CAPA AWARDS OP-ED WINNING ENTRY: California’s Overpopulation Crisis: The Only Wrong Thing to Do is Nothing

Published on March 21st, 2012

By Robert Neumann
Foothill College, Los Altos Hills, California
March 6, 2012

I know it is difficult. With so many crises and troubling events in today’s world, it is hard to remember to pay attention to issues that seem less immediate. Yet it would be dangerous to assume that those seemingly less critical issues are not as prominent or potentially damaging; in fact, as far as overpopulation is concerned, the consequences of inaction are far greater than those of most other issues we face today.

Population awareness and management are not about the “now” or even the “soon.” They are about the future. In the last 35 years, California’s population has grown by more than 20 million people. Our population is currently projected to grow from its current near 40 million status to more than 60 million by 2050.

It is easy to dismiss those numbers until you think them over, and realize what they imply. On the most basic level, our consumption of resources will skyrocket alongside our population. Science is a marvelous thing, but any advances we make in the next few decades will likely not match the increased rate of consumption.

That means everything from food and water to job prospects and clean air is going to become scarcer in coming years. Try to comprehend the breadth of that claim. From substantial relative increases in price to straight-up shortages for nearly any and everything, virtually every facet of our lives will be affected.

If the potential relative scarcity of resources such as food and water does not pique your concern, consider the strain overpopulation causes on more abstract resources such as education. California’s public school system was once the best in the nation, and it now sits far removed from its former glory. Cramming schools with more and more children is going to significantly lessen the overall value of the education children receive. It is hard to teach a class properly with 30 kids; it is impossible to do so with twice as many.

Even if you were to completely remove scarcity as an issue, it is still easy to see how overpopulation will make even the most basic aspects of life more difficult. Regardless of whether our production could somehow match the millions of new additions to the population over the years, there will come a point where there are simply too many people in a limited space.

A good example of the stress and damage to quality of life this increasing congestion would cause is on the roads. With California already home to five of the nation’s twenty most congested metro areas, I doubt anyone needs to spend more time waiting in their car.

There are plenty more ways in which overpopulation diminishes our overall quality of life. The added strain on the environment, one of the richest aspects of California, goes without saying. From increased crime rates to higher energy costs, nobody is unaffected by this issue.

What can you do? Well, you have already taken a first step by reading this. As said before, overpopulation is less transparent of an issue than many of those we face today, and simply by being aware of the problem, this issue is brought ever closer to the forefront of public concern.

That is not to say you cannot do more to help. One of the major causes of overpopulation in California is illegal immigration. You do not need to be in favor of overly strict anti-immigration laws, nor opposed to them. Just get involved, and make it known that you are so. Research the issue and its causes. Look up the solutions that are in circulation, or investigate and propose new ones. In today’s crisis-ridden social climate, awareness is half the battle.

So, regardless of whether you fervently seek to end illegal immigration, or simply look to stem and control it; regardless of whether you want to have a family of ten kids or two; regardless, the current figures of population growth show that we need to prepare for the future of California.

So get involved. Investigate the issue and its causes. Volunteer or donate to organizations that are working on the issue. Write or email local or state officials. Post a Facebook status about it. Crack a joke about it. As long as the issue is getting out there, the only wrong thing to do is nothing.

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