Urban sprawl is possibly the most high-profile impact of growing and shifting populations. It has large and immediate consequences for people and communities by increasing congestion, making housing unaffordable, increasing debt, and degrading the environment of the surrounding area. Urban sprawl typically increases taxes and the cost of living while decreasing the quality of life, equality levels and the health of communities.

Urban sprawl is simple growth and, in terms of public welfare, regressive.

Of course, urban expansion in Canada and most countries takes place on farmland, thus removing a critical resource from use while increasing the number of people that must be fed. As well densification also has the large downsides of less healthy living and increased congestion.

Ontario | 1984
Ontario | 2020
Ontario | 2020

Here is what the addition of 5 million people has done to the Ontario landscape over a period of 35 years. The government’s plan is to continuously ramp up population growth to triple Canada’s population in the next 100 years. This will mean the addition of another 30 million people in Ontario – 6 times the growth of the past 35 years.

Once a breadbasket for the world, Ontario is now on the cusp of becoming a net food importer. The reduction in farmland and increase in population makes our impending loss of food security a certainty within the next 5 years.

Sprawl Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=36iPVbnK0b8&t=45s

In the “developed” world, with slow-growing, stable or even slightly declining native populations, sprawl is mostly driven by immigration. In Africa and South America, sprawl is driven by still growing domestic populations and migration from rural to urban areas. In China, the construction of immense blocks of large apartment buildings is being driven by the flow of people from the countryside into the cities. This is a shift from rural to urban centres as the population of China is at or near its peak.

Because of the obvious damage sprawl is doing to the land and the lives of citizens, a great many protest groups have sprung up to oppose it. These may be focused on wetlands, farmland, gravel pits, access to nature, affordable housing and taxes but they all have one thing in common; sprawl is hurting their vital interests. They want governments to get back into the business of responsible governance rather than just taking orders from developers, speculators and debt mongers.

Below is a list of groups opposed to sprawl. This is an initial list only and very much a work in progress. Please supply the names and contact info for any groups you know of, anywhere in the world and we will post it as quickly as possible. You can reach us at info@sustainablesociety.com. There is a list of useful resources – cartoons, placard and bumper sticker slogans and research papers in the Reference section of this page.

Most established politicians have gone through the media filter and are pro-growth and have not given any consideration to how social progress and environmental sustainability can be achieved. They have no strategy for progress and their only policy is “bigger is better”. While in the past most politicians have conflated growth with progress, this may be changing. To help this transition along the best thing a voter can do is find a candidate who is proactive and anti-sprawl and fully support them! And let the other candidates know why.

How do you do this? By asking questions such as:

  1. Are you in favour of building on farmland and forests? If not, where do you see growth stopping if ever?
  2. What do you think is in the best interests of your constituents, a bigger town or a better town?
  3. Do you have a strategy in place to achieve energy sustainability? Food security?
  4. How does a growing population impact Canada’s carbon emissions? (hint: The carbon footprint of the current immigrant stream increases by a factor of 4:1 when they come to Canada. For some regions it can be 15:1. This is also a disaster for the globe. The Challenge – please tell us if, globally, you can think of a more environmentally destructive policy than mass migration from regions of low carbon emissions to regions of high carbon emissions.)
Most communities now have technical and volunteer groups hard at work on reducing carbon emissions, speeding the transition to renewable energy and promoting conservation and healthy community living. These are vital efforts but whatever progress they make is being overwhelmed by population growth and sprawl. Do the math. Tripling Canada’s population which means an increase in size of 4 or 5 times for many communities, simply negates any possible progress towards sustainability and food and energy resilience a community might make.
Stopping growth doesn’t guarantee sustainability, it simply makes the attainment of sustainability a possibility. National and provincial/state governments are failing on critical environmental issues. Citizens must take action at the personal and community level and these include demanding that their local governments push back on the growth mandate being forced upon them by higher and more disconnected levels of government.

Groups Opposing Sprawl and Its Impacts

Canada - Ontario

Ontario is losing farmland faster than any other province; at a rate of about 175 acres per day.

The provincial government of Ontario and the federal Canadian government have embarked on a policy of mass immigration to drive the profitability of developers, speculators and banks (mortgages) to new heights despite the consequences for citizens and the environment. Follow the money. For reference, “balanced immigration”, meaning as many people coming into Canada as going out, would be approximately 60,000 people annually. The current level, deemed “mass immigration”, is approximately 440,000 and increasing every year, resulting in the 160,000 new additional housing units being built and 250,000 additional vehicles being put on the roads every year.

Obviously, many municipal governments are opposed to this, but the Ontario government is forcing this growth on them by overriding the planning and zoning process. Democracy? Maybe Putin-style democracy but not what we expect in a nominally democratic country.

The groups listed below may or may not support a stable population policy but they all recognize the environmental and social costs of urban sprawl.

Stop Sprawl Orillia – https://stopsprawlorillia.ca/
Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition – https://simcoecountygreenbelt.ca
Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition – https://rescuelakesimcoe.org
Greenbelt Foundation – http://www.greenbelt.ca/
Ontario Nature – https://ontarionature.org/
Environmental Defence – https://environmentaldefence.ca/
Stop Sprawl Halton – https://www.stopsprawlhalton.org
Stop Sprawl Durham – https://www.stopsprawldurham.com/
Stop Sprawl York Region –  https://www.StopSprawlYR.ca
“What’s Wrong with Sprawl – The Province of Ontario has ordered municipalities to plan for growth to 2051 that will result in huge population increases in the Lake Simcoe area and related environmental impacts, most notably loss of farmland and increased salt, stormwater runoff, and potentially sewage from new development.”

Please email us with any the names of any stop sprawl groups not on the above list at: info@sustainablesociety.com

Canada – Alberta

Stop the Sprawl Calgary – a huge amount of resources – https://www.sprawlcalgary.com/
Lethbridge Sustainable Living Association – https://www.lethbridgesustainableliving.org

Canada - BC

BC Municipalities Get Ornery. Not paving over farmland fast enough? The province will take you down but some municipalities are standing up. Oak Bay’s rejection of housing project cited as province eyes taking over approval powers. Will non-compliant municipal politicians be given 15 years in jail for uttering the word “sprawl”?? Will journalists be blacklisted?


Europe - UK

Open Spaces Society – Protecting Open Spaces Since 1865 – https://www.oss.org.uk
Revaluing Parks and Green Spaces | Fields in Trust is an independent charity with over 90 years’ experience protecting parks and green spaces – https://www.fieldsintrust.org
Global Action Plan: an environmental change charity working towards a green and thriving planet where everyone can enjoy happy and healthy lives within the Earth’s limits –  https://www.globalactionplan.org.uk
Groundwork: Find out how we’re changing places and lives in your area. … ensure that everyone across the UK can enjoy the benefits of accessing green and blue spaces –  https://www.groundwork.org.uk
Green Flag Forward – Environment charity reveals “green space gap” – https://greenflagaward.org

Europe - Scotland

Greenspace Scotland – https://www.greenspacescotland.org.uk

USA - Arizona

Is it Possible to Combat Sprawl in the Desert? Phoenix is a city with a sprawl problem. How do we fix it? Create smart growth boundaries and incentivize urban, walkable, and tree-shaded streets – https://thiscouldbephx.com
AZ Sprawl – Stopping Sprawl in Your Community “Driven to Action encourages communities to reshape urban areas. We need more dense and compact cities, with better bike and walking infrastructure – http://www.arizonasprawl.com


Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy – www.steadystate.org
Join thousands of top scientists, economists, diplomats and thought leaders from “left” and “right” around the world. You’ll help bring steady-state economics into national policies and international diplomacy.”