- Why did SUSPS introduce the 2001 sprawl ballot question?
- How do you know population growth is the root cause of sprawl?
- Would every single sprawl pamphlet and bumper sticker have to be changed?
- What efforts did the petitioners make in 2001 to compromise with the Club?
- Didn't the Club say they will do all this anyway?
- Wouldn't the sprawl ballot question cause the Club to spend funds in a wasteful manner?
- Did groups and chapters support this effort?
- Wouldn't passage of the 2001 sprawl ballot question have caused a lot of additional work for the sprawl committee?
- What was the Sierra Club's 2001 position on population and what actions has it taken?
- What about Detroit? Hasn't it experienced sprawl without population growth?
- What about California?
- Wasn't SUSPS abusing the initiative process once again?
- Why should a group of outsiders tell the Club Sprawl Committee how to do their job?
- Didn't this ballot question marginalize the work of the Sprawl Committee?
- Didn't the GPEPC already deal with overpopulation?
- We already have a population program and committee (GPEPC). Isn't that enough?
- Wasn't the 2001 Sprawl Ballot Question an Immigration Ballot Question in disguise?
- Wasn't this initative sponsored by the same people who brought up mass immigration in 1998?
"Why did SUSPS introduce the 2001 sprawl ballot question?"
SUSPS was disturbed to find that the Sierra Club's extensive
and expensive anti-sprawl materials had nothing to say about
the population component. It is misleading to imply that
poor planning and short-sighted laws alone have brought us
to today's state of choking sprawl. The United States has
grown from 150 million in 1950 to 275 million today - and we
are living with the consequences. The nation's leading
environmental organization owes it to its members to report
on these facts accurately.
"How do you know population growth is the root cause of
We believe our eyes. Many of us live in areas that have been
noticeably impacted by growth in the last decade or two,
where there is increased crowding in schools, public transit
and everyday life as well as on the highways. More people
need more infrastructure, such as housing, schools and roads
- so sprawl happens.
"Would every single sprawl pamphlet and bumper sticker have
to be changed?"
No. The SUSPS Sprawl ballot question stated: "The Sierra
Club shall emphasize both regional and national population
stabilization as essential components in all Sierra Club
sprawl materials and programs." The intent of this
question is for population growth to be mentioned in a
reasonable manner in principal sprawl materials. There was
absolutely no need for bumper stickers and small brochures
to be changed to include mention of population.
The Club has sought to confuse the membership, saying that
the ballot question is too strong because it says that "all"
Club materials must emphasize population education. Yet in November, 2000
against specific compromise wording which did not say "all." The "all" objection is a
(see the full story).
In fact, the word "all" was added at the insistence of the Sierra
Club when the ballot question was first submitted for Club
approval. The claim was that without the word "all" or equivalent, the original
question was not specific enough. The original wording that the Club rejected stated:
"The Sierra Club shall emphasize both regional and national population stabilization as essential components in the Sierra Club's sprawl campaign materials and programs".
It would be ludicrous to insist that every paragraph of
the sprawl campaign address population or that every single
piece of sprawl material be changed in order to implement
the ballot question.
"What efforts did the petitioners make in 2001 to compromise with the Club?"
SUSPS has worked diligently to negotiate a compromise solution so that the ballot question need not be presented to the membership. The idea was that if the Board would implement the intent of the ballot question, petitioners would withdraw the ballot question.
In the summer of 1999, SUSPS began to confer with the Club over the exact wording of the Ballot Question that would appear in the election materials every member receives. The Club Secretary countered that our original wording was not precise enough and insisted the wording be strengthened - so we added the word "all" to the original language, producing the final ballot question.
In September, 2000 SUSPS offered a draft resolution to the Board to consider adopting. The Board essentially ignored the SUSPS wording but instead passed a resolution encompassing some of the intent of the ballot question. SUSPS felt that this resolution was inadequate and continued negotiations with the Board.
In the spirit of cooperation and education, in November, 2000 SUSPS accepted a compromise resolution that was proposed by Director Anne Ehrlich and Executive Director Carl Pope and agreed to withdraw the ballot question. The resolution stated: "The Sierra Club shall emphasize both regional
and national population stabilization as educational components in Club sprawl campaigns."
Note that this was an extremely weak resolution; it could have been implemented in a very minimal manner.
However, the Board then rejected this compromise, thus forcing the original ballot question to appear on the 2001 ballot. This rejection shows how out of touch Club management has become.
(see the full story).
"Didn't the Club say they will do all this anyway?"
The Sprawl Committee suggested that they will address population in a meaningful manner in future publications. Yet in five published sprawl reports totaling 150 pages, population growth was hardly mentioned at all. Clearly, continuing past performance will not get the job done. In fact, if the Sprawl Committee truly wanted to incorporate population growth along with land use issues, they would support the ballot question.
"Wouldn't the sprawl ballot question cause the Club to spend
funds in a wasteful manner?"
Since when is discussing important issues a waste of time
and funds within the Sierra Club? Our country's population
has doubled since around 1945 and, according to January 2000
U.S. Census Bureau projections, will double again within the
lifetime of children born today.
This is indeed worthy of some very serious discussion in the
Sierra Club. Sprawl campaign materials are revised and
released on at least a yearly basis. The ballot question was
not dictating that existing material be thrown out and
reprinted, but rather that population be adequately
addressed in the next revision of the campaign's material.
The incremental cost would be negligible.
"Did groups and chapters support this effort?"
Seventeen Sierra Club chapters, along with their
constituent groups and committees, had already passed
Population-Sprawl Resolutions in the last 18 months prior to the 2001 Sierra Club election.
Grassroots members want honest debate and comprehensive
solutions. Many realize that Smart Growth is a band-aid
approach, one that does not address the root cause of sprawl
- unending U.S. population growth.
"Wouldn't passage of the 2001 sprawl ballot question have caused a lot of
additional work for the sprawl committee?"
The sprawl campaign has produced some excellent materials,
mostly by volunteer effort. No one was asking that the
sprawl campaign carry the burden of implementing the
resolution on its own - in fact, population growth is not
the area of expertise of the campaign. The Club has a
tremendous grassroots support base at its disposal, which is
infrequently mobilized In fact, population committees and
activists are highly informed on the issue of population and
would certainly volunteer to contribute to this effort.
"What was the Sierra Club's 2001 position on population
and what actions has it taken?"
Sierra Club policy was adopted in 1970 that stated: "That we
must find, encourage, and implement at the earliest possible
time the necessary policies, attitudes, social standards,
and actions that will, by voluntary and humane means
consistent with human rights and individual conscience,
bring about the stabilization of the population first of the
United States and then of the world."
In fact, an October 1999 directive from Carl Pope stated
"The Sierra Club Board of Directors recently clarified - not
changed - its existing policy to state that the world and
the U.S. should go beyond population stabilization to
But population will not be addressed if it is not discussed
and presented to Sierra Club members as a legitimate issue.
The sprawl ballot question simply required the premier campaign
of the Sierra Club - the sprawl campaign - to include a
realistic discussion about population growth as a component
of sprawl in its materials.
"What about Detroit? Hasn't it experienced sprawl without
Detroit (and Cleveland and St. Louis) are often brought up as the exceptions that disprove
the rule that population growth equals sprawl. It is
certainly the case that the degree to which population
growth affects sprawl varies from region to region.
Detroit has had a unique history in terms of the primacy of the land-gobbling
auto industry, that industry's rapid decline and the urban center's abrupt
collapse. It may indeed be one of the rare communities which show no relation
between population growth and sprawl. However, in the great majority of urban
areas, increasing population leads to more sprawl -- just as common sense
For more quantative information, see www.SprawlCity.org.
"What about California?"
Not surprisingly, population growth is associated with
sprawl in California. California's population has exploded
from a population of 16 million in 1960 to 35 million now,
and the resulting sprawl can be seen everywhere.
A new report Sprawl in California,
shows that population growth is a highly associated with sprawl in that state.
Unfortunately, what has happened in California is already
occurring in the rest of the nation.
"Wasn't SUSPS abusing the initiative process once again?"
Too much democracy? SUSPS doesn't think so - we think that
more democracy would improve the corporatized Sierra Club
enormously! We look at the business entity that the club of
John Muir has become and believe that a serious reform and
renewal process is needed. The Sierra Club has become
concerned entirely too much about book, travel and calendar
sales. We agree with David Brower that the core
environmental impetus has been lost. Saving the earth must
be the prime directive - first, last and always.
Furthermore, in the 1999 annual election, members of Sierra
Club rejected the Board of Directors' efforts to
severely restrict membership referendums for setting Club
policy by increasing by 250% the number of signatures
required to place a measure on the ballot. Members opposed
the bylaw change by almost two to one. Clearly members of
the Sierra Club favor the democratic ballot initiative
"Why should a group of outsiders tell the Club Sprawl
Committee how to do their job?"
The Sierra Club is organized as a democratic institution.
Therefore we are compelled by our interest in stabilizing US
population growth to speak out. We would be irresponsible as
environmentalists to do otherwise. It is important to note
that we are NOT outsiders. SUSPS ® is composed of thousands of long-time Sierra
Club members who feel that environmental core principles
have been lost in political compromises.
"Shouldn't the Club focus on real environmental issues
instead of population?"
Population is the root cause of most of our environment
problems, including sprawl. Human overpopulation is THE
environmental problem, according to former U.S. Senator and
founder of Earth Day, Gaylord Nelson.
The U.S. is already draining the petroleum reserves,
fisheries and forests of many other nations on the planet.
Our population growth has a disproportionately high impact
on our natural environment and the natural environment of
"Didn't this ballot question marginalize the work of the Sprawl Committee?"
Not in the least. The Sprawl Committee has produced a highly popular and well-funded campaign. Their materials are excellent but fail to adequately address the population component of sprawl, along with the land-use component. This ballot question was a significant opportunity for members to (in a presumably fair election), express their opinion on the direction of the one of the most successful Club campaigns. As a democratic entity, it is to be expected that Club campaigns and committees respond to concerns of their grassroots constituents.
"Didn't the GPEPC already deal with overpopulation?"
In reality, the GPEPC (Global Population & Environment Program Committee) deals very little with U.S. overpopulation,
the root cause of sprawl. The Sierra Club simply has not put
real resources and interest into population issues outside
the scope of this small committee. Many Sierra Club members
want this deficiency addressed. They want the Club's
expensive sprawl campaign, at the very least, to present an
honest picture of the consequences of unending US population
"We already have a population program and committee (GPEPC).
Wasn't that enough?"
No. The Sierra Club proclaimed that it wishes now to deal
with population globally, rather than nationally or by
bioregion. But its population program receives little
attention and is treated like a stepchild by the Board. The
Club is willing to tackle a few touchy issues, such as
abortion rights and eliminating Glen Canyon Dam, but is
strangely shy about mentioning overpopulation, especially
within the U.S.
Having a small committee address the issue of U.S.
population growth is insufficient, especially when this
growth has such far-reaching consequences.
"Wasn't the 2001 Sprawl Ballot Question an Immigration Ballot
Question in disguise?"
Not at all. It was what it was - an attempt bring the issue of
population back into the environmental mainstream. We intended
to bring the Sierra Club to a more truly environmental
position in its expensive anti-sprawl campaign which
emphasizes "smart growth" without addressing the root cause
of sprawl. While we regard some elements of "smart growth"
as valuable (e.g., increased public transit, re-use of urban
brownfields, etc.), this sort of planning can only slow -
not solve - the problem, given our high level of population
For example, California's population is now growing at a
faster rate than that of Bangladesh (1.7 vs. 1.6 percent,
respectively). At this rate, California's population will
double in approximately 41 years.
The report Sprawl in California
shows that population growth is a very much related to sprawl in that state.
Consider the Club's 1999 policy: "The Sierra Club advocates
reductions in the population of the United States...". This policy goes
way beyond education on the relationship between population growth and
sprawl. Yet this clear and concise resolution in no way mentions
immigration or violates 1996 immigration policy.
If the Board can pass such a definitive resolution, it stands to reason
that members can decide on the much more benign population-sprawl educational ballot question.
The Sierra Club can discuss U.S. population without having to address immigration.
"Wasn't this initative sponsored by the same people who brought up mass immigration in 1998?"
SUSPS is a network of thousands of forward-looking Club
members who are not afraid to address U.S. population. Human
overpopulation was a constant topic of concern only a couple
of decades ago and has faded into the background because
organizations such as the Sierra Club no longer address it
We believe that the earth comes first and when its health
and survival are threatened, we must then speak out about
the human causes of global warming and mass extinction. The
United States carries a special responsibility because of
our high resource use. In addition, American
environmentalists should be leading by example, developing
workable approaches to sustainability and limitations on
We understand the consequences of yet another doubling of
U.S. population - a burden which America's children will
have to carry. They will thank us for encouraging the Sierra
Club to address this serious problem and all of its
long-term environmental ramifications.
We believe that the Sierra Club should be a clear voice for saving the
earth - not an ally of developers.