Scientists Agree: Population Growth ‘A Major Challenge’

Published on February 2nd, 2015

By Joe Guzzardi
February 2, 2015

As I look back on nearly 30 years of advocating for a sensible approach to dealing with the ever-increasing United States’ population, one thing is abundantly clear. Talking about stabilizing America’s population either by family planning or restricting immigration has become less politically correct with every passing year. Even the most well-known, well-funded environmental organizations which understand that overpopulation leads to environmental degradation and resource depletion, refuse to speak out.

Mounting silence on population, especially among the political elite, is commonplace even though a majority of Americans recognize that unchecked growth represents a threat. A recent Pew Research Center poll found that four out of five scientists regard population growth as “a major challenge,” an opinion 60 percent of Americans agree with.

Yet, despite the high level of concern, when it comes to speaking out, most scientists remain mum. The overriding philosophy is that continued growth in U.S. population, and an expanded economy, is win-win. The inference is that population’s growth’s negative effects are most devastating in the Third World. In the U.S., stabilized population is synonymous with a demographic crisis that must be immediately resolved. When in 2013, U.S. reproductive rates fell to their lowest point since the 1920’s, and dropped below the replacement fertility level of 2.1 children per family, the media’s reaction was near panic.

Growth proponents, who believe that overpopulation threats are over-blown, should consider how the U.S. would function with 400 million residents by 2050, the total the Census Bureau projects.

Imagine every U.S. community with 30 percent more people which in turn will create demand for more transportation, more infrastructures and more reliance on increasingly scarce natural resources.  Assuming it were possible to cope with continuing growth, Americans overall quality of life would suffer.

Two components contribute to population: natural growth, births minus deaths, and net migration. Scientists are silent on both. On the topic of how many children a woman might choose to have, scientists are reluctant to weigh in, perhaps considering it an invasion of privacy. And regardless of how convincing an argument scientists might make on behalf of smaller family size, they may not have sway. Personal choice will prevail.

But federal immigration policy is different. Citizens are as entitled to oppose the current practice of admitting nearly one million legal immigrants annually as they are to criticize the tax code or foreign aid. Even though the evidence is incontrovertible that more immigration adds to population and that the many legal immigrants admitted will bear children and petition family members to join them in the U.S., scientists have largely stayed out of the immigration debate.

The scientific community’s failure to educate Americans about immigration’s consequences means that over the next decade, the unsustainable policies will continue.  In the decade between 2000 and 2010, 27 million immigrants were added to the U.S. population which, in part, created the need to build 8,000 more schools, 11.5 million new housing units, and to expand highways to accommodate 24 million more vehicles.

Regarding population, America is going backwards. In 1969, President Nixon ordered the “Rockefeller Commission Report on Population and the American Future”. The report concluded that “no substantial benefits will result” from future growth but that rather that greater population stabilization would “contribute significantly” to solving the nation’s problems.

Among the Rockefeller Commission’s recommendations was to cap immigration at 400,000 per year. But since 1969, the demand for cheap foreign-born labor has outweighed common sense, and immigration has soared.  Misguided short term needs, motivated by flawed corporate or political logic, fail to acknowledge the limits to growth.

Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow. Contact him at [email protected]

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