New Census data released last week documents what a drive up and down I-15 would make obvious. There are an awful lot of people crowded into a very small space along Utah's Wasatch Front. So much so that 90 percent of all the souls who live in Utah cling to barely more than 1 percent of the state's dirt.
And that dirt is expected to get a heck of a lot more crowded in the next three decades. The learned guesses now are that the already super-urbanized space west of the mountains will become home to another 1.4 million people between now and the year 2040. That's a phenomenal growth rate of 67 percent. Serious enough numbers that elected officials from communities up and down the range are putting aside any competition they may feel and forming alliances to try to make plans to handle the onslaught of new taxpayers.
Imminently sensible ideas such as zoning rules and infrastructure design that encourage better use of the space we have. Building up rather than out. More trains and buses. Fewer cars. More efficient uses of water. More places to walk, not just for exercise, but to actually get somewhere.
But there were some alternatives that no local official, at least not any who wish to remain local officials, dared talk about.
We could close the door. Set a date say, Jan. 1, 2020 and not allow one more building permit anywhere between Brigham City and Santaquin.
Or we could do nothing, let the place turn into a fetid mess where the air isn't fit to breathe and what water we have costs more per gallon than gasoline. That would have the same impact, only we could have the pleasure of calling it a free-market solution to our problem, rather than a regulatory one.
Or we could be even more creative about the whole thing and launch the most energetic mass disinformation campaign since the run-up to George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq. We could start spreading the word that life in Salt Lake City is already unendurable.
The model for this would be the Oregon "Ungreeting Cards" that were all the rage in the early '70s. That was when Oregon Gov. Tom McCall was heard to say that Oregon's natural beauty and quality of life were facing a clear and present danger from all the people who were moving there to experience its natural beauty and quality of life. He publicly suggested that people were welcome to visit Oregon, but "for heaven's sake, don't come here to live."
The idea got away from McCall, in a way that today would be called "going viral." People made faux greeting cards that said things like: "People in Oregon don't tan. They rust." Or "The governor of Oregon cordially invites you to visit Washington, or California, or Idaho, or Nevada or Afghanistan."
We'd have to lay it on thicker, though. And modern social media, which allow unmediated lies to wrap around the planet in milliseconds, can only help. Tell everyone that the schools are underfunded and overcrowded. Tell them Utah is the state where gun permits are easy and liquor licenses are hard. We can spread rumors that there's mercury in the water. That there are days that the air is so bad schools have to cancel recess. There's a nuclear waste dump just to our west and a state regulatory structure that's basically been taken over by the industries it's supposed to police. We can say Utah has the nation's highest rate of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.
Oh. Wait. Those aren't lies.
This may be easier than I thought.
George Pyle, a Tribune editorial writer, wishes everyone a happy April Fools Day.