The "Ecological Footprint" is the area of productive land needed to supply a country's population with food, housing, transportation, consumer goods and services, and to absorb the waste generated by that production. [Redefining Progress, "Ecological Footprint of Nations 2004," March 2004.]
These numbers are sobering. They indicate a global ecological deficit—an excess of global land use above global land capacity – of about 8 billion acres per year…over a quarter (28 percent) of all available land.
And the U.S. has the dubious distinction of having both the largest ecological footprint (6.9 billion acres—Table 1) and the largest ecological deficit (3.1 billion acres). Americans consume 84 percent more productive land than we actually have.
The gap is filled by importing natural resources (mainly oil) and by depleting our own deposits of non-renewable fuels like oil, gas, and coal—which provide us, in effect, with fossilized acreage from the geologic past. [Leon Kolankiewicz and Roy Beck, " Forsaking Fundamentals," Center for Immigration Studies, March 2001.]
Of course, the Ecological Footprint is not as absolute as many environmentalists think. Economists would argue that technological innovation leads to the more efficient use of resources, slowing and possibly reversing the growth of per capita consumption.
In the long run, that is—maybe. In the short run, per capita consumption is fairly fixed. So population is by far the major driver of the Ecological Footprint in the U.S. And immigration is the major driver of U.S. population growth.
New arrivals from, say, Mexico, quickly start consuming at U.S. levels. For example, The Journal of Housing Research forecasts, for example, that "The aggregate housing consumption of immigrants will rise substantially in the next 15 years as past waves of immigrants move up the housing consumption ladder."
Conclusion: the most effective way to lighten the U.S. Ecological Footprint is to stop population growth.
And that means stopping immigration.
[Number fans click here for tables.]