Can We Talk... About Population Numbers?
February 07, 2008, 04:00 AM
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You think immigration gets short shrift in policy discussions? Try getting some attention for population growth.

The more generic topic ought to be easier to discuss rationally. But it is somehow even more taboo than immigration. America counted resident #300 million in 2006 after reaching 200 million in 1967 and 100 million in 1915. But considerations of this growth`s policy implications are minimal at best.

You would think some journalist somewhere might ask a Presidential candidate what he or she thought about the change being wrought. Population growth—just the enormous numbers—is altering traditional America more than any other factor. Increasing crowdiness (a popular bumpersticker) affects every American`s life every day, from worsening taxes to increased time spent in traffic.

And it`s caused by government policy. Without immigration, Americans have now stabilized their population. But the government is second-guessing the people on population size.

Immigration has been discussed a little in the Presidential debates, even by reluctant Democrats, albeit always in the context of illegal immigration. But much of the damage done by immigration at the current record levels is caused just as much by the legal influx.

Someone should remind the would-be Presidents that only two percent of Americans surveyed want more legal immigrants. Polls consistently show that citizens across the political spectrum want immigration to be legal, controlled and reduced. Particularly reduced.

It`s a math thing. Compound interest in your savings account is good. Compounding numbers of immigrants is bad.

Apart from anything else, there is the additional financial cost for needing more of everything, from school buildings and teacher salaries to highways and public transit. Plus we need to fix old infrastructure that is simply worn out—like California`s levee system that needs $4 billion in repairs to avoid a Katrina-like disaster.

If wagon-loads of dollar bills for traditional projects don`t engage a politician`s interest, what about the billions more required to keep a post-natural America chugging along? There are now so many residents of the USA that nature is no longer sufficient to supply our needs in some basic ways.

Orange County, California, recently opened its $490 million toilet-to-tap water treatment plant. The county`s exploding population (now 2.3 million) along with availability factors convinced water managers to go expensively high-tech to assure supply for the area.

Incidentally, this season a wet January has been kind to California`s water supply. But as a state water official remarked recently, even above average rainfall "used to be good when you had 20 million people, but now we have more than 35 million people in the state." [Sierra snowpack good - drought fears lessen, By Peter Fimrite, San Francisco Chronicle, Feb 1, 2008] In addition, most of California`s reservoirs are still low from last year`s below-average rainfall.

Will someone in Washington kindly answer the question, "At what number of inhabitants will America be considered full and immigration can be ended?" There`s no need to muse about the idea discussed by environmentalists some years back, that of "optimum population" for the USA. We long ago exceeded sustainability— the level of human population which allows normal processes of regeneration to take place in natural systems.

Back when Earth Day was started in 1970, people talked about all kinds of environmental causes and effects, including population growth. Paul Ehrlich wrote The Population Bomb and appeared on the Johnny Carson Show around 20 times, discussing how explosive growth among our species was a recipe for disaster. Ehrlich may have overstated the immediacy of the threat of mass starvation. But the principle of not overstressing the earth`s capacity to feed all of us remains entirely reasonable.

Today, however, even the few friendly media outlets that discuss immigration, like Lou Dobbs, don`t make the common-sense connections between skyrocketing domestic growth and increased pressure on limited resources. One obvious example: the continuing drought in the Southeast. Georgia`s population has doubled from 4 million in 1960 to 8 million today, greatly exacerbating the effects of the region`s rain shortfall. How hard would it be to occasionally remind the public that there are physical limits to growth?

It`s also dispiriting to see so little seriousness among elected officials about basic planning for totally predictable outcomes. Look at Georgia again: Atlanta has been America`s fastest-growing metropolitan area since 2000, with a gain of nearly 900,000 residents. But the Brain Trust in city hall and the state capital apparently didn`t bother to map a water supply for the additional people. In a low moment in state leadership, Governor Sonny Purdue held a prayer service to invoke a higher source for rain.

When politicians evade the issue of immigration-fueled population growth, citizens are deprived of vital facts about their country`s future. In particular, Americans need to know that immigration numbers are acquiring their own momentum, like the devilish weather created by a firestorm. If the growth rate of 1990-2000 (13.1 percent per decade) is continued out in time, the next hundreds of millions begin to click over more and more rapidly. (See chart.) By this estimation, the 400 million mark occurs in the late 2020s—not so long from now.

Is there any way in which America would be improved by another 100 million residents? Inarguably, the quality of life is degraded for all citizens by this thoughtless Ponzi scheme in which immigration-driven population growth takes the place of a healthy economy.

America is full—by any measure. It doesn`t need any more immigrants.

Brenda Walker (email her) lives in Northern California and publishes two websites, LimitsToGrowth.org and ImmigrationsHumanCost.org. She changed her party registration a couple weeks ago from Democrat to Republican so she could vote for Duncan Hunter in Tuesday`s primary, figuring it would be the only chance she would ever get to vote for him. Oh, well!