and bad for the environment. They’re right in that there is more pollution density in an urban area, but in terms of per capita pollution, the number is smaller. “The rent is too [darn] high” is what one NYC candidate for governor focused on, but presumably rent would be reduced as well with a greater collective effort at city planning. Rural areas have more pipes and roads to distant houses, more walls radiating away heat, fewer shared services, and more transportation to get food to people each day which means all those streams and trees just get polluted. Concentrating people in smaller areas allows for shared services, a greater focus on reducing and cleaning pollution, and a smaller burden on large tracts of then-uninhabited land. And these populated counties offer a template for where people might live.

Business insider found 146 counties with half the US population. But counties are of very different sizes and sometimes it might not be clear. So looking more closely, THA found potentially 48 Human Habitats suitable primarily for population centers. 4 locations would be better fit for alternate uses. Looking at the map, that would leave large tracts of land available for wilderness primarily, but also a few industrial farms, mining, and transportation outposts with limited human population and again a laser focus on reducing and mitigating any pollution in those areas. Those vast areas of wilderness would require Rangers to protect indigenous wildlife and land from human damage. Alternatively, those human habitats could more aggressively defend against animals in human areas, considering the large tracts of available wilderness for animals (recognizing not all land is equal). If we are humans are the danger, why are we sectioning off wilderness? Why make animal habitats or national parks when we should be making human habitats to protect them from us?

Imagine fully-planned, self-sustaining megaplex cities with their own internal transportation – no cars in the city. I think this would be do-able if we all focused on just 48 population areas around the country. Natural threats like hurricanes, blizzards, earthquakes, and tornadoes would still threaten man of these areas, but defense and recovery would continue to be easier. And we may choose to move away from some of those areas. I note with mixed feelings that New Orleans is not among the 146 counties…

All this is of course would require a draconian control on where people live and work and how people are allowed to move throughout the country. It would also require great faith in central planning at least at the city level. Neither restriction on liberty nor confidence in the government are likely any time soon, but I think the exercise is worth considering because we Americans cause very real environmental damage to the planet in our current spread throughout the country.

52 centers and 146 counties – click for full image (metro labels added by THA)

Production Centers (4):

  • Fresno converted to agriculture hub
  • Las Vegas closed as unsustainable
  • Honolulu converted to recovery (resort) and science/cultural center
  • McAllen, TX converted to transport/industrial center

Human Habitats (48):

Note: regions are essentially meaningless. It’s just to for easier reference

* indicates a megaplex of ongoing urban sprawl rather than just one city: San Francisco includes Sacramento and San Jose, LA includes from Ventura to Inland Empire and OC plus San Diego. Boston to DC is an ongoing city and multiple urban centers.

  • Northwest (3): Seattle, Tacoma, Portland, OR
  • West Coast (2*): San Francisco, LA, San Diego
  • Desert (7): Salt Lake City, Denver, Phoenix, Albuquerque, El Paso, Tulsa, Oklahoma City
  • Mountain & Plains (5): Denver, Omaha, Wichita, Kansas City, St Louis
  • Texas (4): Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, Houston
  • Great Lakes (6): Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Madison, Chicago, Lansing, Detroit
  • Midwest (7): Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Louisville, Pittsburgh
  • South (5): Memphis, Nashville, Atlanta, Greensboro, Jackson
  • Niagara (3): Buffalo, Syracuse, Albany
  • BosNYWash (1*): Boston, NYC, Philadelphia, Baltimore, DC
  • Atlantic (3): Winston-Salem, Raleigh, Charlotte
  • Florida (5): Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa, Naples, Miami
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