What is an Optimal/Sustainable Population for Vermont?
That depends. That depends on how you define optimal and sustainable. Then it depends on what indicators you use to measure what is optimal/sustainable. In a groundbreaking report of that title just published by Vermonters for Sustainable Population and readable on their website, www.vspop.org, those “it depends” questions are answered.
If you are using the scientifically-based, objective, and responsible ecological footprint indicator, a long-term sustainable population is 150,000, compared to Vermont’s current population of over 626,000. If you are using the more subjective quality of life indicator, then an optimal population could be up to 700,000. In between these two numbers are the indicators of biodiversity, environmental health, food self-sufficiency, forest cover, greenhouse gas emissions, happiness of Vermont citizens, renewable energy production, rural living/working landscape, scenic beauty, spiritual connectedness, steady state economy, and water quality.
Projecting what is an optimal/sustainable population size will always be a debatable discussion but having that discussion for Vermont as we face many dire social and environmental challenges is extremely important.
I urge all Vermont citizens to read the report and then begin the discussion with your family, friends, communities, environmental and social organizations, churches, governmental agencies, and politicians. Do we think that we should grow Vermont’s population to one or two million, or even more like most other states, or would some other number be more desirable and sustainable?