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What has been lost

Here is some American nostalgia — various remembrances of a time when life was much less crowded and stressful. And while we are glad the racism and sexism of that earlier era have been greatly eroded, the environmental losses have been profound due mostly to too many people. The incremental destruction to quality of life has been overpowering in high-growth areas and has political consequences also — as Isaac Asimov predicted, "Democracy cannot survive overpopulation."

Meredith Burke •   The Union Sells Out the Little Man by Meredith Burke
The late demographer's account of her parents' life in pastoral Los Angeles of the 1940's and 50's is a reminder of how rapidly "progress" and growth can spin out of control. Her father ran a newsstand, and was well served by his union and by a California that was still small enough in population to provide quality of life for even blue-collar workers. Dr. Burke wrote thoughtfully about overpopulation and its stresses on the human spirit. As a demographer, she presented solid analysis of how immigration is the cause of exploding population growth in America and ensuing environmental degradation. She offered herself as a tongue-in-cheek candidate for President in 2000, since she saw no candidate who stood as she did for "pragmatic liberalism" — population reality, reproductive rights and environmental honesty. Here, Carol Joyal recalls how Meredith was fearless when speaking out.

•   Bigger — and Bitter
Author Jaime O'Neill came to California in 1961, when the Golden State's population was considerably less and America numbered 160 million people. In 2002, California has more than doubled in population to 35 million and the United States is home to 289 million. The resulting sprawl, impossible traffic and other daily irritants have convinced him that "this was a better place when I got off the bus in the early '60s, when the population stood at some 15 million, a much better place than it is now."