Doing Exponential Math at a Funeral
By Randy Alcorn
Recently, I attended the funeral of a dear friend’s father. The Catholic church where the service was held was filled to capacity, standing room only. I was nearly late after struggling through the usual thick traffic and having to park blocks away from the church.
Traffic has become a persistent problem in the small California coastal town where I have lived these past 36 years. It can take nearly half an hour to drive the 2.5 miles from my downtown office to my home. I can remember when it took only five minutes. The freeway that bisects the town was widened to six lanes 20 years ago, but many times during the day traffic on it moves at the speed of sludge through a clogged pipe. Finding a parking place anywhere in town is difficult. Many frustrated drivers have taken to parking illegally. There were plenty of parking spaces 20 years ago.
As I stood in the aisle inside the church, looking in vain for an empty seat, a young man with a baby on his lap motioned to me to sit next to him. All the folks sitting in that crowded pew kindly moved together to make room for me. The young man cordially welcomed me in Spanish, and I replied "Gracias", and sat down.
The service was in Spanish with occasional lapses into English for the benefit of the small minority of gringos in the room. My rudimentary Spanish was just good enough for me to understand that my friend’s deceased father had been an eminence grise in the local Hispanic community. The pastor referred to him using the title "Don". By all the standards with which we judge a man’s character, Don Pedro was eminently honorable and worthy of great respect. The overflow crowd at his funeral was testimony to that respect.
Don Pedro had come to California from Mexico in 1950 under the Bracero program that encouraged thousands of impoverished Mexicans to come here to work in the fields. He eventually left the fields to start his own gardening service and then other businesses that allowed him and his wife to support their 12 children, many of whom by virtue of being born in America were American citizens. Encouraged by his entrepreneurial success in America, he helped his many brothers and cousins in Mexico come to California too. They in turn had many children born in California.
All of Don Pedro’s children have been successful in their own right, college educated, industrious, well mannered, articulate, and good citizens. This is how he had raised them to be. These 12 children had, so far, produced his 21 grandchildren, who in turn had, so far, produced his 3 great grandchildren. One of the grandchildren delivered an eloquent eulogy, in English, to his grandfather thanking him for imparting the morals, courtesy, and work ethic that most of the extended family shared.
As I looked around the jam-packed church, I thought these were all good people, and most of them were here because of one man and his wife. In the course of less than 60 years this couple had so far generated 36 descendants, and by bringing other family members to California were responsible for increasing California’s population by hundreds more.
Over the same 60 years, the population of California has nearly quadrupled from 10.7 million to 37 million. With this huge growth in population the Golden State has lost some of its luster. The beaches are chronically polluted, air quality is always a concern, water is an increasingly critical issue, parks, highways, schools, and cities are severely congested. Gang violence and crime have infected even small towns throughout the state. And, in spite of being among the highest taxed states in the nation, California always seems to be wrestling with a budget crisis as it tries to accommodate too many needs brought on by having too many people drawing from finite resources.
The culture from which Don Pedro came exalts the family, the bigger the better. The only thing that might limit family size is time and eventual infertility. Indeed, his religion encourages prolific procreation, and condemns birth control as sin.
California absorbs more of the estimated one half million illegal immigrants who slip into America each year than does any other state. Most of these illegal immigrants come from Mexico and share the same culture, religion, and procreative propensities of Don Pedro.
It is no surprise then that the explosive exponential growth in California’s population over the past several decades results from Mexican immigration and from the children of those immigrants. In 1970, the Hispanic population of California was 2.4 million, 1/8th of the total population. By 2000, Hispanic population had grown to 11 million, comprising 1/3rd of the state’s total population.
Illegal immigration from Mexico is the single greatest factor increasing the state’s population to its current uncomfortably crowded and environmentally damaging level. It explains why a five-minute commute now takes nearly 30 minutes, parking is hard to find, water scarce, public education a shambles, prisons overcrowded, gang violence endemic, hospitals gone bankrupt, car insurance more expensive, and why state budgets struggle to provide basic services.
Don Pedro was a good man of noble character who created a fine, upstanding family, but he should have stopped at two children—an exponent of 2, rather than 12. His great grandchildren will not inherit the wonderful, bountiful, and beautiful California that he made home 60 years ago. Nor will anyone until the state’s population level is brought into balance with natural capacity. That will not happen until illegal immigration is curtailed and all of California’s residents practice responsible procreation.
Randy Alcorn is a Senior Writing Fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization and can be reached at 805-564-6626 or www.capsweb.org.