Maria Fotopoulos, Los Angeles
April 20, 2008
Santa Barbara News-Press
Last year about this time, it occurred to me that the "green thing" had finally arrived, was running on all cylinders and had achieved mass market acceptance. The dawning came with the realization that seemingly all the key consumer magazines had dedicated April as their green issues. I hadn’t seen that before, even though, of course, April is the month in which Earth Day is celebrated.
There finally was this critical mass of awareness achieved through myriad efforts. There were numerous news stories about corporate efforts to incorporate green as part of their corporate social responsibility, and more and more green products came to market.
Sure, some of this green enthusiasm had to be discounted as just lip-service and trying to ride the green wave, but with thousands of other pieces of green evidence, there was no denying there was a new level of awareness and a desire to move toward a truly sustainable society.
This is all good, but in a month that has that special day, Earth Day, to wallow in our green-ness, we for the most part ignore a key issue that drove the environmental movement 40 years ago.
It’s time to add back the discussion about overpopulation by Homo sapiens.
The late Sen. Gaylord Nelson, founder of Earth Day, knew that population was a significant element of environmentalism. "The bigger the population gets, the more serious the problems become . . . We have to address the population issue . . . It can be done."
Unfortunately, we have become increasingly reticent to discuss overpopulation and its concomitant environmental impacts, let alone actually address it. The 1970s, when the population-environment linkage was always acknowledged and widely discussed, are a distant memory.
And within our country for the last 25 years, we have allowed a flood of immigrants to settle here essentially unchecked. Again to Gaylord Nelson, who also said, "In this country, it’s phony to say ‘I’m for the environment but not for limiting immigration.’ "
In California, the population increased nearly 50 percent just from 1970 to 1990. Virtually all of the additional 500,000 people we’ve been adding annually in recent years is attributable to immigrants and births to immigrants. According to the California Department of Finance, the state’s population may hit 60 million by 2050.
The impact of this population tsunami is felt every day on congested roadways, overcrowded schools, poor air quality, stressed biodiversity and diminished quality of life. So it’s difficult to imagine a California that would be better with a population twice the size of the current one. And as goes California, so does the rest of the United States.
As Americans, we must decide if we will choose to determine the direction of our country for those who will inherit it. In fact, we need to decide if we have a moral responsibility to do so. Or will we just let the future unfold with no regard to what will be wrought through overpopulation?
That’s something to think about this Earth Day.
The author is a senior writing fellow for Santa Barbara-based Californians for Population Stabilization.