July 11th is recognized as UN World Population Day. Beginning in 1989, a day to focus attention on the urgency and importance of population issues. As former Sierra Club Executive Director David Brower once said, “You don’t have a conservation policy, unless you have a population policy.” It is more clear than ever that we must recognize the effect our consumption has on the environment, and work towards more sustainable practices as a country, and as human beings.
By 2050, America’s population is projected to increase to 392 million — more than a 50 percent increase from the population in 1990. Unchecked population growth accelerates deforestation, increases sprawl, and intensifies the nation’s dependence on nonrenewable fossil fuels. We produce over 236 million tons of trash per year, the highest of all nations. America’s population contributes a massive amount to global environmental degradation, and an ever increasing population could lead us down a terrible road. One aspect of America’s population growth has been immigration.
In 2016, 1.5 million people immigrated to the United States. As of 2016, the US had approximately 139 million acres of developed land. Should immigration levels continue at current rates, the addition of 215 million new Americans by 2100 will require the development of over 79 million acres of land. That is 123,438 square miles, or more than the entire state of New Mexico!
Given that agricultural land is often the first to be converted, it is highly likely that America’s farmland would be hit first by rapid population growth. If these fields were used in land development, it would decrease the cropland per capita in the the United States from 1.18 acres per person in 2010 to .32 acres per person by the year 2100. In order to maintain our current rate of food production, agricultural yield across the country would need to increase by four times to compensate.
Consumption by America and the world as a whole has already had an adverse effect on the many forms of wildlife on Earth. We are already seeing precious species threatened by extinction from population growth: The Florida panther, loggerhead sea turtles, and polar bears are all directly threatened. It wouldn’t stop there either, in the United States alone, increased consumption would impact biodiversity and habitats between 1.2 and 2.2 times more in 2100 than in 2010.
This isn’t something we can just shrug at and hope it will go away. At Progressives for Immigration Reform, we search for solutions that benefit all of us; citizens, immigrants, and our environment. By reducing annual immigration rates, alongside much needed regulation of consumption and waste, we can help stop the decline of our environment.