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Exploding Population in the
California Region

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The part of the state of California where most of its population lives, which is from Sacramento and southward to the Mexican border, are typically referred to as the California Region. The California Region's rapidly expanding population has caused some deterioration to the state as a whole, as well as putting increased strain on the state's resources. How can this trend be reversed?

The population of the California Region has indeed grown rapidly over the course of the last century or so. Two large metropolitan regions have developed, the San Francisco Bay area, complete with San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose; and Southern California, complete with Los Angeles, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Riverside, as well as a host of other cities. As these two urban areas continue to grow, they continue to swallow up more land. Not, only that, but numerous smaller cities in the Central Valley, which is a seat of agricultural productivity, including Fresno, Stockton, Modesto, and Bakersfield, are growing rapidly, putting more strain on a region that is trying to keep its edge as the area in the U.S. with some of the highest agricultural productivity. The California Region, including the two major urban centers, and the Central Valley area, have a population nearing 35 million people, which is most of the population of the state of California as a whole, and about 3 million more people than in the entire nation of Canada.


Southern California:

Southern California, as an urbanized area, has grown east to the deserts over by Joshua Tree National Park, close to the Mohave Desert. It has also grown northward so that there are now cities that are part of this region north of the San Gabriel Mountains, in the southern end of the San Joaquin, or Central, Valley, which are starting to eat up farmland in that region. The southern extension of the San Joaquin Valley may be irrigated to a higher extent than some other parts of this Central Valley area, but it is still good farmland – eating up the farmland can lead, if uncontrolled, to greatly reducing agricultural yield. The area has also grown westward into Ventura County, where Oxnard and Ventura sit, and on into Santa Barbara county, where the city of Santa Barbara rests. Ventura and Santa Barbara counties have actually done a good job at trying to limit development, and, as a result, have a much larger amount of open, undeveloped land in the Southern California urban corridor than other counties, such as Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside, Orange, and San Diego counties. One other factor that has kept the Los Angeles and San Diego areas, although part of this unified Southern California urban corridor, from growing together along the I-5 corridor is the fact that these two areas are separated by the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base, an almost 20 mile long barrier between the two urbanizations.

When it comes to urban explosion in the Southern California urban corridor, there are many problems, and among them is the fact that the urban development continues to eat up agricultural lands. One area, the southern extent of the Central Valley, has already been mentioned. Orange County, which got its name from the fact that there used to be orange groves there, and the county grew large amounts of oranges, is now almost completely urbanized, except for a few more rugged and mountainous locations, like the Santa Ana Mountains, on its western periphery, and doesn’t support any orange production at all. Also, the areas that are now developed, being very urbanized, in this corridor, used to be prime ranchland, and grow large amounts of cattle, but now, the only thing left are place names that allow us to reminisce into past times, with names such as Rancho Cucamonga, Mission Viejo, and San Clemente.

Another problem that has needed to be dealt with within this region is the fact that all the people and businesses need water to function properly, but there is not a freshwater source nearby that is able to handle all the water needs of a very high population. Because of this, large amounts of water have to be shipped in from elsewhere, coming down aqueducts that run hundreds of miles from their source. For many years, much of this region got its water from the Colorado River, which serves as the boundary between California and Arizona, through the Colorado River aqueduct, the All-American Canal, and the Coachella Canal. But, since different public policies have come into effect, through treaties with Mexico concerning water rights of both the Colorado River and the Rio Grande River farther east, as well as through policies that have given Arizona, and other states in the Intermontane Region more rights to that water, that has meant less water for Southern California. This means that they’ve had to build other aqueducts to bring water down to this urban corridor, usually from Northern California, hundreds of miles to the north of Los Angeles – most of California’s water needs happen in the southern half of the state, whereas most of California’s water supply is in the northern parts of the state, which is mostly rural and undeveloped, and where very little of California’s population lives. The largest of these aqueducts is the California Water Project, which not only supplies some agricultural areas, but the Southern California urban corridor as well. It would be nice if some research and development firm would come up with a way to decrease the cost of desalinization of sea water, to make it more cost effective, since they would have so much water resource available to them along their coastline with the Pacific Ocean. It might also be nice if the cost of extracting water out of the air’s moisture would also come down in cost.

Los Angeles is also known for its smog, which is caused by the increasing amount of fossil fuels being used by an ever increasing population, particularly on its roadways. In this regard, the increasingly high population has had a deleterious impact on the state of their air quality. It is also possible that some of the cause of smog comes from factories and power plants. The problem is that the Los Angeles area is stuck in a spot between the ocean, and its breezes, and the mountains, which blocks the breezes from continuing to move on. On top of this, there is something referred to as a stability lid, or inversion lid, which holds in place some air that is trapped by other air of a different barometric pressure, and which keeps the pollutants in place, sometimes for several days or weeks, causing this smog to build up. So, smog is another factor caused by population growth.

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The San Francisco Bay Area

The San Francisco Bay Area is similar in many respects to the Southern California urban corridor. It has built up tremendously over the past century, completely surrounding San Francisco Bay, as well as San Pablo Bay. It has also been stretching inland in the past couple decades, eating up farmland in its development into the Central Valley area, particularly along the I-580 corridor with Dublin and Livermore; the route 4 corridor, just south of Grizzly Bay and the Sacramento River, with Pittsburg and Antioch; and Northeast into Napa Valley, known for its winemaking, to include Napa, Fairfield, and Vacaville, on the I-80 corridor, stretching halfway to Sacramento. This has also been decreasing the amount of productivity in the agricultural sector as less and less farmland is being utilized to grow our food.

On the south side of the San Francisco Bay is Santa Clara County, where San Jose is, and also known as Silicon Valley, a nickname given to it because of its being the center of innovation and development of computer hardware and software (along with the Puget Sound area in Washington state), which, at one time, used to be highly productive from an agricultural standpoint, but is now just another area glazed over with urbanization.


Central Valley

The Central Valley, which encompasses the central north-south corridor of the state of California, also considered to be part of the California Region, is sandwiched between some coastal mountain ranges, and the Sierra Nevada mountain range along the Nevada border. This valley has, for many decades, been one of the most productive agricultural areas in the country, much of it irrigated, particularly as you head farther south in the valley. It has been one of the leading U.S. producers of dairy products, cattle, rice, sugar beets, grapes, lettuce, almonds, tomatoes, and strawberries, as well as a host of other fruits and vegetables.

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Even in this corridor, the population is on the rise, with its major cities exploding in population in recent decades, even though they don’t even compare in size to the San Francisco Bay area and the Southern California urban corridor. These include Sacramento, which is the state’s political capital, whose metro area has exploded in recent decades, as well as Stockton, Modesto, Fresno, and Bakersfield. There are also a host of many smaller cities in the Central Valley that are increasing in population size. As these cities continue to grow, they eat up even more agricultural land, thereby reducing the possible agricultural output of the valley more and more each year. The only good thing is that with the improvement of technology, fertilization techniques, and seed stock, there has been in improvement in the yield per acre of land, allowing us to produce more with less land – this has allowed for the state’s agricultural yield to remain steady, or decrease much more slowly, than it otherwise would.


Other Problems

There are still other problems associated with the ever-increasing population, and its deterioration of the state. As development occurs along the beachfronts of California, this eliminates the possibility of having beaches in their former pristine condition, as well as closing beaches off from the public, as they are made private. As people eliminate the vegetation from the hillsides, and carve out places to put their personal residences, this causes an increased effect of mudslides during the rare rainy seasons. The fact that the area gets quite dry, especially around the Southern California urban corridor, means that they are at increased risk of fire, where a forest fire starts, and spreads, destroying billions of dollars worth of homes. The need for water causes natural habitats that use riversides or rivers for their breeding grounds or spawning areas to disappear, causing a decrease in the populations of several birds, fishes, and other animals. Uncontrolled migration to the area has caused unemployment to be high, and the cost of living to be enormous. Many of us, across the United States, know someone who moved to some part of the California Region, hoping that it would be the new start that would improve their life, only to found out that they could not afford the cost of living, and had trouble finding work, and later decide to move back to wherever they came from - they should have done some research before taking their risk!.




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