The Real Bind is Too Many People Everywhere
Immigration Moratorium ASAP!
Alliance for Stabilizing America's Population
The solution to American over-consumption is not to multiply that consumption by immigration, but to attack the problem directly.
Richard D. Lamm, High Country News, September 5, 1994
I suggest that one of the dominant environmental issues in the
West's future will be: How many people can live satisfied lives here?
Population size is a factor of three variables: birth rates, death rates,
and immigration. Birth, death and territory. Can any other issue
cover such deep atavistic feelings? The issue will divide friends and
even family, but it will not go away.
We know from the tragic pictures we see on our television screens that
Africa holds the dismal record as the continent with the highest rate of
annual population growth (2.93 percent). Less known is that the West has
similar growth rates.
Nevada (3.9 percent), Idaho (3.1 percent), Colorado (2.9 percent), Utah
and Arizona (2.7 percent), New Mexico (2.2 percent), and Montana (2.1
percent) make the West among the fastest-growing regions in the world.
California is growing at the same rate as India. When I moved to
California in the 1950's, 10 million people were living there. Now the
state's population is 32 million. The total is projected to double by the
year 2040, as are the populations of the other Western states. Who
benefits from this growth? Who pays?
Why does anybody want two people for every one now in the west, where
we are already straining to accommodate growth?
Los Angeles has many problems: intolerable traffic, unhealthy smog,
inadequate water, ethnic conflict. All have their genesis in population.
Acid rain, climate change, loss of ozone, disappearance of species, loss
of habitat whatever the issue, at its root is population: too many people
consuming too much in too little space.
Given present realities, why do we want our children to face an America
of 400 million people? It is axiomatic that infinite growth cannot take
place in finite world. We ignore this issue at great peril to our
children. Population has its own momentum.
The first census in the United States, taken in 1790, found 4 million
people. Since that time, America's population has doubled six times over,
to 256 million. Two more doublings would give us I billion people the
same as China has today. Four doublings would give us almost as many
people in the United States as now exist in the whole world!
Most environmentalists recognize high birth rates as a problem. Daniel
Koshlad, editor of Science magazine, says we must inevitably "curb
our primordial instinct to increase replication of our own species at the
expense of others because the global ecology is threatened. So, ask not
whether the bell tolls for the owl or the whale or the rhinoceros; it
tolls for us."
If population is a problem, we must also inevitably deal with the
painful issue of immigration.
Immigration presently accounts for approximately 40 percent of our
!)population growth. Put another way, without immigration, the U.S.
birthrate of two births per woman puts us on the road toward a stable
population. With immigration, the relentless increase stretches endlessly
into the future.
Immigration made sense when we were an empty continent in need of
labor, but we are now a continent of 258 million people with 10 million
unemployed and another 28 million discouraged workers outside the labor
force. What public policy reasons today dictate bringing in approximately
1.5 million immigrants per year?
Many environmentalists feel awkward about raising the immigration
issues because the United States consumes such a disproportionate share of
the earth's resources. But as David Simcox writes, "Arriving here from
less developed countries, grain and legume eaters become meat eaters,
walkers or bus riders become car drivers, and users of one gallon of water
daily consume 50 here."
The environment is little helped by our guilt if we express it by
allowing tens of millions of people to immigrate and become over-
Let's raise the gas tax $1 per gallon, let's require recycling and
reuse, and let's show America how over-consumption is irrevocably damaging
the environment but let's not compound problem by more immigration in the
name of guilt.
The poet Hillaire Belloc observed, "Truth, like roses, often comes with
thorns." One truth the West must eventually understand is that its
population cannot continue to grow forever. The West has a fragile
ecosystem and humans are part of the ecosystem. We are not immune from
the laws of nature however clever our technologies. We must ultimately
worry about carrying capacity, sustainability and how we affect our
surrounding environment. We must worry about immigration.
Former Governor of Colorado, Richard D. Lamm is currently the
Director of the Center for Public Policy and Contemporary Issues at the
University of Denver. To contact him for more information on this or
other articles, call, 303-871-3400.
Population-Environment Balance is a national, non-profit membership
organization dedicated to maintaining the quality of life in
the United States through population stabilization.