Olivia M. Essay Submission – 2nd Place Winner.
Simcoe County is a unique place. Formerly a rural farming area that has succumbed to a population boom due to rapid urban sprawl from the greater Toronto area, this county is facing never before seen challenges. A sustainable population is one where the number of people in a certain area can be supported with the available natural resources upon which that society requires. Simcoe County’s current population is an estimated 540,000 people, and this number has been steadily increasing over the years. Some sources have even stated that many adjustments to infrastructure are needed within the next few years to keep up with Simcoe County’s quickly growing population. This raises the question, what is the tipping point? When is the population of Simcoe County going to be at a point where it cannot be sustainably supported by its natural resources, or has it already passed that point? Through looking at the use of solar energy, natural gas, and water, the most sustainable population for Simcoe County can be found to be 440,000 people at most.
Simcoe County’s ability to invest in solar energy is a key factor in determining their most sustainable population. According to simcoe.com, the profits made from solar energy since 2009 have been halved, but it would still cost $4 million to power merely 1700 homes for one year. With Simcoe County’s approximately 150,000 households (and that number steadily rising), it would cost $352 million to power every household for a year. According to simcoe.ca, that is over half of the estimated $530 million that Simcoe County has for its expenditures. In the absence of increased budget funds, affordably turning to green energy would require Simcoe County’s population to decline as opposed to continuing to grow. This budget restriction begins to pinpoint Simcoe County’s most sustainable population, making it clear that they have already passed it.
Simcoe County’s natural gas usage also helps to determine what its most sustainable population would be. According to simcoe.ca, “the county has been working to turn to greener energy sources over the last few years,” as issues with greenhouse gas emissions have been emerging. These issues are not only due to the rising popularity of using natural gases, but also Simcoe County’s rapidly growing population. According to Environmental Defence Canada, Simcoe County’s general area began experiencing major greenhouse gas emissions and pollution issues in mid-2016, when the county’s population was just passing 500,000. This reveals that to have the most sustainable population in Simcoe County possible with regards to natural gas usage, its population would have to decline to 500,000 people at most.
You haven’t lived in Simcoe County if you haven’t complained about the water quality. The county’s water quality has long been a topic of interest, and it is a major factor in determining Simcoe County’s most sustainable population. Collingwood, as an example, has the closest population and water consumption rate to Simcoe County’s average, and yet they have been experiencing great difficulties surrounding water supply for years. According to simcoe.com, Collingwood’s water capacity issues began in 2016, just as its population reached about 21,000 people. Treating Collingwood as Simcoe’s average, its average town or township population would have to decrease from 25,000 to 21,000 people at most in order to optimize water consumption. This would mean that an approximate population of 440,000 people would be the county’s most sustainable population.
According to sustainablesociety.com, every country in the world is experiencing the same issue, of having too many people and not enough resources to support them all. Fortunately, we can use trends and patterns from our towns and cities’ pasts to determine where the exact tipping point is. For Simcoe County, this was when it passed 440,000 people, in about late 2006. To return to a state of society where people’s needs can be met without depriving the area of natural resources, more funds would be required, but through investigating our use of resources like solar energy, natural gas, and water, we can better determine where Simcoe County’s population must remain to be as sustainable as possible.
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