Santa Barbara – April 6, 2005
At the first Earth Day in 1970, conservationists across the country noted that “every environmental problem is a population problem,” but the U.S. population soared by almost 50 percent from 203 to 296 million today. Census Bureau projections indicate that our current population will double by the end of the century.
“At this 35th anniversary of that first Earth Day, the consequences of that growth are all around us— traffic congestion, energy shortages, and never-ending sprawl,” said Diana Hull, president of Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS). “Habitat loss due to population growth is the greatest threat to wildlife.”
The situation in California, where the population has climbed to 37 million, is even more tragic. The annual increase of 600,000 gives the state a growth rate higher than that of India.
California has lost 99 percent of its native grasslands, 80 percent of its coastal wetlands, and 94 percent of its interior wetlands. At least 73 plants and animals are extinct in California, and more than 150 animals and 280 plants are listed as endangered, threatened, or rare.
Unlike 1970, two-thirds of today’s U.S. population growth is from immigration, according to the Census Bureau. The late David Brower, a CAPS Advisory Boardmember noted, “Overpopulation is perhaps the biggest problem facing us, and immigration is part of that problem. It has to be addressed.” (Visit CAPS’ website to view the study, California’s Population Growth 1990–2002: Virtually All From Immigration).
“Environmental problems are simply manifestations of population growth, but politicians lack the courage to tackle the issue,” Hull said. “We will never prevent environmental degradation until we stabilize our population.”
Former U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson, founder of Earth Day and now counselor to the Wilderness Society, noted, “There is no way in the world we can forge a sustainable society without stabilizing the population. . . . There’s no practical way of stabilizing the population of the U.S. without reducing the immigration rate.”
CAPS supports policies to encourage replacement-level fertility and replacement-level immigration in order to protect precious natural resources.