By Joe Guzzardi
March 30, 2016
Americans who drive on the nation’s highways, ride on city public transportation, or embark on their annual vacations from major airports shouldn’t be surprised at the U.S. Census Bureau’s recent report. Through July 1, 2015, the United States’ population increased 0.79 percent, a number than may appear small, but is in reality unsustainable. Only seven of the 50 states experienced a population decline.
In California, population growth is an especially acute problem. Cornell University Emeritus Professor David Pimentel analyzed the consequences of the state’s population increase to 39 million residents in 2016 from less than 2 million in 1900, 10 million in 1950, and what demographers predict will eventually be 60 million people in 2050.
As Pimentel explains the challenge of an ever more crowded California, population increases geometrically while cropland per capita simultaneously declines. The result: urbanization devours irreplaceable cropland and pasture land. Each year, California’s urban sprawl takes about 122,000 acres away from farmers and ranchers. For every person added to California’s population, approximately one acre of land is required for his housing, and transportation.
Between now and 2050, Pimentel estimates that available land will be half of what it is today, and that food prices will increase from 50 percent to 100 percent above their current levels. California’s enduring drought will continue to exacerbate the negative consequences of unmanageable growth.
The Census report identified international migration as a major driver of higher population. For the period the bureau studied, data indicated that net international migration in the U.S. as a percentage of total 2014 population was 0.36 percent in the 12 months ended July 1, 2015.
Although the presidential primaries have included heated debate about immigration, population growth is rarely mentioned even though voters are keenly aware of its effect on many aspects of their daily lives. More than half of American adults polled last year said that a population growing too rapidly is a bigger concern than one growing too slowly.
In the 1970s, college campus activists widely discussed population, its role in environmental degradation and called for prudent limits. Five decades later as the U.S. is growing at a rate faster than developing nations, political leaders consider mere mention of population politically incorrect, and therefore taboo.
The time is long overdue for Congress. as well as presidential hopefuls, to recognize the inarguable link between higher immigration and dramatic population spikes. In its report titled “Population Projections, 2005-2050,” the Pew Research Center calculated that 82 percent of all population increases during the period studied will come from immigration and the children born to immigrants. Assuming current immigration levels continue unchecked, U.S. population will increase from today’s 321 million to 400 million in 2050, and to 600 million in 2100.
Even if ever-increasing population were sustainable, and it’s not, more people packed into cities and states diminishes the quality of life for all Americans and their as yet unborn grandchildren. A California with 60 million residents, for example, will face interminable gridlock, acute housing shortages, and social service breakdowns. The only way then to alleviate California’s crisis would be to move out of state. But with most states already overcrowded, desirable destinations would be few.
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow. Contact him at [email protected]
By Joe Guzzardi