You could say that I’m reading it so you won’t have to. The book is The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050 by Joel Kotkin, a professor at Chapman University in California, and a scholar of economics, sociology, and the history of cities. The Next Hundred Million celebrates what to some of us will be a disturbing fact: the US is one of the only industrialized “First World” countries that is experiencing rapid population growth. By 2050, the US will have a population of 400-450 million people.
According to Joel Kotkin, we are moving into a new golden age, where our economy, based on the needs and the production of so many human beings, and based on the freedoms that our citizens enjoy, will make our country the most competitive and powerful nation on earth.
There are a lot of questions raised with Kotkin’s view – water supplies, the loss of agricultural lands, and how the new society- which he sees as living mostly in vast suburbs- will be supplied with energy for its homes and cars. Kotkin does note that greenways “could provide a break from the monotony……and ideal sites for the preservation of wildlife.”
Nowhere in the book is hunting or fishing ever mentioned. That is not Kotkin’s subject. His subject is a US thriving with 400 to 450 million people.
But hunting and fishing is very much my subject, and the subject of every person who reads Field & Stream. A couple of years ago, I sat on the porch of Jim Range’s home in Craig, Montana after a day of hunting sharptails. Range, who died last year, was a staunch conservative Republican, helped to write the original Clean Water Act, co-founded the Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, and was one of our country’s great conservation leaders. He said that day, as he did often, in his Tennessee drawl, “We got to preserve this thing we love, because ain’t nobody gonna do it for us!”
Okay. How do we do that? How do we preserve this thing we love, in a nation racing toward 400 million people, so many of them from countries where nobody but the wealthiest has ever hunted or fished, where there are no laws that protect wildlife or the environment? When so many of our native-born have never drank from a spring in the rocks, ripped a tenderloin from a deer, or wondered how we have kept all of these things, from clean air to cougars, even as most of the world has lost them.
How do we make sure that it goes on? What questions are we NOT asking, or answering?