Desert Invasion - U.S.

America: taking it to the limit? - U.S. population growth and its effects on our environment must be addressed, experts say

By Mike Lee, San Diego Union-Tribune

Look at the top-priority campaigns of the nation's big environmental groups and you'll find endangered animals, pollution and global warming.

What's largely missing are high-profile, domestic initiatives that tackle what many conservationists agree is a chief source of these and other challenges: U.S. population growth.

The environmental establishment has mostly abandoned talking about the nation's growing populace, particularly as it relates to immigration. The topic is dogged by internal squabbles, divisive politics and a desire to avoid ethnic discrimination.

One result is that ecological factors are rarely mentioned in the current effort to establish a new immigration policy. The debate mostly centers on economics and national security.

Populations soar

“People have been avoiding it like the plague,” said U.S. Rep. Brian Bilbray, R-Carlsbad, a hawk on illegal-immigration issues.

“(Environmentalists) will sidestep major challenges to what their stated goal is because it may end up stepping on political friends' toes,” he said. “They have credibility problems when they are willing to look the other way.”

Leaders of big-name green groups said they focus their energies on a larger issue: global population growth.

“Some people ... want the Sierra Club to have a position that is more U.S.-centric,” said Stephen Mills, the club's international program director in Washington, D.C. “We feel that the entire planet is worth protecting, not the U.S. over anywhere else.”

[DesertInvasion note: what Mills forgot to say is that the Sierra Club accepted a $100 million grant if they would not address the impact of mass immigration on US population growth. More information at ( ]

Gaining attention

The United States is the world's third-most populous country, after China (1.3 billion people) and India (1.1 billion). The nation's population has nearly doubled since 1950, and the count is expected to hit 300 million in October, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. By 2050, the figure is projected to top 419 million.

As the U.S. population increases, the link between population and the country's environmental capacity – its water supply, farmland, fisheries and other natural resources – is getting more attention from groups that aren't among the marquee names in environmentalism....

“It's an issue whose time has come,” said Vicky Markham, director of the Center for Environment and Population, a nonprofit research group in New Canaan, Conn. “The scientific data pretty much across the board shows that we in the U.S. are reaching many of the nation's ecological limits, one by one, and that many (limits) are linked to population trends.”...

Concerns over growth

Most academic efforts to study the environmental impact of population growth focus on the global scale. More than 98 percent of the world's population growth is occurring in developing countries, Markham said. There are more than 6.5 billion people worldwide.

In contrast, Markham's center has zeroed in on the United States as the only industrialized nation whose population is growing significantly.

Countries in Europe, along with Russia and Japan, have shrinking populations because births aren't keeping pace with deaths. The governments of several of those nations are [foolishly] trying to reverse the pattern with public outreach campaigns and financial incentives for couples to reproduce.

“America's relatively high population growth and high rates of resource consumption and pollution make for a volatile mixture resulting in the largest environmental impact per capita ... in the world,” read a report by Markham's center that's scheduled for release in September....

The study, which gathered existing research from hundreds of sources to highlight population-related trends, makes no policy recommendations. Among its findings:

Americans occupy about 20 percent more developed land per capita for housing, schools, shopping, roads and other uses than they did 20 years ago. That's partly because the average number of people per household has dropped while the average size of homes has swelled. The increasing sprawl tends to boost vehicle use and petroleum consumption.

About 40 percent of the nation's rivers and 46 percent of its lakes are too polluted for fishing and swimming. Wetlands, the biological filters for water pollution, are shrinking by 100,000 acres a year, mainly because of development.

Roughly 6,700 species in the country are at risk of extinction, most often because of habitat loss.

Half of the continental United States no longer supports native vegetation, largely because people have altered the terrain significantly.

More than half the U.S. population lives within 50 miles of the coast...

Potential pitfalls

...“No substantial benefits will result from further growth of the nation's population, rather ... the gradual stabilization of our population through voluntary means would contribute significantly to the nation's ability to solve its problems,” John D. Rockefeller III wrote to President Nixon and Congress in a landmark 1972 report by the Commission on Population Growth and the American Future.

Since then, the nation has grown by roughly 100 million people....

Immigration politics

Environmental groups continue to discuss overpopulation in stark terms, but such talk is mostly reserved for the international scene....

Last year, one of every five immigrants [as well as illegal aliens] worldwide lived in the United States, according to a May report by the United Nations.

The National Audubon Society supports international family planning while taking no position on U.S. immigration. Greenpeace and the Natural Resources Defense Council largely stay out of domestic immigration issues, though neither returned calls to explain why....

At the San Diego chapter of the Sierra Club, coordinator Cheryl Reiff [conveniently forgetting to mention the $100 million bribe] said immigration politics “become a huge waste of time because you end up battling people who you are really on the same side with.” ...

The U.S. population grew by 14.9 million between April 2000 and July 2005. Immigration accounted for more than 42 percent of that total, according to Census Bureau data.

Immigrants [and illegal aliens] also play a key role in population growth once they arrive in the United tates.

A 2005 bureau report found that there was an annual average of 84 births per 1,000 foreign-born women of childbearing age in the U.S., compared with 57 births per 1,000 native U.S. women.

Latinos have the nation's highest birthrates among major population groups, the report showed....

Recently, the U.S. government and the Pew Hispanic Center estimated that the United States has 12 million unauthorized immigrants [criminal illegal aliens].

[The Bear-Stearns investment firm and DesertInvasion, among others, conclude that at least 20 million illegal aliens reside in the United States.]

Immigration issues have proved highly divisive for the Sierra Club in recent years.

In 2004, for example, the organization was deeply split by three candidates who ran for board positions on platforms to limit immigration. [Because of patently unfair campaign smear tactics on the part of the Sierra Club] Some of the group's members saw it as a racist campaign, and none of the candidates won. [See more information at ( ]

But the results didn't quell the debate among conservationists such as Alan Kuper of Cleveland Heights, Ohio, a veteran of the Sierra Club's population controversies....

“What we are trying to tell the environmental establishment is that they really can't” ignore the U.S. population trends, Kuper said. “We have to talk about the physical and biological and resource limits that nature imposed on us.”

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